This section of the presentation focused on properly analyzing a literary work when writing a literary analysis. It is separated into several sections that I will cover in this post.
Guidelines for writing a literary critical analysis
What is a literary critical analysis?
Basically, in a literary critical analysis you are explaining a work through interpretation. You are not doing a plot summary, but you instead find passages of which you do a close reading. These passages will help you deepen and expand your understanding of the work.
What is an interpretation?
According to the PowerPoint, “An interpretation is an individual response that addresses meaning.” You form an interpretation when you examine the text through close reading. Your interpretation will usually lead to the thesis of your paper.
How do you conduct an “in-depth” examination of a text?
First you must consider the title to the work, for the title can usually give you a clue or starting point in your analysis. Next you should identify character, setting, conflict, narrator, rhyme, meter etc. Try to determine if the author is doing anything interesting, new, or different in the story. For example, does the main character undergo a change in the novel? Is the poem doing something interesting with meter? Other things to consider are if you can identify the author’s intention, the theme of the work, or any symbols that may appear.
How do you prove your interpretation?
You need to find passages that support your viewpoint. For example, if you are focusing on how the color white is symbolized in Moby Dick, you need to find passages in the novel where the color white is used to back up your interpretation.
Where do you find evidence to support your interpretation?
You first use the literary work you are discussing. You also use secondary sources in the form of published critical essays in order to further cement your argument.
How much of the story should you retell in a critical analysis?
Remember, a literary analysis is not a plot summary. Assume that the reader of your essay has already read the work you are discussing. Sometimes a little summary is necessary to explain the specific passage you are highlighting, but the main focus of a literary analysis is supporting your thesis not retelling the plot.
What should be documented in a critical analysis?
If you are quoting secondary sources, or if you are directly quoting your literary work, you must include a citation in order to avoid plagiarism. If you are summarizing a literary scene or event you do not have to include a citation.
For a literary analysis you must use MLA style. If you have any questions about MLA style, the Owl Purdue Writing Lab is a good place to visit – I always have the page open when writing a paper: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/01/
Analyzing a passage.
In order to explain your interpretation of the text, you must use supporting evidence through passages from the work. You cannot simply quote a passage, however. After using a direct quote from a passage, you must explain the quote’s significance in regards to your interpretation. Always remember that your goal in your literary analysis is to form a new understanding of the text.
How to analyze a text.
When reading or rereading the text, make sure you identify interesting passages that deal with character, symbolism, etc. When rereading the text you will probably search for specific passages that highlight your interpretation and thesis. Do a close reading of these passages in order to gain a new understanding of the text in regards to your interpretation. The close reading will form the explanation for the passage’s significance in your paper.
Principles of analyzing a passage
The following principles will be directly quoted from the PowerPoint.
- Offer a thesisor topic sentence indicating a basic observation or assertion about the text or passage.
- Offer a context for the passage without offering too much summary.
- Cite the passage (using correct format).
- Then follow the passage with some combination of the following elements:
- Discuss what happens in the passage and why it is significant to the work as a whole.
- Consider what is said, particularly subtleties of the imagery and the ideas expressed.
- Assess how it is said, considering how the word choice, the ordering of ideas, sentence structure, etc., contribute to the meaning of the passage.
- Explain what it means, tying your analysis of the passage back to the significance of the text as a whole.
- Repeat the process of context, quotation and analysis with additional support for your thesis or topic sentence.