Writing a Literary Analysis
What Is Literary Analysis?
It’s an analysis.
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
• This will involve the use of certain
concepts that are very specifically
associated with literature.
Important Literary Concepts
• The Basics
– Narration/point of
• Other key concepts
– Historical context
– Social, political,
– 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
• 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
• 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
• 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
• 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 http://owl.english.purdue.edu
Or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Please join StudyMode to read the full document