Notes for Literary Analysis Papers
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....
Clearly, 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.
Stories 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.
The over-riding goal of (any) analysis writing is to demonstrate some new or at least a personal understanding of the text.
Academic 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 experience.
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 our planet.
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 study.
by Michael Cookson, Researcher with Odontology Forensic odontology, dental research and science article
For further (overwhelming...) information > list of disciplines/fields of study
The Thematic 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," in that case the psychological quality of "emotion."
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.
Again, 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, etc.
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 very important.
|© copyright 2011 : Jane Thielsen : all rights reserved|