Literary Analysis Power Point

Topics: Literature, Rhetoric, Greek loanwords Pages: 15 (549 words) Published: December 7, 2014
Writing a Literary Analysis

What Is Literary Analysis?

It’s literary.
It’s an analysis.
An Argument!
It may also involve research on and 
analysis of secondary sources.

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
– Plot
– Setting
– Narration/point of 
– Characterization
– Symbol 
– Metaphor
– Genre
– Irony/ambiguity

• Other key concepts
– Historical context
– Social, political, 
economic contexts
– Ideology
– Multiple voices
– Various critical 
– Literary theory

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. 

What Is an Analysis?
• An analysis of a literary work may 
– 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 Literary Analysis an
• 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. 

Which is the Best Thesis

Moby­Dick is about the problem of evil.
Moby­Dick is boring and pointless.
Moby­Dick is about a big, white whale.
The use of “whiteness” in Moby­Dick 
illustrates the uncertainty about the 
meaning of life that Ishmael expresses 
throughout the novel.

How Do I Support a Thesis
• 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.

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 

How Do I Find Secondary
• MLA International Bibliography
• Dictionary of Literary Biography
• Discipline­specific sources
– Example: America: History and Life for 
American literature

• Other search engines
• A bibliography that is part of your text
• Ask your instructor

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
• 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 

Where Can I Go for More Help?

The Purdue University Writing Lab
226 Heavilon Hall
And visit
Or email

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