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Lesson 8 Introduction to

Literary Analysis
Writer’s Prompt:

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

v Read,Reason, Write – Read

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

v It’s literary
v It’s an analysis
v It’s--

v An Argument!
v It may also involve research
on and analysis of
secondary sources
What is an Analysis?

v Ananalysis 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”
v Thiswill involve the use of
certain concepts that are
very specifically associated
with literature
How is Literary Analysis an
v When writing a literary analysis,
you will focus on specific
attribute(s) of the text(s).
v When discussing these
attributes, you will want to
make sure that you are
making a specific, arguable
point (thesis) about these
v 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
 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
v One reads Frost and other
literature to gain insight
which goes beyond ones
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
Important Literary Concepts

v The Basics •Other key concepts

 Plot –Historical context
–Social, political,
 Setting economic contexts
 Narration/point –Ideology
of view –Multiple voices
–Various critical
 Characterization orientations
 Symbol –Literary theory

 Metaphor
 Genre
 Irony/ambiguity
Which is the Best Thesis
v Moby-Dickis about the
problem of evil.
v Moby-Dick is boring and
v Moby-Dickis about a big,
white whale.
v Theuse of “whiteness” in
Moby-Dick illustrates the
uncertainty about the
meaning of life that Ishmael
How Do I Support a Thesis
v Examples from the text:
 Direct quotations
 Summaries of scenes
 Paraphrase
v Other critics’ opinions
v Historical and social context
v Always remember to read
carefully and highlight
useful passages and quotes
What is a Secondary Source?

vA book or article that

discusses the text you are
vA book or article that
discusses a theory related to
the argument you are
vA book or article that
discusses the social and
historical context of the text
you are discussing
How Do I Find Secondary
v MLA International Bibliography
v Dictionary of Literary Biography
v Discipline-specific sources
 Example: America: History and Life
for American literature
v Other search engines
v A bibliography that is part of
your text
v Ask your instructor
Integrating Secondary
v When you use secondary
sources, be sure to show how
they relate to your thesis
v Don’t overuse any one
secondary source, or for that
matter, secondary sources in
v Remember that this is your
paper, your argument—the
secondary sources are just
helping you out
v Never, never, never plagiarize.
See the OWL handout on
Overview of Literary Analysis

v When writing a literary

 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
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
and put them to bed.
Literary Analysis
v Who or what does the “old woman”
v What does the “shoe” represent?
v Who are the “children”?
v For what could this fairy tale be an
v “She whipped them all soundly
and put them to bed” What does
this imply?
v Compare and contrast this tale with
that of the “Three Little Pigs.”
v What is the historical context of this
fairy tale?
Where Can I Go for More
v ThePurdue University Writing
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