Lesson 8 Introduction to Literary Analysis

Writer’s Prompt:
v Listen v Write v Write v How

to Janis Ian’s haunting song, “At Seventeen.” what you think Ian’s message is your reaction to this song would you characterize this song?

Janis Ian “At Seventeen”

v Read,

Reason, Write – Read page 717 through page 721 – due next class “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin – page 726 – due next class Jack London’s “To Build A Fire”. This will be used as the basis of your Literary Analysis Essay.

v Read

v Read

Literary Analysis

What is Literary Analysis?
v It’s v It’s

literary an analysis

v It’s-v An v It


may also involve research on and analysis of secondary sources

What is an Analysis?
v An

analysis of a literary work may discuss
 How the various components of an individual work relate to each other  How two separate literary works deal with similar concepts or forms  How concepts and forms in literary works relate to larger aesthetic, political, social, economic, or religious

How is It “Literary”?
v Usually,

a literary analysis will involve a discussion of a text as writing, thus the term literary, which means “having to do with letters” will involve the use of certain concepts that are very specifically associated with literature

v This

How is Literary Analysis an Argument?

When writing a literary analysis, you will focus on specific attribute(s) of the text(s). When discussing these attributes, you will want to make sure that you are making a specific, arguable point (thesis) about these attributes. You will defend this point with reasons and evidence drawn from the text. (Much like a



Literary Analysis
v Uses

same analysis process as when analyzing nonfiction:
 Examine the context  To whom is the author writing?  Under what circumstances is he/she writing?  What literary format is being used?  What is the writer’s style? 

Anti Analysis Naysayers
v Some

readers want a work of literature to mean whatever they think it means

v If

you decide that a Robert Frost poem should mean whatever you are feeling when you read it – you may as well skip the poem and just express your feelings reads Frost and other literature to gain insight which goes beyond ones

v One

Anti Analysis Naysayers
v Some

readers hate the word “analysis” as if an analysis tears the work apart and ruins it

v If

so – what about sports analysis? Does it ruin the game being played?

Writing a Literary Analysis

Important Literary Concepts
v The


•Other key concepts
–Historical context –Social, political, economic contexts –Ideology –Multiple voices –Various critical orientations –Literary theory

 Plot  Setting  Narration/point of view  Characterization  Symbol  Metaphor  Genre  Irony/ambiguity

Which is the Best Thesis Statement?
v Moby-Dick v Moby-Dick v Moby-Dick v The

is about the problem of evil. is boring and pointless. is about a big, white whale. use of “whiteness” in Moby-Dick illustrates the uncertainty about the meaning of life that Ishmael

How Do I Support a Thesis Statement?
v Examples

from the text:

 Direct quotations  Summaries of scenes  Paraphrase
v Other

critics’ opinions and social context

v Historical v Always

remember to read carefully and highlight useful passages and quotes

What is a Secondary Source?

book or article that discusses the text you are discussing book or article that discusses a theory related to the argument you are making book or article that discusses the social and historical context of the text you are discussing



How Do I Find Secondary Sources?
v v v

MLA International Bibliography Dictionary of Literary Biography Discipline-specific sources
 Example: America: History and Life for American literature

v v

Other search engines A bibliography that is part of your text Ask your instructor


Integrating Secondary Sources

When you use secondary sources, be sure to show how they relate to your thesis Don’t overuse any one secondary source, or for that matter, secondary sources in general Remember that this is your paper, your argument—the secondary sources are just helping you out Never, never, never plagiarize. See the OWL handout on




Overview of Literary Analysis
v When

writing a literary analysis:
 Be familiar with literary terms  Analyze specific items  Make an a argument  Make appropriate use of secondary sources  Consult instructors and tutors for help when needed

A Fairy Tale Example…
v Read

“There Was An Old Woman”

There Was An Old Woman Who Lived In A Shoe

There was an old woman  who lived in a shoe, She had so many children she didn't know what to do;   She gave them some broth without any bread; She whipped them all soundly and put them to bed.


Literary Analysis
v v v v v

Who or what does the “old woman” symbolize? What does the “shoe” represent? Who are the “children”? For what could this fairy tale be an analogy? “She whipped them all soundly and put them to bed” What does this imply? Compare and contrast this tale with that of the “Three Little Pigs.” What is the historical context of this fairy tale?

v v

Where Can I Go for More Help?
v The

Purdue University Writing Lab

v http://owl.english.purdue.edu v owl@owl.english.purdue.edu

If time permits…
v Begin

reading “The Story of an Hour” in class

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