Literary Analysis What is it and how do I write one a literary Analysis



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Literary Analysis

  • What is it and how do I write one??

A Literary Analysis

  • A composition in which a writer takes a position regarding a very specific aspect of a literary text.
  • In such an analysis, writers may discuss some aspect of character, theme, setting, plot, historical context, style, etc…

Is This an Argument?

  • Yes, a literary analysis is a type of argument.
  • The writer takes a position- expressed in the thesis- and illustrates during the course of the paper just how that position is reasonable and intellectually feasible.
  • You still with me here?

What Are Its Parts?

  • Introduction
  • 3-4 body paragraphs (for our purposes). Literary analysis can be MUCH longer than this.
  • Conclusion

What Should I Include in My Intro?

  • A “hook”
  • Brief “reader orientation”
  • Thesis
  • Some “hint” as to how ideas will be organized
  • Total (fop): 7-12 sentences

What is a “Hook”?

  • This is your “attention grabber”
  • Possible openers:
    • An anecdote that relates to thesis
    • A powerful quote from novel or related source
    • A connection to modern society
    • General discussion of novel’s values to today’s students of literature
    • Discussion of reading or historical context
  • Don’t forget the attention grabber!!

Where Does My Thesis Statement Go?

  • Simple answer:
  • Where it will most effectively express your intentions as a writer.

That’s Not What My Other Teacher Told Me

  • Teachers have reasons for what they do
  • You might have been told to put it at the very end of the intro paragraph, and that is fine.
  • Just know that in the REAL WORLD, writing does not always follow these neat little formulas
  • Real writers are decision makers!
  • Still with me?

Okay, Now What?

  • 3-4 Body Paragraphs!
    • You will develop ONE argument, supported by evidence in EACH body paragraph (Think about order of arguments!!)
    • I will only require 3-4; in the real world, the bodies of essays can be MUCH, MUCH longer.
    • School is the “fake” world.

What Should Be in A Body Paragraph?

  • Each body paragraph should develop ONE of the ideas introduced in your INTRODUCTION or ONE of the items in your thesis (if you wrote a thesis this way)
  • This idea is expressed with a TOPIC sentence.
  • This is ONE of your arguments (defending your position)

Body paragraphs (cont’d)

  • Give detailed TEXTUAL EVIDENCE which further “proves” your case (with proper documentation, of course)
  • Follow evidence with 1-3 sentences that explain your analysis of quote and how it supports your argument
  • Compose a concluding sentences that “clinches” this particular argument.
  • He’ll need to provide “evidence” for this claim!

How Do I Properly Use Text in My Argument?

  • Contrary to popular belief, quotes are NOT to be used to simply FILL SPACE!
  • Writers use quotes to prove positions the same way a lawyer uses evidence to defend a client.
  • Quotes MUST be relevant and DIRECTLY related to the case you are arguing.

Can You Show Me an Example?

  • Here is a student’s thesis statement:
  • In The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald employs the character of Daisy Buchanan to express a moral truth: money cannot buy happiness.

Topic Sentence of First Body Paragraph (with context)

  • Daisy Buchanan has everything that the American dream constitutes- a handsome man, a baby, a huge house, and enough money never to have to work. She puts on an act of being sophisticated and the perfect wife; however, inside she feels she has no purpose. Her husband is cheating on her, and there is nothing much for her to do with her time except use the money they have (She has even hired a nanny to take care of her child.)

Textual Evidence Used to Support Argument

  • The sad state she is in is expressed when she tells Nick how she “think[s] everything’s terrible anyhow” and that when her daughter was born, the first thing she said was, “I’m glad it’s a girl. And I hope she’ll be a fool- that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool,” (21).

Warrant- Explanation of How Quotes Supports Argument

  • Daisy’s words clearly indicate her lack of contentment with her life as well as her belief that her daughter cannot expect to be much happier

And Now for the Clincher. . .

  • Even though Daisy appears to be put together and to have everything she wants, on the inside she is aching for more than what she has settled for. The “clincher” ASSERTIVELY restates first argument (first TOPIC sentence)
  • It doesn’t have to be complicated!

What About the Conclusion?

  • A brief summary of your arguments (rephrased) OR a “closing argument”
  • A reworded restatement of thesis (This is placed where it is MOST effective to your purpose)

How Do I Actually Close the Essay?

  • A “closing thought”
    • Connection to society
    • Why it matters
    • Why is this relevant
    • A powerful quote
    • Overall effect of the book
    • Hint at broader implications

How About an Example

  • If you insist!
  •         F. Scott Fitzgerald has contributed much to the world of literature, due to his eloquent written language and ability to dissect the human heart and display it on a page. The Great Gatsby exemplifies how even though some may view the wealthy as people who have achieved everything in life, wealth is often the cloak of invisibility hiding troubles underneath. The American dream, acquiring and maintaining great wealth and status, would seem to be a straight path to happiness, but as the lives of characters in this novel show, this is only an illusion. In the 1920s or today, true happiness is not purchased but is found within. Fitzgerald’s novel sends a warning through the decades. Are we listening?
  • Hang in there….almost there!

Final Notes

  • You may have more than 3 body paragraphs, but 3 is the minimum
  • Maintain “scholarly” tone. No slang. Use thesaurus to find precise wording.
  • Assume reader is familiar with the novel being discussed; summarize only as necessary to explain your point.

Final Notes (cont’d)

  • Use LITERARY PRESENT
    • Discuss events in the novel in present tense, NOT the past
    • No “you” allowed; limit use of “I”.
    • Do NOT use phrases like “I think…” or “I believe….” Reader knows it is your position because you wrote it!!!



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