Amateur Writing for Ignorant Audiences vs. College-Level Writing for Knowledgeable Audiences

Typical Titles  King Lear*


Themes in Chaucer

[no title at all]

King Lear's Use of Sight Metaphors: Seeing/Knowing Kent in Stocks

Lady Mary Wroth's Painfully Enjambed Flight: Love and Rebellion in "Am I Thus Conquer'd?"

"Air Force" in Chaucer's "Miller's Tale": An Eloquent Fart vs. Blunt and Lyrical Speech

 Any Title that Reveals the Work, Author (unless obvious--King Lear, duh!), and Keywords for Thesis

A Typical Introduction      In author William Shakespeare's great tragic play, King Lear,* Lear, the protagonist, tests all three of his daughters, Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia, by making them tell him how much they love him.  Goneril praises him.  Regan praises him, as well.  Cordelia does not praise him. 

     In the next scene, Edmund, the bastard or illegitimate (born out of wedlock) son of the duke of Gloucester (one of King Lear's courtiers), etc. etc. etc.

     When Lear first encounters Kent after the courtier was set in stocks by Regan and Cornwall, the king sees but does not cognitively process what he sees (II.iv).  Shakespeare dramatizes this by a simultaneously comic and pathetic sixteen-line exchange between the enraged monarch and his immobilized servant (ll. 10-26).  The dialogue reduces the act of seeing to a near meaningless event because Lear's mental disability disconnects what he sees from what he knows.  This event is all the more significant because earlier Kent had asked Lear to use him as a model for correct vision when judging Cordelia's seeming disobedience: "See better, Lear; and let me still remain / The true blank of thine eye" (I.1 166-7).  When Lear, seeing Kent's punishment, cannot process the vision as evidence that his daughter has betrayed him, the play forces readers to realize that mere visual accuracy is only part of sight, and that perhaps sight, alone, is only the beginning of a far more important process that is "knowing."  Many of the play's most important "sight"  metaphors become more meaningful because of this brief dialogue's demonstration of how we can see without knowing.  In fact, this malady afflicts the audience as much as it does the king until we can fully know the depths of his enemies' cruelty and the height of his true allies love. 
A Typical Works Cited Section [Usually there is no Works Cited section, even if the play, itself, might occasionally have been cited.  Amateur writers assume all editions of literary works are the same because they do not know how they are produced, or that there are significant variations among editions.  Amateur writers almost never use scholarly secondary sources, although the complete Web address for a Wikipedia page might be stuck into the paper's body to support the claims of Shakespeare's fame (see below).]  

Shakespeare, William. “King Lear.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 7th ed. Vol 1.  Ed. Abrams, M. H.

             New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2000. 1109-91.

Teague, Frances. "Sight and perception in King Lear: an approach through imagery and theme." In Robert H. Ray (Ed.),

             Approaches to teaching Shakespeare’s King Lear (pp. 80-85). New York, NY: The Modern Language

             Association of America.

Zemach, E. M., "Seeing, 'Seeing', and Feeling", Review of Metaphysics, 23, Sept., 1969, 3-24

*  If you noticed that the amateur paper's title and introduction set "King Lear" in Roman type, and understood that this names a character instead of a play title, congratulations!  The title's "King Lear" was about a character, though too vague to tell readers what the paper was saying about the character, but the introduction's "King Lear" makes no sense at all following "great tragic play."  If you did not, think about what italic type can do for you and your readers.  The writer above would have never needed to tell readers King Lear was a play because the italic type does that.  Similarly, the first college-level sample title clearly indicates that it's about the play's use of the metaphor, not the king's use of it, because the title is set in italics.  Eventually, the amateur writer of the first title also would learn not to flatter the paper's subject with empty praise for an author and work that already have been praised for centuries.  It's like adding a teaspoon of water to the ocean and it tells readers nothing they did not already know.  Stick to the NEWS!  Assume the obvious is already known to your readers.  Be efficient.