WRITING ABOUT LITERATURE:LITERARY ANALYSISAND THE WRITING PROCESS
BY ROB MELTONWHAT IS AN OPINION AND HOW TO DO YOU REACH IT?Most people tend to claim as opinions all sorts of prejudices, sentiments, platitudes, andvague convictions. A genuine opinion strong enough to support the structure of an essaymust meet certain specifications. Note the following definition of
:OPINION: a belief not based on absolute certainty or positive knowledge but on whatseems true, valid, or probable to one’s own mind; what one thinks; judgment. Test any opinion against the definition above and you will know if you have chosen a validessay topic. It will make clear the difference between opinion and fact; the failure to makethis distinction is perhaps the most common error among student writers. Facts must beconverted to opinions before they can serve as essay topics.WRITING ABOUT LITERATURE THE LITERARY ESSAY PAPER The literary paper is based upon a judgment—an opinion. Your opinion has almost nothing todo with whether or not you “like” the literary work you are writing about. You are not beingasked to express your feelings about what you have read (feelings are not subject todebate). You are being asked to make a reasoned judgment that you can back up withspecific evidence from the literary work you have read.DEVELOPING THE THESIS THE 4-STEP PROCESS
Read the selection/Take inventory
•What is the author’s purpose? Does the writer succeed? How does the writer succeed?•What happens? To whom? Under what circumstances?•Does anything or anyone change in any significant way in the course of the book? Why?How?•What is the prevailing mood? What is the tone?Answers to questions like these will provide you with clues to the author’s purpose andtheme. The genre and difficulty of a selection will have a bearing upon the way you read.
Make a list of controversial questions
•The questions you were asking yourself as you took inventory may not in every case becontroversial. Some will be purely factual.•When you begin to question attitudes, intentions, purposes, methods, and meanings, youare dealing with interpretation, that is, with opinions. And therein lies controversy.•Make a list of such questions.
Search for answers
•The literary selection itself should supply the answers.•If at first you don’t find them, search again.•Think about all the parts and how they fit together.
Choose an answer
•The answer you select should be the one that interests you the most, that you believe you