Literary Analysis #2

Literary Analysis #2
Like the shorter close reading essays, these longer papers ask you to examine a text or texts in detail and offer a specific interpretation that will serve as your thesis/argument. You will be expected to incorporate direct quotations from the text as evidence to support your claims, your own interpretation/explanation of the passages, and critical scholarship relevant to the material in order to promote your thesis.
You will write a formal proposal and preliminary outline for this paper – which I must approve – and include a bibliography in MLA format with each draft (first and final!).Outline, drafts, and works cited must be included in order to receive full credit for the assignment – you will lose a grade increment on the essay final grade for any missing components.
I recommend that you review my comments on past essays and all class notes regarding what I expect for a literary analysis. Remember you also must come to office hours ONE MORE TIME before the end of the semester – if you are confused about the assignment, please come to office hours.


1. Choose one or more of the literary elements we have been discussing in class (plot structure, characterization, theme, symbolism, motifs, language etc.) and closely analyze its use in ITLOTW or Trifles. What new and different interpretation of this element can you offer in relation to the text’s message/theme? How does your interpretation affect/alter a reading of the text? How did the elements help convey a new message or meaning in the text?

2. Compare a specific aspect of In the Lake of the Woods to Trifles (characters, themes, certain scenes or actions, objects etc.). Remember that a comparison must still have a specific argument beyond just “these two things are similar, the end.” What did your comparison reveal and how does that revelation affect our understanding of the texts? How does your comparison reveal some idea/argument about the concept the texts have in common? Are you finding a similarity that is not immediately evident? Are you claiming that two similar things are actually very different? If so, so what? What argument are you making with this comparison?

3. Examine the narrative technique/structure of ITLOTW: [these questions are just to get you thinking; do not simply answer each one and think you have completed your essay. You must still have your own thesis]
a. Who is our narrator? Can we trust him? What affect does his self-awareness as narrator/author have on the novel?
b. We see the same scenes cast and recast in with various possibilities and varying amounts of information revealed; what do you make of this technique? How does it affect the story or relate to a theme in the novel?
c. Details from different stages of John’s life (childhood, war, marriage, politics) are often interwoven and presented beside each other, out of chronological order. Examine instances of this and offer an argument about how two or more stages of his life shed light on/explain/cause/result in other stages or aspects of his life.

4. The “Evidence” chapters in ITLOTW are some of the most interesting and revealing. Select an element of one/all of these chapters to analyze:
a. Pick one interviewee and, based on the information they give in these chapters, analyze their role both in the plotline and in the storytelling technique.
b. Choose a literary text cited in the footnotes and examine its importance to the plot/character/theme in the novel.
c. Select one entire chapter of evidence and examine its placement within the story; what information does it reveal and what “happens” because of it?

5. Examine and form a thesis about one of the following motifsin ITLOTW and/orTrifles:
a. The motifs of secrets, lies, and pretending/deceiving oneself or others
b. Control of information – both within the world of the story (newspapers, John hiding involvement in massacre, spying / women discovering clues and not telling the men) and as a text (retelling of scenes with added information, evidence chapters, interjectory footnotes / how movements of characters convey info in drama)
c. Voluntary vs. involuntary actions / nature vs. free will
d. Self-knowledge / deception
e. Intent/motive of an action affecting/changing the “rightness” of the action
f. Remember to say something about these things; do not just describe them.

6. Your choice! If something else has caught your interest, please pursue it! Must be about play and/or the novel.

Again, you will be required to do outside research for this assignment; you must conduct your research and read your sources before you write your essay. If you are having trouble, go to the library and ask for assistance or come to me for help.You must include at least THREE (more, if you wish!) external sources. These must be scholarly sources: that is, books, articles from literary journals by experts on the subject, etc. Overviews, reviews of text, general definitions, Wikipedia, etc. WILL NOT COUNT as scholarly sources.

Furthermore, be aware of how you use the scholarly sources – the material you cite in your essays from your sources should convey the author’s argument or interpretation of a text or literary technique; it should not just be description or summary of a text. The purpose of research is to engage with the prevailing interpretations of a text and situate yourself in the conversation – you might agree with another critic and want to expand upon their ideas, or you might disagree and provide evidence to counter them!


Above all: read the text carefully several times and be sure you understand 100% of what you’ve read.

1. Do not just summarize or describe what happens–focus on HOW and WHY. Imagine that your audience is familiar enough with a text that summary is not necessary; however, do not be afraid to use evidence from the text when it helps illustrate or support the claim you are making.

2. For every main and supporting claim you make about a work, you must have EVIDENCE–you should be able to paraphrase/quote from/refer to specific passages: 1) Make your point ? 2) quote/paraphrase ?3) then explain how (1) and (2) relate to one another and to your thesis.

3. If you are comparing two or more texts — the works have to have something important in common, otherwise you will end up with two little papers rather than one essay. Your focus should be on the thing in common. The thesis needs to be more than “These two things are similar” – you must make an argument based upon your comparison.

4. Be prepared to do some research—scholarly research only. No blogs, no Wikipedia, no overviews/reviews of the text. Argumentative, critical research.

5.CITE EVERYTHING. Use MLA format (refer to your handbook to make sure you are citing everything correctly; you WILL be graded on the accuracy of your citations.)

6. Submit a draft to TurnItIn by the due date – remember that you lose points on your final grade even for a late first draft.

7. Must be 5 pages. Bibliography is not included in the page count.

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