Critical Theory Essay The most important thing to remember about this assignment is that it is not



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B. Williams

Writing About Literature


Critical Theory Essay
The most important thing to remember about this assignment is that it is not an essay about theory. It is a critical analysis of a work from a particular theoretical perspective. You are not writing about a specific theory; you are, instead, applying that theory to a poem or story. Consequently you do not have to explain or summarize the theory you are using any more than you would summarize the plot of a story you are writing about. You can assume I understand the theory you are applying. That said, if it is helpful in your essay to quote from a particular theorist or to know how something in a work is an example of this specific theoretical concept, by all means do so, just as you would quote directly from a work or use an example to support your central focus.
In this assignment you should use a specific theoretical perspective to examine and analyze a specific element or aspect of a work. Please note the use of the work “specific”. You do not have to use all the variations of a theory in your work. You can choose one form of Marxist Theory, for example, to work from and then not worry about the other forms of Marxist Theory. Also, you do not need to apply a theory to the entire work, though you can if you wish. You may be better off narrowing your focus, however, so that you analyze one particular character, or relationship, or passage, or incident in detail.
There are many ways to approach such an assignment. You might have a question about a particular poem or story and wish to see if you can work that question out by looking at the work through a particular theoretical lens. Or, you may prefer to think about a specific theoretical concept and then re-read a work with that concept in mind. The point of the assignment is for you to see a work in a new way using a theoretical perspective different from the one you might ordinarily use. What do you see in this work through this theoretical lens and, of course, why?
I understand this a different kind of essay for many of you. Please, please come see me or email me at any time if you are running into problems, having questions, or simply want to run your ideas past me. Have some fun with it.
A draft of this essay is due Monday, April 2


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