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Writing About Literature

Writing About Literature

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Writing About Literature

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  1. Writing About Literature - Literary analysis (see hand-out) - check writer’s handbooks - see also Norton Intro to Lit., “Writing About Literature” (A3-A52) and Glossary

  2. Literary analysis hand-out Some key points to remember: - be familiar with basic literary terminology (remember to consult the Norton glossary when necessary) - use essay prompts as guides by looking for keywords (like literary terms): e.g. is the prompt asking you to look for “imagery,” “symbolism,” “characterization,” “narrative style”? Use the keyword in your thesis statement if possible (but remember that “Shakespeare uses symbolism” is not a thesis statement) - you are analyzing and interpreting, NOT summarizing - do not “analyze” by making lists: e.g. your thesis is that “Charlotte Perkins Gilman uses color-imagery throughout her short story, “The Yellow Wallpaper.” Do not then proceed to simply list, in order that they appear in the story, all instances of color-imagery - literary analysis does not involve your subjective opinion about an author or work’s “greatness” (e.g. 'Dryden is a great and brilliant writer.') - supporting details will be direct (and accurate) quotation from the primary sources (the readings); these will appear in EVERY body paragraph (except perhaps transition paragraphs in longer papers) - secondary sources should support your ideas, not provide them - close, critical reading of the primary text(s) - reading and re-reading multiple times; be sure to annotate

  3. continued.... - use genre terminology correctly (short story, poem, play, etc.) - italicize plays, novels, and long poems: Paradise Lost - quotation marks for poems and short stories: “Boys and Girls” - write in third person (this does not limit what you can say): “Shakespeare’s Hamlet explores the consequences of inaction.”not “After reading Hamlet, I think that the play explores....” - verb tense: present tense for discussing elements internal to literary works; past tense for historical events/ biographical information - “A Rose for Emily” develops the contrast between old and new.” - Faulkner was born in the Old South. Note: sometimes, if you are providing plot summary, you will have to re-narrate plot events in a combination of past and present tense - analysis and interpretation: start by asking questions with literary terms: e.g. What are the important themes in the work? How does the author use imagery/symbolism/metaphor? How is rhythm/rhyme/alliteration/pattern used? - key terms to remember: plot, theme, structure, characterization, setting, point of view, style, imagery, tone, figure of speech, symbolism, rhythm, rhyme

  4. Norton Introduction to Literature “Writing About Literature” (A3-A52) - avoid mere summary or paraphrase, but use each of these within your essays when necessary (avoid constructing your argument using the linear structure of the text – i.e. paragraphs shouldn’t start with “And then, in the next paragraph....”) - for the most part, our “critical approach” (A18) will be “Formalist” (we’ll be attending to features within works themselves – like development of imagery, structure, diction, etc.); but be aware of other critical approaches (especially for longer papers) - thesis statement – your “argument” about literature should make your reader say, or think, something like, “Oh. I hadn’t noticed that/thought of that before.” (So “There is symbolism in ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’” will obviously not elicit this reaction); think especially in terms of identifying connections/development/resonance within and between works - the process  this is your brain

  5. The process for developing literary analysis papers will be roughly the same, regardless of the length of the paper. - read and re-read primary texts, making notes to yourself in a notebook AND marking the texts (this will make finding important quotes and passages easier in the future) - keep a notebook or note cards with important quotes or information on them (remember to include the source for the material, and number the cards or color code them); this will make organizing a lot of material easier - use organizing and brainstorming techniques (like outlines, free-writing, bubble or tree diagrams) throughout the writing process, not just once at the beginning - write a first draft as “freely” as possible – don’t over-censor yourself; get as much down on paper as possible (then consider outlining this draft to get a better sense of how your material is/can be organized) - write then revise, write/revise, writerevise writerevisewriterevisewriterevise this is your brain on reading let revision become an integral part of the writing processlet it be an actual re-seeing

  6. Sailing to Byzantium – W.B. Yeats That is no country for old men. The young In one another's arms, birds in the trees – Those dying generations - at their song, The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas, Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long Whatever is begotten, born, and dies. Caught in that sensual music all neglect Monuments of unageing intellect. An aged man is but a paltry thing, A tattered coat upon a stick, unless Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing For every tatter in its mortal dress, Nor is there singing school but studying Monuments of its own magnificence; And therefore I have sailed the seas and come To the holy city of Byzantium. O sages standing in God's holy fire As in the gold mosaic of a wall, Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre, And be the singing-masters of my soul. Consume my heart away; sick with desire And fastened to a dying animal It knows not what it is; and gather me Into the artifice of eternity. Once out of nature I shall never take My bodily form from any natural thing, But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make Of hammered gold and gold enameling To keep a drowsy Emperor awake; Or set upon a golden bough to sing To lords and ladies of Byzantium Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

  7. I. ask a question using a literary term (or terms): • imagery • theme • diction • rhythm and rhyme • II. formulate a response to the question; this becomes a tentative thesis statement • III. return to the poem to re-read and annotate, looking closely for key quotes • IV. draft an outline that includes your thesis statement and then develops support for that thesis using direct evidence from the poem • V. re-read the poem and consider revisions

  8. Sailing to Byzantium – W.B. Yeats (Norton, pg 1010) 1. That is no country for old men. The young In one another's arms, birds in the trees – Those dying generations - at their song, The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas, Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long Whatever is begotten, born, and dies. Caught in that sensual music all neglect Monuments of unageing intellect. 2. An aged man is but a paltry thing, A tattered coat upon a stick, unless Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing For every tatter in its mortal dress, Nor is there singing school but studying Monuments of its own magnificence; And therefore I have sailed the seas and come To the holy city of Byzantium. Setting theme rhyme setting/theme 3. O sages standing in God's holy fire As in the gold mosaic of a wall, Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre, And be the singing-masters of my soul. Consume my heart away; sick with desire And fastened to a dying animal It knows not what it is; and gather me Into the artifice of eternity. 4. Once out of nature I shall never take My bodily form from any natural thing, But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make Of hammered gold and gold enameling To keep a drowsy Emperor awake; Or set upon a golden bough to sing To lords and ladies of Byzantium Of what is past, or passing, or to come. opposition/contrast allusion/intertextuality