Literary analyses should adhere to the rules of standard American English written grammar. Literary analyses should be between 500 and 750 words (12 point Times New Roman font, double-spaced, following MLA format, with 1-inch margins on all four sides). Please include a word count of the text.
A literary analysis should be about you and the text. NO OUTSIDE SOURCES SHOULD BE USED FOR LITERARY ANALYSES; instead, you should quote from the primary text to support your ideas. You want to use the text actively (through summary, paraphrase, and/or quotation) in creating your analysis. Finally, a Work(s) Cited page is a REQUIRED element. See page three of the “Literary Analysis Assignment and Guidelines” handout for examples.
You have four options for your literary analyses. Each literary analysis should focus on one of these options. You may choose to use the same option for multiple entries; however, you are encouraged to try each type of analysis at least once by the end of the semester.
Option One – Applied Terminology – Your literary analysis will need to explore how a literary term can be explained using examples from the text of your choice. For example, an analysis might create an explanation of an epic poem using examples from Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” or discuss the features of a tall tale using Mark Twain’s “The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” You want to use the text to support your explanation.
Option Two – A Good Question Needs a Thoughtful Answer – When reading something unfamiliar, most readers come away with one or two questions about the text. Those questions might be about why certain characters behave in the way they do or how the work reflects the period in which it was written. Other questions might stem from passages that confused you. Regardless of what your question is, your literary analysis should use the text to attempt to answer one good question.
Option Three – Canon Fodder – All of the works we will read this semester have been considered important by scholars, teachers, readers, and writers over the course of centuries. In your literary analysis, argue the reasons a particular work is considered so important. Alternatively, you may choose to argue that the work should NOT be considered valuable. Note that the popularity of a literary work is based not only on the quality, but the relevance of its subject matter to historical, social, and artistic context. You need to make reference to specific details from the text in order to prove your point.
Option Four – Critical Lens – Approaching literature through multiple critical lenses can shift how we “read” a text. Choose a critical approach (see separate handout on “Critical Approaches” posted on Canvas), and discuss how using this particular lens changes your initial understanding of the text. For example, a literary analysis might explain how your interpretation of Theodore Roethke’s “My Papa’s Waltz” softens when the poem is viewed through a historical approach. You should use the text actively to support your ideas.
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