LiteraryTextual Analysis

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Today we’re moving on to our next common college writing assignment which is the literary or the textual


This is one that I found give students the most anxiety.

That’s often the type of paper assigned in first and second year English courses.

And also the type of assignment that I have the most experience with being a Ph.D. candidate in English

focusing on literature.

So of course my favorite type of writing assignment however I understand that is often presented to

students in very vague or ambiguous way and I hope that I can break through that today and give you

some really concrete ideas or strategies of how to write a good literary analysis at the college level.

Let’s begin as always with the purpose of a literary analysis.

So the purpose is to reveal something about the text that is not automatically evident to a casual reader.

This is very important lots of times when we do literary analysis students simply paraphrase or summarize

the plot of a literary text that is not the goal.

The goal again is not to show comprehension but rather to show engagement.

So your goal or the purpose of a good literary analysis is to reveal something new something about the

text that is not automatically evident.

This does not mean however that we simply apply some now canonical theory such as Marxism feminism post-structuralism


So rather than turning to a text and saying I’m going to do a Marxist reading of The Hobbit you should

ask fundamental questions about the text and then allow theoretical methodologies such as Marxism feminism

post-structuralism and so on to inform and further your questions.

So your goal in a literary analysis is not to focus on a theory but rather focus on the literature and

to use theory when assigned Of course.

So don’t guess at theory if you’re not already familiar with it and you’re not assigned to research

that theory but if you are using theory you remember the focus is on the literature and not on the theory.

So theory is there to influence and to shift our reading or perspective as we read the literary text.

Someone to walk you through the basic parts of a paper beginning with the thesis and this time I’m going

to give you some simple do’s and do some do’s and don’ts about how to write a good thesis for a literary

analysis paper.

First do not simply identify literary elements themes or ideas.

OK so don’t simply say I’m going to talk about the setting.

You can of course talk about the setting and how a whole paper about the setting of a certain literary


However we need a much more narrow narrow in on something very specific about the setting if that’s

the goal.

So your goal is not simply identify literary elements themes or ideas what you should do is make assertions

about these elements.

So how do they work together to form your own reading or perspective.

It is also important to present a debatable perspective on the literature.

So much like the op ed paper that we talked about in a previous lecture how a controversial idea makes

a good topic for an opinion an editorial a perspective that is debatable.

In other words others can disagree with is the goal.

So you should present a debatable perspective on literature on the literature and perhaps most importantly

is you need to always consider this so what.

And let me talk you through the process of identifying how to write or how to identify the soul what

or why does this matter.

Who cares right.

So first you need to identify the general story or message of the text if it has one.

Identify the general theme or themes and sub themes and choose one of the general themes or sub themes

to focus on.

Second How’s the chosen theme communicated or what is unique about the texts portrayal of theme.

This should begin to raise deeper theoretical and social questions.

So you can ask yourself questions like Are there tensions between ideologies races religions classes

genders ET.

Identify these tensions and identify certain elements of language used to discuss the tensions within

the text such as dialogue setting symbols motifs metaphors cetra.

Third how does your selected theme and the author’s presentation of that theme engage with others discussions

of that theme.

And finally what does your assertion or perspective add to the discussion of this theme and the texts

contribution to have for exploration of the theme.

So remember your goal is to present a debatable perspective and to make assertions new assertions that

are going to cause me to read the text in a new and interesting way.

And these are the types of things you need to consider while writing a literary analysis thesis.

So we need the what.

Which is where you’re going to identify specific elements and make assertions about those elements and

the so-what.

Why does it matter what is the larger debatable issue that your reading of that literature is contributing


And once we have our thesis we’ve outlined Accordingly I’m not going to talk through outlining today

but outlining is the same in almost any paper.


But we’ll move on to our drafting beginning with our introduction in our introduction to a literary

analysis paper we should focus immediately on your subject and do so by getting your readers interest

by using For example a quotation posing a provocative question telling a brief anecdote or announcing

a startling statement remember or not.

You don’t have to limit yourself to just one of these things you can always use a combination of any

of these ideas as introductory strategies to again focus on your subject immediately and get your readers

interest and attention.

So now moving on to the body remember we need to begin each paragraph with a topic sentence just like

in any writing assignment.

But in this when we need to state one of the topics related to your thesis and thus make an assertion

about how the topic supports the central argument or idea and then within each paragraph explain your

ideas using evidence from the literary text that evidence can be in the form of summary paraphrase identifying

very specific details and direct quotations a few warnings about paragraphs or the substance of your

paragraphs first each paragraph.

I said this before but I’ll repeat it because very important should only discuss one single topic.

Each paragraph should be dedicated to one topic.

If you are going to summarize never summarize too much literary analysis as not plot summary it is necessary

sometimes to summarize a bit in order to get to your point.

But the goal is to use a specific and detailed evidence as you can and then to spend the majority of

your time interpreting and analyzing and digging deeper into those details.

Are those pieces of evidence.

And then we move on to our conclusion and the conclusion we need to give a sense of completeness.

And I have here a couple of strategies of how to do that we can first restate the thesis in different

words and summarize our main points and we can suggest reading the literature through a different perspective.

It is absolutely vital that we do not introduce a new topic in our conclusion.

So the conclusion is no time.

I’ve discussed this before but it is no time of introducing new ideas.

Rather it’s a time to restate our thesis summarize our main points and go out with a bang that makes

her read her continue to think about the literary text under analysis through a new perspective a new


And that’s really it.

So a couple of reminders.

First remember that you need to focus as much as possible on the literature itself.

Dig deep into that literature find details find quotations find moments that you can draw out and draw

meaning from and then interpret those moments in order to find those tensions and ideologies and race

and gender and sexuality and so on and allow yourself to explore those ideas rather than simply summarizing

make claims literary analysis is in a way an opinion editorial.

However it is an opinion that is firmly supported by evidence within the literature itself.

OK so let me know if you have any questions.

I love this form of writing and so I look forward.

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