What makes a story, poem or novel ‘literature’?



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LITERARY ANALYSIS ESSAY (20% of final grade)
One question that this class seeks to answer is “What makes a story, poem or novel ‘literature’?” To this end, the following assignment should attempt to explore this question in more detail. Is it because an author pioneers a specific form? Or is it because the author reveals something about the human experience through writing? More specifically, literature should do more than tell a story or entertain – it should have something more to it beneath the surface. Through analysis and understanding of the text, the reader should be able to discern a second meaning besides the surface story. Paradise Lost, for example, is about Adam and Eve and the Fall of Man. Underneath that surface however, it makes many arguments about femininity, free will, temptation, and human nature. In short, literature has themes.
In this assignment your job is to write a 4-5 page paper in which you analyze one of the works of literature we have studied in this class for thematic resonance. The paper should be a “close reading” of the text – meaning that you do not rely upon any outside sources. You want to focus on ONE specific theme or aspect of the work of literature and explain how the author conveys that theme through the words on the page. By doing this, you should be able to prove that literature is more than just a story or poem, but a method of argument.
Some possible lenses to view literature:

Gender Studies: What is this author saying about femininity or masculinity?

Formal: How does this writer use a specific literary form to make an argument?

Marxist: How does this text reflect the class-based society/economy of its time?

Psychoanalytic: Does this text reveal some aspect of the author or the human mind?

Image: What particular image does the writer rely upon? What could this symbolize?


This paper should be written in an academic voice and in proper MLA format. I am going to be looking specifically for a clear, argumentative thesis. You should quote liberally from the text, identifying passages that clearly relate to your argument. Thoughts should be organized clearly and effectively into paragraphs that center on the text itself.
Due date: Monday November 24. Upload to Safeassign on UTC Learn before 5:00 pm. NO CLASS PERIOD THAT DAY.
There is no extra credit this time, but I still recommend the Writing Center! Tell them what you need help with!


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