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Honors Writing Seminar

HONRH 2023

About Your Annotations

An annotated bibliography is just your standard list of citations, but each source is followed by a paragraph (or more) of critical commentary (the annotation). Annotations must do more than provide a summary! You're basically justifying that source's place among your research. What are you getting out of the source? What's missing from it? Why is the author worth paying attention to?

Your annotation for each source should be a solid paragraph (maybe even two -- depending on your guidelines) and include both summary (the easy part) and justification/analysis of the source:

  • A brief summary of its content including the author’s main argument (if any)
  • The purpose of the work
  • The relevance of the work to your research question
  • The authority or background of the author(s)
  • How you will use the work to support your research
  • Strengths or limitations of the work

For example,

Santino, Jack. "Halloween in America: Contemporary Customs and Performances." Western Folklore 42, no. 1 (1983): 1-20. JSTOR.

Santino is a PhD folklorist and professor of popular culture, and one of the most prevalent authors of articles studying Halloween practices. In this article, he examines how people “decorate” both themselves and their homes, placing the practices in a historical context, particularly the supernatural creatures and motifs that are part of the holiday. Most of the article is dedicated to an overview of old practices of the ancient Celts and the harvest, with a focus on transformation: figures that do not fit into the Christian heaven-or-hell dichotomy neatly and people’s perception of nature and the wild. Santino connects this to modern times with the pilgrimage people make from the urban to the rural to select pumpkins, corn, and other harvest motifs to bring back to decorate their individual homes – individual ritual for public performance. He briefly compares Halloween to Christmas, another holiday which involves bringing a piece of nature into the home to be transformed: pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns, pine trees into decorated Christmas trees.

This article does provide a useful overview of the development of the holiday into the form we know it today, particularly in the more distant periods of history, which gives valuable historical context to my examination and additional avenues of research thanks to its breadth of topics. However, it does seem unfocused at times, and there’s an uneven treatment of subjects. Much time is spent on mythology of faeries, Fomorians, the Christianization of the Celts, and wandering lanterns, but the adoption of the holiday in the United States from the 19th century Irish immigrants is left undetailed. There are also some seemingly out-of-place mentions of the commercialization (or lack thereof) of the holiday, which is outdated anyway, nearly 40 years after this article’s publication which have seen Halloween grow to a multi-billion-dollar industry.