Literary analysis, or sometimes called, literary criticism, can be defined, at least for the purposes of the first essay, as a close reading and interpretation of a literary text. In other words, a literary analysis carefully examines the constituent elements of a literary text for both meaning and significance. Generally speaking, these elements include setting, plot, style, tone, point of view (narrative perspective), characterization, symbol, theme, and context (social, cultural, and historical). Of course, whether you choose to focus on one or a number of these elements, the purpose of a literary analysis is to persuade a reader that your interpretation of a literary text is both valid and significant.
One of the ways in which a literary analysis achieves these ends is through the articulation, support, and development of a specific idea or claim. To put this in simple terms, your essay should contain a clearly stated thesis (claim), a coherent structure, and an abundance of relevant evidence (textual and otherwise). All of that being said, you have three (3) options for the first essay:
1.) A symbol is defined as "something that represents something else." As you might guess, symbols are used in literature for a variety of reasons. Regardless, the use of symbols in literature is both specific and deliberate; in addition, if a story is well written, symbols will help the reader better understand the characters, the setting, the situation, the context, and the theme(s) of a story. Focusing on either Ernest Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants" or Ann Beattie's "Janus," write an essay in which you discuss how the symbols relate to and enhance various aspects of the story.
2.) Focusing on a poem or short story of your choice-write an essay in which you discuss how the notion of quest, a task, test, betrayal, or underlying theme is used in the story.
3.) Write an essay in which you discuss and develop an argument about the meaning and significance of the notion of patterns in a short story of your choice. The requirements for the essay are as follows:
- Essay must be 6 pages in length
- Essay must be argumentative (persuasive) in nature
- Essay must use a sufficient number of textual examples--quotations followed by explanation and interpretation--as argumentative support
- Essay must adhere to MLA standards and guidelines (see below)
- Essay must contain a Works Cited page (see below)
In addition, here are a few things you should keep in mind as you are writing your essay:
- Your essay should contain a well-argued thesis statement (claim)
- The "body" of your essay should work to support your thesis statement (claim)
- Your essay should be free of grammatical and punctuation errors
Some Rules for Writing
- Include the title and the author you are discussing in the first or second paragraph of your paper
- Assume your reader has read the story you are discussing but does not remember it in detail. In other words, be sure to provide your readers with enough information (textual examples, etc.) so he or she can follow your analysis
- When you directly quote something, make sure you incorporate the quote into your own analysis. Do not simply stick the quote into the middle of your writing (more on this below)
- If you use a quote that is longer than four lines (when you type it out), indent the entire quotation and remove the quotation marks
- Use quotation marks around the title of a story
- Do not plagiarize. Plagiarism is grounds for failing the class and for possible dismissal from LAMC.
MLA Standards and Guidelines
All final drafts of essays must adhere to the MLA standards and guidelines outlined below. These standards and guidelines can be found in the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers.
- Double-space everything
- Set document margins to 1 inch on all sides
- Number all of the pages of your essay; page numbers should be inserted in the upper right-hand corner of the page, one-half inch from the top
- Include your last name on all of the pages of your essay; your name should be inserted in the upper right-hand corner of the page, one-half inch from the top.
The First Page
- In the top left-hand corner, list the following information (in the following order): your name, my name, course number and section, and date
- Center the title of your essay just below the above list of information
- Begin the essay just below your title; indent five spaces
MLA in-text citations are made with a combination of signal phrases and parenthetical references. A signal phrase indicates that something taken from a source (a quotation, summary, paraphrase, or fact) is about to be used; usually the signal phrase includes the author's name. The parenthetical reference, which comes after the cited material, normally includes at least a page number.
Below is an example of how to properly integrate a quotation into your paper. Notice how this example introduces the quotation, provides the page number for the quotation, and then goes on to explain how the quotation fits into the essay as a whole:
For instance, ****’s position on the ********** in some senses the ******* focus of the ****** is reduced to a metaphor and ********* the connection to ***********of *********: However, as ******Roland indicates people are not, *********. ****** repeated the term******* (300). In truth sure, ****** adoption of a structuralist argument is ********.
An alphabetized list of works cited, which appears at the end of your paper (on its own page), gives publication information for each of the sources you have cited in the paper. The following models illustrate the form that the Modern Language Association (MLA) recommends for works cited.
General Guidelines for Listing Authors
Alphabetize entries in the list of works cited by authors' last names (if a work has no author, alphabetize it by its title). The author's name is important because citations in the text of the paper refer to it and readers will be looking for it at the beginning of an entry in the alphabetized list.
Here is the format for a few common entries:
Basic Format for a Book
Tan, Amy. The Bonesetter's Daughter. New York: Putnam, 2001. Print.
Work in an Anthology
Hemingway, Ernest. "Hills Like White Elephants." The Norton Introduction to Literature. Shorter 9th ed. Ed. Alison Booth, J. Paul Hunter, and Kelly J. Mays. New York: Norton, 2005. 128-132. Print.
Work From a Subscription Service
Fitzgerald, Jill. "How Will Bilingual/ESL Programs in Literacy Change in the Next Millennium?" Reading Research Quarterly 35.4 (2000): 20-32. Academic Search Premier. Web. 08 Feb. 2011.
For the first essay, you will be required to read and make comments on the rough drafts of your classmates' essays. Peer evaluations are critical for the revision process.