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Literary essay

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Katarzyna Wasylak

on 6 August 2015

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Transcript of Literary essay


1. Prepare the outline of your literary essay to present in class.
2. Bring handout:
summary-and-main-idea-worksheet-2 (1).pdf
to class.

What Makes a Good Literature Paper?
An argument
Literature Topics and Research
What kinds of topics are good ones?
How do I start research?
The Internet
Once you have decided on an interesting topic and work (or works), the best place to start is probably the Internet. Here you can usually find basic biographical data on authors, brief summaries of works, possibly some rudimentary analyses, and even bibliographies of sources related to your topic.

The library
The Internet, however, rarely offers serious direct scholarship; you will have to use sources found in the library, sources like journal articles and scholarly books, to get information that you can use to build your own scholarship-your literary paper. Consult the library's on-line catalog and the MLA Periodical Index. Avoid citing dictionary or encyclopedic sources in your final paper.
How do I use the information I find?
The secondary sources you find are only to be used as an aid. Your thoughts should make up most of the essay. As you develop your thesis, you will bring in the ideas of the scholars to back up what you have already said.

For example, say you are arguing that Huck Finn is a Christ figure; that's your basic thesis. You give evidence from the novel that allows this reading, and then, at the right place, you might say the following, a paraphrase:

According to Susan Thomas, Huck sacrifices himself because he wants to set Jim free (129).

If the scholar states an important idea in a memorable way, use a direct quote.

"Huck's altruism and feelings of compassion for Jim force him to surrender to the danger" (Thomas 129).

Either way, you will then link that idea to your thesis.
We read different things in different ways. We read a Martin Amis novel in a different way than we read a Lasagne recipe or an A-Z of Brighton or our latest copy of Beer-Mat Collectors Monthly. Social science sources should be read in a manner appropriate to what they are trying to say and how they are trying to say it.

There are basically three ways you can read materials for essays:

I did not read the whole book/article. I knew what I wanted and I searched through until I found it and then read the appropriate section closely and skimmed some stuff in that part that was not useful for my essay. I know what the author was saying in relation to the point I was making in the essay.

In this case the reader has:

read carefully only selected parts
knows exactly what she is looking for
taken detailed notes on some parts of text

I managed to get a good grip on what the argument of the book was. I did read some sections carefully but I skimmed most of the book. I know what the basic theme is and I know what sort of evidence the author used but I don't know all the details.

In this case the reader has:

read carefully only selected parts
at least skimmed all the material
taken detailed notes on the most important sections of the material and kept a less detailed record of the general structure of the material.

I read the whole book through from beginning to end. I could not put it down. It was so fascinating that I missed my stop on the train and I finished it in 2 days. I have a few notes I wrote down after I finished it but I seem to spend most of my time in the pub talking about it so I know it pretty well anyway

In this case the reader has:

read carefully all of the material
not taken notes as they read
probably not been reading social science material!

You are most likely to be reading in the first and second way when you are preparing for essays. No single method is correct. You need to fit the way you read to the what you want from the material. (Rule of Thumb = When you become an advanced method two user you should be able, in the right conditions, to work through a book in 2-3 hours [including coffee breaks])
Literary essay
When you write an extended literary essay, often one requiring research, you are essentially making an argument. You are arguing that your perspective-an interpretation, an evaluative judgment, or a critical evaluation-is a valid one.
A debatable thesis statement
Like any argument paper you have ever written for a first-year composition course, you must have a specific, detailed thesis statement that reveals your perspective, and, like any good argument, your perspective must be one which is debatable.
You would
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 also want to avoid a thesis statement like this:

Spirituality means different things to different people. King Lear, The Book of Romans, and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance each view the spirit differently.

Again, that says nothing that's not already self-evident. Why bother writing a paper about that? You're not writing an essay to list works that have nothing in common other than a general topic like "spirituality." You want to find certain works or authors that, while they may have several differences, do have some specific, unifying point. That point is your thesis.
A better thesis would be this:

Lear, Romans, and Zen each view the soul as the center of human personality.

Then you prove it, using examples from the texts that show that the soul is the center of personality.
The best topics are ones that originate out of your own reading of a work of literature, but here are some common approaches to consider:

A discussion of a work's characters: are they realistic, symbolic, historically-based?
A comparison/contrast of the choices different authors or characters make in a work
A reading of a work based on an outside philosophical perspective (Ex. how would a Freudian read Hamlet?)
A study of the sources or historical events that occasioned a particular work (Ex. comparing G.B. Shaw's Pygmalion with the original Greek myth of Pygmalion)
An analysis of a specific image occurring in several works (Ex. the use of moon imagery in certain plays, poems, novels)
A "deconstruction" of a particular work (Ex. unfolding an underlying racist worldview in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness)
A reading from a political perspective (Ex. how would a Marxist read William Blake's "London"?)
A study of the social, political, or economic context in which a work was written — how does the context influence the work?
Taking Notes
When taking notes:
DO make sure you record the full source so that you can include it in your bibliography
DO try and record in your notes what page each point or quotation is taken from.
DO record your reactions/assessment of the material as you go through it

DO NOT take too many notes. Be very selective about what you record. (RoT: an article = 1 side of notes while a book = 2-3 sides of notes)
DO NOT simply photocopy or underline/highlight as you read. You need to actively process what you read. The Osmosis Hypothesis ("I have photocopied and therefore I have absorbed the essence of what the author is saying") is unfortunately not true!
DO NOT copy out large sections of the text so that you can save yourself 500 words by lobbing in a large extended quotation (Only use quotations where they say what you want to say better than you can say it)

PERHAPS try and represent the argument graphically (e.g. using boxes and arrows to show how the different parts of the argument link up).
The power of a great introduction - Carolyn Mohr

Purdue OWL
"Reading and Note Taking for Essays"
Parul Sehgal: An ode to envy
A literary critic and an editor at
The New York Times Book Review
. Her reviews are also published in B
ookforum, Slate, Tin House, NPR.org, the Literary Review, O Magazine, The Plain Dealer, The Irish Times, and Time Out New York
1. Structure.
2. How does jealousy make us into novelists?
3. How can jealousy be seen as a quest for truth?
4. What does jealousy make us do?
5. How can jealousy be transformed into a positive emotion? (jealousy as a problem of geometry)
6. What is the connection between jealousy and fiction?

1. Print out
"Handout: Parallelism and tense consistency."
2. Finish your argumentative essays.
of the
Literary Analysis Essay:
Short stories collections:





Example: https://prezi.com/hum1uac1qekc/the-great-gatsby/
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