During this term, you will complete two short literary analysis essays (each more than four but a maximum of six full pages, plus a Works Cited page). These essays differ from the Reading Response papers in that they require you to engage in deeper analysis of the chosen text and to interpret a statement about reality made by the text (a.k.a. a theme). You will need to present textual evidence supporting your central claim. One way to do this is to apply a specific school of literary thought to the text you are discussing, such as Marxism, Freudianism, Feminism, Cultural, Historical, or Archetypal criticism. (You are not limited to these literary theories, but they are good starting points. Others are discussed in Chapter 7 of the textbook, and you should seek additional clarity from me or reliable outside sources if using them.)
You may choose any of the texts that we have studied in class to date for your analysis. Do not choose more than one text. (I do not recommend choosing a short poem for this reason, although a longer poem may contain sufficient depth of meaning to warrant an analysis of this length.)
Remember that the purpose of literary analysis is to find a deeper truth within the text – subtext – that the author is trying to impart through the text. Your understanding of this theme should always be stated in the form of a full sentence, not a simple phrase, and be a comment about reality, not the text itself. (For example, “War is theme of ‘The Things They Carried’” is a superficial argument. “In ‘The Things They Carried,’ the mindless repetition of actions in the field, and the boredom of soldiers resulting from it, creates a lack of vigilance that can be disastrous on a battlefront” is focused and meaningful.) Your analysis should demonstrate at least three ways in which the text conveys the theme. It is, of course, possible for one text to include numerous themes—you need to focus on just one theme. Use direct quotations and paraphrases as support for your argument, and follow MLA style for internal documentation.
For your first analysis paper, you should find at least one reliable outside source of peer-reviewed criticism or data, which will either support your argument or be refuted by it. For your second paper, you need to use two such sources. I recommend using our library databases, such as Literary Reference Center Plus or JSTOR, to find relevant articles. (In some cases, there may be very limited criticism of the specific text you are discussing. In that case, use highly reliable texts about the literary theory you are applying, or a peer-reviewed historical argument that supports your position.)
Keep in mind that all of your sources must a) be identified with a proper MLA Work Citation in a Works Cited list and b) be relevant to the argument you are making—do not pull the first three random articles that appear in a search and mention them in your essay, even if they focus on a completely different topic of analysis. DO NOT USE GOOGLE OR SAFARI (or Yahoo or Bing, if you’re a weirdo) TO FIND PEER-REVIEWED CRITICISM. If you need help finding information, ask a reference librarian for assistance.
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