Writing the literary analysis
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Writing the Literary Analysis. What is Literary Analysis?. It’s literary It’s an analysis It’s-- An Argument! It may also involve research on and analysis of secondary sources. How is it “literary”?.

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Writing the Literary Analysis

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Writing the literary analysis

Writing the Literary Analysis

What is literary analysis

What is Literary Analysis?

  • It’s literary

  • It’s an analysis

  • It’s--

  • An Argument!

  • It may also involve research on and analysis of secondary sources

How is it literary

How is it “literary”?

  • Usually, a literary analysis will involve a discussion of a text as writing, thus the term literary, which means “having to do with letters”

  • This will involve the use of certain concepts that are very specifically associated with literature

Important literary concepts

The Basics


Narration/point of view




Tone/diction/syntax/ imagery



Other key concepts

Historical context

Social, political, economic contexts


Multiple voices

Various critical orientations

Literary theory

Important literary concepts

How can i learn more

How Can I Learn More?

  • There are various handbooks of literary terms available in most libraries.

  • There are numerous introductions to literary criticism and theory that are widely available.

  • Example: A Handbook to Literature. Harmon/Holman

What is an analysis

What is an Analysis?

  • 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 contexts

How is a literary analysis an argument

How is a 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 lawyer!)

About thesis statements

About Thesis Statements

  • A thesis can be either simplistic or sophisticated.

  • It is important to remember that the thesis statement controls the entire composition – a focused, concise thesis statement will give you a greater chance of producing writing that clearly communicates your argument.

Which is the best thesis statement

Which is the best thesis statement?

  • Moby-Dick is about the problem of evil.

  • Moby-Dick is boring and pointless.

  • Moby-Dick is about a big, white whale.

  • The use of “whiteness” in Moby-Dick illustrates the uncertainty about the meaning of life that Ishmael expresses throughout the novel.

Easy peasy thesis statements

Easy-Peasy Thesis Statements

  • So now you’re thinking, “That’s nice and all, but how do I do this?”

  • Here’s an easy-peasy thesis helper:

  • In (title of novel or poem), (Author’s name) uses (1st lit device), (2nd lit device), and (3rd lit device) to (depict, criticize, explain, etc.) (some aspect of human life).

Easy peasy thesis statements1

Easy-Peasy Thesis Statements

  • Let’s see what this might look like:

  • In Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen uses omniscient narration, vivid diction, and unusual syntax to depict the etiquette-driven world of Regency Era England.

  • The most important part of this is what happens after the word TO!

How do i support a thesis statement

How do I support a thesis statement?

  • Examples from the text:

    • Direct quotations

    • Summaries of scenes

    • Paraphrase

  • Other critics’ opinions

  • Historical and social context

  • Always remember to read carefully and highlight useful passages and quotes!

How do i avoid superficiality

How do I avoid superficiality?

If all you do in one body paragraph is to give a few examples of irony from the text and identify them as irony, then you haven’t analyzed anything!

The analysis part involves explaining how those examples are ironic, and how they help to communicate your thesis (i.e. how they help to communicate the theme).

You must interpret what the author has given you to work withy.

Next draft topic sentences

Next: Draft Topic Sentences

  • Once you have a solid thesis:

  • Compose 4-5 Topic Sentences that support, explore, demonstrate, explain, or illustrate your thesis. Always begin your body paragraphs with a Topic Sentence (a claim); NEVER begin a body paragraph with a quotation or summary sentence.

Find evidence

Find Evidence

  • Select specific passages that offer the reader evidence of your claim.

  • Incorporate only the most important phrases into each paragraph. Use ellipses if needed.

Build your paper to a climax

Build your Paper to a Climax

  • Save your most engaging or important topic sentence for your last body paragraph.

  • Conclude your paper with a paragraph that does more than simply summarize your main points. You may wish to echo your opening interest device or end with an insight.

What is a secondary source

What is a secondary source?

  • A book or article that discusses the text you are discussing

  • A book or article that discusses a theory related to the argument you are making

  • A book or article that discusses the social and historical context of the text you are discussing

How do i find secondary sources

How do I find secondary sources?

  • MLA International Bibliography

  • Dictionary of Literary Biography

  • Discipline-specific sources

    • Example: America: History and Life for American literature

  • Other search engines

  • A bibliography that is part of your text

  • Ask someone who knows

Integrating secondary sources

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 plagiarism for more information.

Overview of literary analysis

Overview of Literary Analysis

  • 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

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