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Annotation Assignment

Page history last edited by Cyrus Mulready 8 years ago

English Literature I


Assignment # 2 FIRST OPTION: Annotation





According to the Oxford English Dictionary, an “annotation” is “a note added to anything written, by way of explanation or comment” (“annotation” def. 3.).  For this assignment, you will select a single word, phrase, allusion, or other element from The Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale or The Pardoner’s Prologue, or Tale.  You will then perform research to help “explain or comment” on the element you choose, and write an annotation of roughly two pages following the directions below. 


You might think of yourself as becoming an expert on what you have selected and preparing an annotation for someone who is interested in knowing as much as possible about that item.


In addition to giving you better insight about the poem you select, this assignment will also help familiarize you with some key reference resources for the study of literature.




1)    Choose Something to Annotate.  You may need to select several possibilities and see which is most interesting to you and which has the most material.  You should also feel free to talk with me about potential choices.  Here are some suggestions:


Examples of Things from the text that you might Annotate:

-Biblical allusions

-Allusions to Greek and Roman mythology

-Allusions to folklore

-Allusions to other literary works and authors

-References to historical events.

-Interesting words, or words that are very important to the text you are annotating

-Complicated or interesting metaphors or similes

-Interesting or unexpected uses of figures of speech


2)    Conduct Research.  Using the Resources I have listed below, conduct research and find out as much as you possibly can about the element you are annotating.  Look in several sources, comparing them to see if there are different stories, opinions and ideas about the element you have selected.  If you are looking at the definition of a word, use the OED and other sources to find out as much as you can about the history of the word and how it was used at the time your text was published.  In addition to reference resources, you should also look for criticism and commentary that might help elucidate your

3)    Compile your Bibliography and Write your Annotation.  As you gather all your research, write an annotation of about 500-800 words (about a page or two) that summarizes and explains the element you have chosen.  You might also comment on the research you have collected, pointing out contradictions, inconsistencies, or other interesting insights that have come from your investigation.  Make sure you are using proper MLA citation format, and include a bibliography that is formatted according to the directions in the MLA Handbook, 7th Ed..

4)    Write your Proposal. After you have completed your Annotation in step 3, you should write a paragraph explaining how you would use this evidence if you were writing an essay. What kinds of topics could this evidence be integrated into (an essay on religion and literature, on feminism, on language)? You should briefly sketch out an argument or even a thesis statement that this research could be used to support.



Resources for Research:

Below are titles and call numbers for resources that you can use for your research.  Depending on your choice, you may or may not use all of these.  I expect that every source that you use for this project will be reliable and verifiable.  With that in mind, I strongly recommend using sources that you consult in print at our library, or a web resource that you found using our library’s catalogues and databases (such as the OED, Project Muse or JSTOR).


This is not an exhaustive list, and you should feel free to use other resources you find at the library or know about from your Wikipedia work.  Look around the call numbers listed below and you will certainly find more resources.  Also, I encourage you to consult with a reference librarian.


Definitions The best resource you will find for definitions of these words is the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). You can access the OED online through the Sojourner Truth Library’s web page by clicking on the “Databases” tab and looking under the letter “O.”  The OED offers historical definitions of words (that is, what they would have meant in Chaucer, Spenser, Marlowe, and Milton’s times), so it will help you better understand the language of your passage.


There are two web resources that you might also find useful: Lexicons of Early Modern English (http://leme.library.utoronto.ca/index.cfm) for the poems and the Middle English Dictionary (http://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/med/) for Chaucer. 



A good first place to start for allusions, if you are completely lost, is The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (Reference Stacks, PN 43 .O94), which has short entries on many, many of the allusions you will find in your passages. For more detailed information, consult these resources:


The Bible:            

Mercer Dictionary of the Bible, Reference Stacks BS 440 .M429

The Oxford Companion to Christian Thought, Reference Stacks BR 95 .O95


Greek and Roman Mythology:

Cassell Dictionary of Mythology, Reference Stacks BL 715 .M37

Oxford Dictionary of Classical Myth and Religion, BL 715 .O845



Dictionary of Folklore, Reference Stacks GR 35 .P5



The Oxford Companion to English Literature, Reference Stacks PR 19 .O94


Figurative Language, Rhyme and Meter: 

A Glossary of Literary Terms, Reference Stacks PN 44.5 .A2

Princeton Handbook of Poetic Terms, Reference Stacks PN 1042 .P75


Criticism and Critical Commentary:

Use the MLA International Database (available through the library’s web page) to find articles or books related to the general topic of your annotation.  Use keyword searches to   You might be surprised to find that someone has already developed an essay or critical response to the allusion/word/topic you have chosen.


Use the Sojourner Truth Library catalogue to find critical editions of the work you have chosen.  For everything we are reading in this class, there is a “scholarly edition” (see the MLA Handbook 5.5.10 for an explanation of this term) that will include notes and annotations.  You can use and cite these in your annotation.







Needs Improvement


-Writer cites and integrates four or more resources, presenting a thoroughly researched annotation.  The resources are authoritative, reliable, and selected with care.

-Fewer than required number of resources or one or more of the resources is not authoritative and reliable.  Generally, more care or time could have been taken in carrying out the research.

-Fewer or far fewer than the required number of resources and/or the resources chosen are not authoritative and reliable.  The research does not appear to be very thorough.

Annotation and Bibliography

-Annotation is well-written, clearly and completely summarizes the research, and helps give context, clarification, and further explanation to the chosen element.

-Annotation uses proper MLA documentation format throughout.

-List of Works Cited is in correct MLA format, and the entries are all properly formatted.

-Annotation is generally well-written, but there is some lack of clarity in the presentation of research and the explanation of the element.

-MLA documentation format is generally followed, but there are a few mistakes.

-The list of Works Cited has a few mistakes, but is generally in proper format.

-Annotation is not very well written, does not offer a clear summary of the research, and/or does not provide clarification and explanation of the chosen element.

-Author consistently uses improper MLA documentation format.

-List of Works Cited is not in proper MLA format or there are excessive mistakes.

Grammar, Spell-Checking, and Proof-Reading

-Though not necessarily perfect, annotation is written with correct grammar and usage, is properly punctuated, and is carefully proofread and spell-checked.

-There are occasional mistakes or repeated problems in grammar, usage, and/or punctuation.

-A few typos or mistakes are present that could have been corrected in proofreading.

-Essay is full of grammatical errors, improper punctuation, and other problems with usage. 

-There may be several typos or other problems that should have been edited out in proofreading.

Formatting and Presentation

q  500-800 Words

q  Typed and double-spaced

q  12 pt. Font, Times New Roman

q  1 inch margins on top, bottom, left, and right

q  Pages Stapled or clipped together

-One of the formatting guidelines wasn’t followed.

-Several of the formatting guidelines weren’t followed.



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