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On the Clock: Writing Essays of Literary Analysis
Transcript of On the Clock: Writing Essays of Literary Analysis
1. Your Teacher's Goal
Your essay is an assessment--a method via which your teacher seeks to observe and evaluate your knowledge or ability.
In English class, an essay requires knowledge, but will usually be designed to require the demonstration of your ability to independently apply critical reading, thinking, and writing skills.
If the assessment is fair, you will be required to apply skills that have been demonstrated, encouraged, and practiced in class.
2. Preparation: that which should already have been done
You should already have read the book...
of the book, and closely
You should already have completed a journal and...
made yourself aware of a variety of meaningful lines
purposefully reviewed especially significant moments in the story
posed and answered a variety of questions requiring analytical reading and thinking
You should already have thought carefully about (and noted your thoughts on) every topic suggested to you in class and on your handouts:
characters (esp. Montag, Midlred, and Beatty, but not excluding the others)
lines of dialogue and other passages that reveal character (characterization)
thorough comprehension of figurative language
the role of fire throughout the novel
the role of technology throughout the novel
the various subjects addressed by the novel
original themes and how to express and refine them
4. Constructing an
response (writing the essay)
At its best, writing is creative--it is purposeful and powerful
that expresses something profound.
Academic essays, at
creative and artistic, but their chief aim is usually more practical. They are written to accomplish a task.
Thus, evaluation, at its best, is designed to measure how
a writer (student) addresses an assigned task.
5. Time Management
It pays to allot a total of 5-7 minutes for...
relevant material (ideas and evidence)
material (outlines work; graphic organizers help)
Do not hurry, but watch the clock to manage your time.
The body of your essay accomplishes the
majority of the task. Give it the most space, words, and minutes.
argument. Develop essential ideas clearly and thoroughly.
Once you know what claims you
to make, divide your time evenly among them.
If at all possible, reserve at least 5 minutes for reading and editing.
you observed and practiced?
A Brief Synthesis, in Conclusion
A conclusion is your last chance to make an impression on your reader.
This is only a problem if you were not trying to make one (or if your point was "to write an essay").
It may work to...
concisely explain how your ideas work(ed) to support your thesis
your ideas, as presented, to make your most important claim
Clarity and Organization
A brief, direct introduction
A body designed to address the task.
A conclusion designed to emphasize your central claim (thesis)
Write very neatly, with a pen, on one side of your paper
Always remember to...
Capitalize when (and only when) appropriate
Punctuate according to convention
Use academic diction
A Brief Introduction
Introduce the general topic
Get to the
It may work to...
Bring up the broad topic (the book and/or its author)
Narrow your topic by calling attention to subjects within the novel
Present your central claim
A body designed to address the task at hand
A paragraph devoted to each major idea
Major ideas presented in a
It may work to...
Make sure one sentence clearly states your specific idea (your
Explain your claim as necessary
to support claim
Explain how evidence relates
A good writing prompt demands a specific (and often original) response--a central claim, or thesis, around which all other claims, textual evidence, and explanations revolve.
did the prompt ask you to claim?
3. Writing Prompts: analyzing that which demands analysis
Remember, while it is the essay to which most students immediately leap, the prompt, itself, deserves and demands...
Let's do this part on the whiteboard
Consider analysis of the prompt to be like getting directions for a road trip. If you get directions, you'll get where you're going more directly and more quickly. You know, after all,
to go and
to get there.
If, instead, you are in such a hurry to go that you
the directions and just start driving as fast as you can...good luck!