Literary Analysis Paper

This paper closely addresses a theme in a novel you have read.

Traditional ideas about literary analysis papers are that they present an argument using evidence from a text, often to explore the way that the text functions as literary art or what the text reveals about "human nature." There is a thesis statement, a carefully developed sequence of arguments, and an effective use of textual evidence, both long and short quotations. The traditional literary analysis focuses on the text itself as an isolatable construct.

In writing a literary analysis paper, however, I want you to move beyond the traditional approach.

Rather than making an argument, I would like your paper to take me with you on an intellectual journey of investigation and understanding. In this sense, rather than a "thesis statement," I would like to see your paper focus on a sincere question about the text and its contexts.

Drawing on ideas from outside the text, convince me that your question is important and interesting. Explore your question in the text and its contexts. Take me to the places where you have been looking to find answers, and show me what you are finding. How is your question more complex than you thought? Why do you think so? Help me understand the broader significance of your question.

Though you have the freedom to explore a question that interests you, likely your question will be related to the topic of food, food systems, and their representation in the novel. You might have questions such as: How does the author show food as an important aspect of culture? How does the representation of food in the novel illustrate differences of social class? How does the author use food to show the masculinity of a specific character? How does the author contrast food at home vs. food in public spaces?

Where does your intellectual journey take you? What have you learned? What do you still need to better understand?

You can write this paper in the first person ("I") -- and it should be based in your careful study and observation. Though, of course, the paper is not a personal narrative about your own life or experience. Neither is it a close analysis of a single passage. It is not a research paper, but it needs to show awareness of context beyond the text itself, demonstrate insight, and make connection to reading about food systems. Thus you can refer to or site other sources, but the focus of your writing should be on what you are trying to understand from the text under examination.

This is not a "first draft -best draft" paper. You will want to revise and rewrite so that the intellectual journey you take me on makes sense, is interesting, and develops in a meaningful way.

Your paper should show careful writing, revision, and editing, and be at least 5 pages long.

Created by: allen.webb@wmich.edu
Revised Date: 1/14