Essay 3 Literary Analysis Assignment and Guidelines
According to C. Hugh Holman and William Harmon’s A Handbook to Literature, 5th edition, the definition of literary analysis is “A method by which a thing is separated into parts, and those parts are given rigorous, logical, detailed scrutiny, resulting in a consistent and relatively complete account of the elements of the thing and the principles of their organization” (20).
To better understand how to write a literary analysis, please review this information:
• McGraw Hill “Complete Glossary” of literary terms (Links to an external site.) for “jumping off” points in analysis
• Writing about fiction, in general. (Links to an external site.)
You will be researching and analyzing one or more texts from this class; you are also allowed to analyze other outside primary sources in conjunction with course texts, but they cannot be the sole or primary focus of the paper.
This is an analysis, first and foremost—it does not focus on biography or summary.
There are three main areas to focus on in your Analysis.
The introduction presents the relevance/importance of the work you have chosen, and may:
• Offer a brief background of the work,
o Author(s) (birth/death/other brief, interesting, relevant facts, as they pertain to the story)
o Name of work(s)
o Year(s) of publication/historical context
• Offer a brief summary of the entire work (no more than two sentences)
• Offer your thesis (the claim you are focusing on, the direction you are taking, the argument you are making—your topic + how it affects a person/people/humanity)
The body is the heart of the analysis, and will:
• Present examples from the text and discuss their meaning to illustrate and back up your thesis
• Explore larger themes in the work
• Examine historical/contextual meaning
• Analyze the work in terms of questions it poses / arguments it makes
• Incorporate ideas from critical essays you found in the school databases
The conclusion is where you can examine the work from a “big picture” point of view, so you should:
• Discuss what specifically makes the work powerful, in a larger context
• Discuss the work’s larger place in society/culture
• Discuss what others can hope to take away from the work if they read it
Of course, your interest will spark your topic choice, and the introduction of the work, the development of the paper, and the conclusion you draw will be based upon your interpretation of the work.
Remember, if you clearly show the connection between the text and your interpretation of the text, your analysis cannot be wrong! An analysis fails only when the connection between text and interpretation is not clearly made!
Literary analysis is a form of expository writing. Expository writing serves to clarify, set forth, or explain in detail an idea about a subject. In basic literary analysis, your “subject” is usually an examination of one element, or a few similar elements, in a work. Examples of these elements may be found in the list of literary terms below.
To succeed with this type of writing, you must have a strong thesis statement. The thesis statement, according to Purdue’s Online Writing Lab (OWL), must be “specific” and “detailed,” so that it “reveals your perspective, and, like any good argument, your perspective must be one which is debatable” (“Writing”). The OWL offers two examples of thesis statements, one bad and one good, and the reasoning behind the judgments:
You would not want to make an argument of this sort:
Shakespeare’s Hamlet is a play about a young man who seeks revenge.
That doesn’t say anything-it’s basically just a summary and is hardly debatable. A better thesis would be this:
Hamlet experiences internal conflict because he is in love with his mother.
That is debatable, controversial even. The rest of a paper with this argument as its thesis will be an attempt to show, using specific examples from the text and evidence from scholars, (1) how Hamlet is in love with his mother, (2) why he’s in love with her, and (3) what implications there are for reading the play in this manner.
You must also make good use of examples to back up your thesis. These examples are simply elements of the work that illustrate your point.
There are three general ways you may approach the essays:
1. through explication—the unfolding of meaning through interpretation of a specific section of the work (one part illustrates the whole [thesis])
2. through analysis—the process of separating the work into parts to better understand the whole (many similar parts illustrate the whole [thesis])
3. through comparison & contrast—the study of two or more “things” in the work (related, similar “things” that share meaning [thesis])
Keep in mind that you may combine any of these approaches!
Please read through the following lists of literary terms to see which apply to or help shape your ideas for analysis: McGraw Hill “Complete Glossary” of literary terms (Links to an external site.)
• 8-10 pages (1350 word minimum)
• Analyzes one or more course texts
• 12-point font, double-spaced
• MLA Format and Citations
• Minimum of 6 secondary sources (3 must be scholarly sources from the databases)
• Clear organization with introduction, conclusion, and topic sentences for each paragraph
• Must include a clear, provable, worthy thesis
• Third person narrative only(he/she/it/they), NOT the first person (I) or the second-person (you)
• interpret rather than summarize, always
• make good use of direct quotation, summary, and paraphrase when incorporating research
• follow all MLA formatting guidelines
• avoid plagiarism when you borrow others’ ideas by documenting your sources (using signal phrases and parenthetical citation), following MLA citation guidelines, found in The Little Seagull handbook
Thesis must be approved by professor.