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Writing Literary Analysis Papers

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Presentation on theme: "Writing Literary Analysis Papers"— Presentation transcript:

1 Writing Literary Analysis Papers
Putting the Puzzle Together

2 When teachers ask you to write a literary analysis paper, they want you to learn something new about a text and communicate what you’ve learned to a reader. In short, they want you to explore and explain your ideas about what a particular text – or just a passage (depending on the assignment) – means. Your mission in such a paper is to go beyond what you’ve heard in class, to argue for an interpretation of the text in question, and to support your ideas with a close reading of the text.

3 So let’s get started!

4 There’s a process to getting started. First you . . .

5 Choose a work that interests you…
1. As you read, keep notes of your reactions, impressions, and questions – these may be notes on recurring ideas, imagery or symbols, or questions about why a character behaves in a certain way. The idea is to jot down whatever strikes you as interesting or possibly important. These notes may help you to formulate a thesis for your paper.

6 2. Ask yourself, “What issues does the text raise
2. Ask yourself, “What issues does the text raise? Jot down ALL possibilities. Your answers to this question will be topic statements, rather than thesis statements. For instance, you might decide that a novel is about honor, or alienation, or marriage. To create a thesis statement out of one of these topics, you must ask yourself, “What does this text SAY about honor (or alienation, or marriage)?” and “How does it say it?” The answers to these questions may provide you with a tentative thesis to guide your writing.

7 Organize Your Ideas and Start Writing!
1. Once you’ve settled on a tentative thesis, list all the supporting ideas that you might use to prove your interpretation, and all the pieces of text (details, partial quotations, short passages) from the text that you might want to discuss. Then try to categorize the pieces of text under the heading of various ideas. These ideas with their supporting textual material may become the individual points that your paper develops in support of its thesis.

8 2. Then, state the central idea of your paper in a thesis that appears in your introduction. Your introduction could also include important historical background, relevant facts from the author’s biography, or thoughts on why you chose this topic or why it’s important. Your introduction should also include a very short (3 to 4 sentences at the most!) summary of the work.

9 3. Each body paragraph / section should develop some aspect of your argument, and each paragraph / section should include evidence from the text (details, partial quotation, short passages). This evidence should always be followed by analysis of what it means – that is, tell the reader how this evidence helps illustrate your point about the text. This is where your sources come into play!

10 4. Be careful that you don’t over quote, and make sure that you introduce your quotes with enough context so that your reader doesn’t get lost: try to indicate who is speaking or some other context for the material. For instance: When Ursula argues with Anton over the issue of national allegiances, she remarks, “Are you anybody, really? You seem like nothing to me” (Perkins 261).

11 5. Remember that your aim is not to re-tell the story, but to say what it means . You are arguing for a “way of seeing” based on your own understanding and careful reading of the text.

12 After the first draft is written . . .

13 You’re not done. In fact, your work is just beginning
You’re not done! In fact, your work is just beginning. Most writers like to lay aside their drafts so that they can return for a fresh reading. The idea is to try to see your text as a reader, not as its writer. When you read as the writer of a text, often you don’t see the words as they are on the page. Instead, you “read” the ideas that are in your head!

14 You’ll need to look for ideas that may be out of place, ideas that may need more evidence, or evidence that may need more analysis. All of these “big picture” issues should be addressed in a revision.

15 Consider seeking out readers
Consider seeking out readers. All writers can use the help of readers to tell them what’s getting through and what’s not. Your parents, friends, or classmates are good choices.

16 What do you do if you are asked to read a friend’s paper?
Your goal here is to respond as a reader, not as a teacher. What this means is, you’re not marking up each other’s papers with red ink; you’re not correcting grammar, spelling, or punctuation. In fact, you’re not “correcting” anything. You’re responding to the writer’s ideas in a manner that will let him or her know what’s getting through, what could be clearer, what might need more elaboration, and what’s working well.

17 It’s often helpful to offer your responses in writing, being as specific as possible: pointing out passages, sentences, examples that may need additional attention to “be all they can be.” Keep these points in mind . . .

18 Readers should remember that your job isn’t to “fix” what’s “wrong” with the paper, it’s simply to offer your responses as a reader. Writers should try to understand what readers are trying to tell you, but not be tyrannized by what they say. It’s your job to decide what to do with the responses. In addition, writers should always feel free to ask for the kind of feedback they’d like to have.

19 Here are a few questions you might answer in your written responses to one another:
What is the writer’s controlling purpose in this paper? Where could the writer go further? What is almost said here? Where do you want to know more? Where could the writing use more or less support in terms of resources (textual examples, secondary sources), and why do you feel as you do? What does this paper do especially well? What did you learn from this paper? Ask two questions about the writer’s point. Look for places the writing doesn’t “flow” into the quotes.

20 After you’ve made revisions based on your own and your reader’s responses, it’s time to edit your paper for “correctness.” That is, make sure Your sentences make sense Your sentences are punctuated properly That your subjects and verbs agree

21 After the editing is complete, it will be time to proofread your essay
After the editing is complete, it will be time to proofread your essay. Now you’re looking for spelling mistakes, left out words, or other errors. Don’t rely on your computer to perform this task for you! There is no substitute for your eyes on the page!

22 Topics or Thesis Statements?
Remember, topics are not yet thesis statements or controlling points for your paper. Your thesis statement will indicate what the text says ABOUT honor, tradition, the South, patriotism, class, fairy tales, etc. Look at these examples for ideas of how to formulate your topics. The influence of honor and tradition in “How to Tell a True War Story” Views of the South in “A Rose for Emily” Attitudes toward Patriotism in “Soldier’s Home” Attitudes toward Marriage in “A Sorrowful Woman” The Meaning of Home in “Eveline” Attitudes toward Perfection in “The Birthmark”

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