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English IV: What Is Literary Analysis?
Transcript of English IV: What Is Literary Analysis?
Analysis is the separation or breaking up of a whole into its fundamental elements or component parts, or a detailed examination of anything complex (as a novel, or organization, or race) made in order to understand its nature or determine its essential features.(Webster’s Third New International Dictionary)
Analyzing an element of Literature
In this type of analysis, the writer chooses one or more elements of literature and focuses on how well the author used the element(s) and for what purpose.
Notice the focus of the analysis is very narrow.Discuss the author’s purpose/writing strategies in using a particular element of literature:
imagery, figures of speech
In this type of analysis, the writer focuses on analyzing the major theme(s) of a text and how the author crafted that theme through the elements of literature.
Discuss the theme and how author conveys that them via literary elements using supporting evidence from the text.
Style or Prose Analysis
This type of analysis involves a close reading of the text in order to analyze the author’s style.
Discuss the author’s style through an analysis of: diction
point of view
This very sophisticated type of analysis involves critiquing a text using a well-known method of literary criticism.
For example, critique a text using one of the following critical theories:
Feminist Critical Theory
Marxist Critical Theory
Body Paragraph Format
Starting Your Essay
First, always, underline/circle the important words of the prompt-what you must discuss in your essay.
Next, re-state prompt (rewrite it, paraphrase it) to make sure you understand what the prompt is asking.
If you have a prose or poetry prompt, ACTIVELY read and ANNOTATE the text before planning for your essay.
Plan for your essay-whether it is a quick outline, a detailed outline, etc. YOU NEED to have some sort of plan
DO mention the title and author of literary work if available along with the literary elements (general or specific) you plan to discuss and the point of your essay-thesis sentence.
DO NOT summarize the story/play/novel/poem in your body paragraphs.
Essays are a combination of sound generalities supported through thorough elaborations of specific examples/quotes and details, which means you must use specific evidence from the text in your body paragraphs to "prove" your point.
Body Paragraphs include references to the text as support
If text is provided, use direct quotes and limit paraphrases
Why use quotes?
They demonstrate you read the text closely.
They serve as concrete evidence to support a generalization (or opinion statement).
They provide a deeper level of detail and understanding.
If text is not provided, use specific examplesfrom text and paraphrases
Common Methods of Citing a Quote
The S-C-C-C Format is a very useful format for citations if you are not very familiar with citations and need to practice a tried and true method. As writers become experienced with citations, they can move away from this format and mix elements up as they see fit.
Set it up. Set up the context that the quote is from, so that the reader knows when and where the quote is from and who is doing the speaking/writing.
Citation. Write the quote out, in quotation marks.
Commentary: Explain how the quote supports your topic/thesis. (Commenting on the quote.)
Commentary: further commenting on the quote
You can use this same format even if you don't have access to the text. You would be using a concrete detail instead of a quote, but you still follow the set-up, the concrete detail, the commentary and the commentary format.
(S and C)In an effort to make Othello jealous, Iago uses reverse psychology when he warns Othello, “O Beware, my lord, of jealousy! /It is the green-eyed monster” ( III.iii.180-181). (C) The master of emotional manipulation, Iago controls Othello by warning him unnecessarily against jealousy, thus planting the seeds of jealousy in within Othello’s heart. (C)It also gives Iago the opportunity to tell others that he warned Othello, which absolves Iago of any responsibility when it comes to Othello's actions.
The Embedded Citation
This technique is useful when you would prefer to pick out very small phrases to prove your points.
Write your own sentence beginning, include the quote, and write your own sentence ending. The quote flows into and out of the sentence.
EXAMPLE: It is Othello’s “green-eyed monster” that is the ultimate cause of his destruction (III.iii.181).
Make sure you use transitions within your body paragraph and between body paragraphs.
What is Commentary?
Of all the skills students must learn in style analysis, writing commentary is considered the most difficult.
Writing commentary means giving your own opinion and interpretation about something, which requires a higher level of thinking than most students are used to using.
Using commentary makes an essay interesting to read and shows that you can analyze and evaluate information.
When you write commentary, you are commenting on a point you have made.
Synonyms for commentary: analysis, interpretation, insight, evaluation, explication, discussion, speculation
Other Helpful Hints
DO mention the title and author of literary work if available along with the literary elements you plan to discuss and the point of your essay-thesis sentence.
Eliminate as many “to be” verbs as possible
Eliminate as much of the passive voice as possible
(The novel written by Charlotte Bronte is about….) instead write, (Charlotte Bronte, the author of Jane Eyre conveys…)
Eliminate unnecessary prepositions, Trim excess words, revising for clarity and accuracy, and avoid repetition
Avoid indefinite pronoun references: avoid use of “this” or “that” as the subject of the sentence; avoid using "this, that, these, those" without nouns following these pronouns.
Always use specific examples from the text (prose selection or poem selection that goes with essay question)-in the case of open-ended questions, you can paraphrase, but use specific examples of events, places, etc.
Always spell the names of characters, places, title, author, etc. CORRECTLY!
ALWAYS write about literature in PRESENT TENSE (in other words, use present tense verbs!)
Refrain from using personal pronouns such as I, you, me, my we, us, mine, yours, ours in formal analysis. Instead say the reader, or the audience.
How To Write LIterary Analysis Papers: The Basics
Here is a brief list of things that you might accomplish in your concluding paragraph. They're only suggestions:
Include a brief summary of the paper's main points.
Universalize (compare to other situations)
Expand theme beyond that of the characters and literary work-hat does the prompt (characterization, theme, etc.) teach you about human nature?
Strategies to avoid:
Beginning with an unnecessary, overused phrase such as "in conclusion," "in summary," or "in closing."
Although these phrases can work in speeches, they come across as wooden and trite in writing.
Stating the thesis for the very first time in the conclusion.
Introducing a new idea or subtopic in your conclusion.
Ending with a rephrased thesis statement without any substantive changes.
Making sentimental, emotional appeals that are out of character with the rest of an analytical paper
Strategies for Writing Conclusion Paragraphs:
Play the "So What" Game. If you're stuck and feel like your conclusion isn't saying anything new or interesting, ask a friend to read it with you. Whenever you make a statement from your conclusion, ask the friend to say, "So what?" or "Why should anybody care?" Then ponder that question and answer it.
Return to the theme or themes in the introduction. This strategy brings the reader full circle. For example, if you begin by describing a scenario, you can end with the same scenario as proof that your essay is helpful in creating a new understanding. You may also refer to the introductory paragraph by using key words or parallel concepts and images that you also used in the introduction.
Echoing the introduction: Echoing your introduction can be a good strategy if it is meant to bring the reader full-circle. If you begin by describing a scenario, you can end with the same scenario as proof that your essay was helpful in creating a new understanding.
Synthesize, don't summarize: Include a brief summary of the paper's main points, but don't simply repeat things that were in your paper. Instead, show your reader how the points you made and the support and examples you used fit together. Pull it all together.
Challenging the reader: By issuing a challenge to your readers, you are helping them to redirect the information in the paper, and they may apply it to their own lives.
Looking to the future: Looking to the future can emphasize the importance of your paper or redirect the readers' thought process. It may help them apply the new information to their lives or see things more globally.
Not ALL of these strategies will be appropriate for academic writing. You will need to make sure your conclusion fits with the type of essay (analytical, argumentative, process, etc.) you are writing.