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:
Symbols are the manifestations of "something that represents something else," and are used in literature for a variety of reasons. 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 Thomas Jefferson's essay George Washington or Henry David Thoreau 's Battle of the Ants write an essay discussing how the symbols relate to and enhance various aspects of the story.
Focusing on a poem or short story - write an essay elaborating and examining how the notion of quest, a task, test, betrayal, or underlying theme is used in the story.
Write an essay elaborating and developing 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:
- 6 pages in length
- This essay must be argumentative (persuasive) in nature
- It must use a sufficient number of textual examples--quotations followed by explanation and interpretation--as argumentative support
- Adhere to MLA standards and guidelines (see below)
- Contain at least four outside sources
- Works Cited page
In addition, here are a few things to keep in mind while writing this essay:
- This essay should contain a well-argued thesis statement (claim)
- The "body" of your essay should work to support your thesis statement (claim)
- Be mindful of grammatical and punctuation errors
Some Rules for Writing
- Include the title and the author in the first or second paragraph of this paper
- Be sure to provide the reader with enough information (textual examples) to follow all assertions and analysis.
- Do not merely summarize.
- When directly quoting something, make sure to incorporate the quote into your analysis. Do not simply stick the quote into the middle of your paper without discussion of the quote itself.
- If using a quote that is longer than four lines (when you type it out), indent the entire quotation and remove the quotation marks
- 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 all essays.
- Set document margins to 1 inch on all sides and one-half inch from the top.
- Number all of the pages of the 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.
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 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.