Finished papers should amount to 1000-1200wds (4-5) pages
following the general MLA format guidelines and include at least 5 outside
sources (2 peer reviewed).
GUIDELINES AND DETAILS
INTRODUCTION: The "use" of a literary analysis paper serves a variety of
goals. Practicing how to focus and consider parts of a piece of
writing is a crucial set of skills for weighing the qualities of
virtually any writing. In the real world, these days, we are challenged
to sift through enormous volumes of written material. Learning to find
the key ideas, themes, understand the wording used, glean both surface
and implied meaning, is even more important in this "information age."
Because literature--stories in whatever form (essays, fiction, etc.)--is
a primary way humans have used to make sense of the world since the
earliest evidence of culture--and of course still do--it is a good way to enter the process of
finding, making and communicating meaning. Virtually any profession or
field of study is about some aspect of human aspiration and fulfillment.
Even something so seemingly mundane as a discount store has been
characterized by one corporate head as "the romance of the five and
dime." Since romance is about idealism, heroic behavior and a
code of high ethics/values, this person was talking about the virtue of
making goods available and affordable to the average person and so
improving their lives. Whether or not the reality of "affordable" goods
is really a virtue is perhaps a debatable topic, but the vision of
bettering the lives of people is a kind of romantic ideal....
the fields of medicine, social service, engineering, the sciences--and
business--all have a social ideal to work toward. Literature is the
study and evidence of the ways people have told the experience of
finding a place in the world. It is also an age-old way people try to
understand and deal with their problems--personally and in their outer,
"productive" lives. So, engaging in the thinking and writing about
literature is both a valuable pursuit and can be one of the most
enjoyable ways of learning to find the seeds of meaning and increased
understanding anywhere we look.
and essays contain many possible meanings and reader interpretations.
Choosing one facet in any one of them and using it to examine the
theme/meaning or "lesson" of the writing can be a useful way of understanding
the writing, either through a "field of study" or just one element in
the writing to use as a focus.
over-riding goal of (any) analysis writing is to demonstrate some new or at
least a personal understanding of the text.
Disciplines and Fields of Study:
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, an academic discipline
is “a branch of learning or scholarly instructions.”
1.Humanities. These disciplines study the
human condition. The main methods they use are analytic and
critical. Among humanities are: literature, ancient and modern
languages, law, history, philosophy, religion, arts. “Humanists” are
the scholars who study humanities. Those who want to study
humanities should have the skill of creative and critical thinking.
The circle of fields of knowledge is very wide. Humanities deal with
different cultures, world of art and history. Today, the main
direction of work is the exploration and understanding of human
2.Social sciences. Social sciences include such disciplines
as anthropology, archaeology, economics, geography, history,
linguistics, political science, psychology. Their task is to
explore the aspects of human society, its development and all
the processes that influence it.
3.Natural sciences. These sciences include such disciplines
as Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, Earth science and Physics. Their
task is to explore natural phenomena and all processes that undergo
4.Formal sciences. This branch of knowledge deals with formal
systems like logic, mathematics, systems theory, computer science,
information theory, decision theory and statistics. These sciences
use symbols and theoretical rules.
5.Professional and Applied sciences. Professional sciences
connected with a certain profession. They are: Agriculture,
Architecture and design, Business, Divinity, Education, Engineering,
Environmental studies and Forestry, Health sciences and others. In
their turn, these are divided into disciplines that are more
specific in order to learn one’s profession. Academic disciplines
define the framework for students’ program of college and university
by Michael Cookson, Researcher with
Odontology Forensic odontology, dental
research and science article
(overwhelming...) information >
list of disciplines/fields of study
Interdisciplinary Approach to Literary Analysis: papers use one field of study or knowledge as a "lens" to
understand some aspect of a particular essay, story, play, etc. For example, to better relate to and understand the play, Hamlet,
we might think about the ways the issues Hamlet is faced with seem to
imply what we now call family "dysfunction." Or we could examine how
Hamlet's behavior, as the play presents it, might suggest something like bipolar
disorder. Or from an historical perspective, how the personal lives of
government leaders affect historical events. Or from a criminology
approach, a writer might focus on how evidence in the play suggests what happened to Hamlet's
father. A title for a psychological approach might be: Hamlet: Some
Results of Family Dysfunction (uses psychology to understand this story). Or to understand an aspect of Native American culture, a title for a paper dealing with a certain traditional story could be: Pueblo Creation Myth: A Map for Human Social Organization (uses sociology to
examine the meaning and "application" of this myth). Such traditional accounts can also be seen as examples of philosophy, theology, or other fields of study.
We can also "approach"
the understanding of a text (story, book, play, essay, etc.) by analyzing some internal
artistic, stylistic, literary or symbolic aspects of the piece itself which is called the
"intrinsic" approach. Choosing to analyze a character, a controlling image
("lenses" in the Dillard essay), setting, etc. and how the writing
treats or reveals it, is one way to understand a text.
Some other approaches, or "lenses" might be: biographical, how the author's own life is reflected in the work, archetypal how certain "universal" symbols (the Father, the Healer, etc.) guide the work, the feminist, how
the role of women affects the work, and virtually any topic or field of
study that a student feels is central to the work, can be used.
Here is a short sample story--"The
Story of an Hour" and an approach analysis peer reviewed article
about it that illustrates this kind of paper. Though it is a bit
longer than a paper for this class, it clearly shows how to view the key
ideas and events in this story from a specific perspective, or "lens,"
case the psychological quality of "emotion."
Possible stages of the writing:
Choose a piece of writing to use as the focus work
from the choices posted.\
How to analyze a
text -- make notes to record your responses:
reread the text until you have an understanding of it.
through and make notes about your personal reaction to the
piece: how you relate to it, enjoy it, any new or
interesting ideas, information, etc. that it presents to
consider most important ideas.
the text to locate specific evidence and passages related to
the major ideas.
- The "theme/meaning" may be the most
obvious element of a story or essay. A theme will usually fall under one
(or more) of the fields of study above. So, a theme of "honesty"
might be explored through the study/field of philosophy and what it
"says" about being honest. A theme of "loss/grief" might be explored
through psychology; "revenge" through theology, philosophy, etc.,
self-knowledge through psychology, stealing/murder >criminology, a
child's behavior>child development, etc. For steps in finding
"Theme/meaning," see this guide:
Some basic steps for
analyzing a piece of
writing--each point needs to have an example from the text:
Summarize the plot
Identify the central conflict
Identify the theme(s)
Identify the important people or figures
Identify the objects and places that influence the
Identify the style (matter of fact, lots of feeling,
lots of five-sense detail, action or mostly
Identify the "field of study" that might be most
interested in this writing
difference between James and his mother is their method of
dealing with the pain they experience. While James turns
inward, his mother Ruth turns outward, starting a new
relationship, moving to a different place, keeping herself
busy. Ruth herself describes that, even as a young girl, she
had an urge to run, to feel the freedom and the movement of
her legs pumping as fast as they can (42). As an adult, Ruth
still feels the urge to run. Following her second husband’s
death, James points out that, “while she weebled and wobbled
and leaned, she did not fall. She responded with speed and
motion. She would not stop moving” (163). As she biked,
walked, rode the bus all over the city, “she kept moving as
if her life depended on it, which in some ways it did. She
ran, as she had done most of her life, but this time she was
running for her own sanity” (164). Ruth’s motion is a
pattern of responding to the tragedy in her life. As a girl,
she did not sit and think about her abusive father and her
trapped life in the Suffolk store. Instead she just left
home, moved on, tried something different. She did not
analyze the connections between pain and understanding,
between action and response, even though she seems to
understand them. As an adult, she continues this pattern,
although her running is modified by her responsibilities to
her children and home.
The image of
running that McBride uses here and elsewhere supports his
understanding of his mother as someone who does not stop and
consider what is happening in her life yet is able to move
ahead. Movement provides the solution, although a temporary
one, and preserves her sanity. Discrete moments of action
preserve her sense of her own strength and offer her new
alternatives for the future. Even McBride’s sentence
structure in the paragraph about his mother’s running
supports the effectiveness of her spurts of action without
reflection. Although varying in length, each of the last
seven sentences of the paragraph begins with the subject
“She” and an active verb such as “rode,” “walked,” “took,”
“grasp” and “ran.” The section is choppy, repetitive and yet
clear, as if to reinforce Ruth’s unconscious insistence on
movement as a means of coping with the difficulties of her
find a variety of material, views, personal thinking and ideas
about the possible focus writing to be able to draw from.
on 7 steps for analyzing above, find a "lens" or guiding idea
use as a structure for analyzing a meaning of the writing:
1) a field of study, academic
discipline, like history, sociology, environmental science,
philosophy, etc. or 2)
intrinsic/internal element of the account like a character study
(psychological profile), or biographical data of a person that
figures in the account (or the author) or some artistic
feature--e.g. use of "glass" as
symbol, or how the
might affect the account.
The name of the essay/story and ONE
lens (discipline or literary feature) must be clearly identified
in a sentence somewhere in the first paragraph. Here are
some two-part title suggestions:
- Dillard's "Lenses": How Physical
Properties of a Lens Can Alter Perception and Memory
(psychology, physics, literary imagery)
- Listening: One Kind of Paying
Attention (psychology, literacy/writing)
- Perception and Imagination: How
Dillard Demonstrates the Developmental Stage of
Individuation ("night-fright" Chapter)
(psychology, child development, sensory imagery)
- World War II in a Car: Atwood's
Account of Family Life on the Road (history, family
dynamics, child development, sensory imagery
- The Fruit Falls Close to the Tree:
Dysfunction and Alcohol Addiction In the Lives of Two
Raymond Carvers (substance abuse, family
- Gretel Ehrlich's "Island": A Contained
Landscape of Solace (psychology, healing)
- Closer to Heaven: Spiritual Grounding of
Daily Life in the Alps (psychology, mystic theology,
Death in Two Worlds: Respect and
Tolerance in Silko's "The Man to Send Rain Clouds"
(sociology or theology)
Story of an Hour": Gender Roles in the Victorian Age
(Gender Studies, sociology, history, psychology)
Lens exploration: Do a brief
investigation of what the discipline (see above) is concerned
with--i.e. find out what
addiction studies or history, or psychology in general actually studies,
or in a writing about a "thing" (as
in Dillard's "Lenses") what the definition and functions of a
"symbol" might actually be and the qualities of that "thing."
(optional) Using all the pre-writing material, notes, etc. make a
2-4 level outline [OUTLINE
HOW TO WRITE AN OUTLINE
] that sketches out a
general layout of the paper.
Write a first draft in paragraph format that:
1) explains the part of the focus
writing that will be examined (like emotions, or historical time
frame) and the lens (biography of author, discipline, etc.) and
how they inter-relate and 2) define
key terms and expand into the body of paper: observations,
reasons and evidence that support the thesis. Using
guide the reader is fine.
finished papers should amount to 1000-1200wds (4-5) pages
following the general MLA format guidelines.
- Papers must include a 2-part title (topic and position using a colon to join the parts),
3-part thesis sentence
and use standard (parenthetical) MLA documentation style.
The name of the essay/story (and the
author) AND the name of ONE lens (discipline or literary feature)
must be clearly identified in a sentence somewhere in the first
- Each paper should credit
(cite) information from the focus writing under consideration for evidence, from at least
(or instructor approved web site) sources (and any other definitions or
outside material) and have a balance of summary, paraphrase and personal
comment. Direct quotations should not constitute more than 10-15% of the
total word count.
- Again, source
material should include the writing being studied AND peer reviewed
articles from online data bases, print publications, and/or OK'd web sites.
Please use clear, accurate, semi-formal diction, define terms and key ideas
(--in the sample writing above, "emotion" should be (but isn't...) defined denotatively,
connotatively including its use in this paper and its origin) and
briefly demonstrate understanding of whatever
literary or "interdisciplinary" concepts that are very important to the
paper, i.e. in the sample paper, psychology. Introducing the field of study can be done in this way, EXAMPLE
WORDING: The field of psychology defines "abuse" as, "
" (cite). The internet site, dictionary.com, in entry number
____ , defines "abuse" as it relates to this analysis as________
(cite).-- It is important to explain early in the essay how you,
the writer, see how the field of study relates to and helps readers
understand the text being considered. NOTE: Authors
should always be referred to by last name or full name only.
the idea of these approach/analysis essays is to focus on one feature
of the essay or story that seems key, and investigate it and the ways
it occurs in the text to gain insight/understanding of the writing, and
possibly of some aspect of the field of study.
NOTE: For an intrinsic/artistic analysis, some pattern of
language, image, idea, etc. can be the "lens." EXAMPLE: The function of light as
metaphor for understanding in _________, etc., etc. Obviously, in Annie
Dillard's "Lenses" many, many things in that essay function as lens to
expand the ideas in her reflective/thoughtful, descriptive,
autobiographical, narrative account. Other possibilities of a focus in a
text might be, landscape, overcoming adversity, animals, music (even
repeated sounds in the writing...), climate, a cultural value,
The possibilities are really endless; the task is to get
into--engage--the text in thoughtful, critical investigation. This is a
process of discovery, so being open to how your thinking develops is