Write a literary analysis of one of the readings we have engaged with thus far that utilizes one of the schools of literary criticism.
First Critical Response Essay
Your first critical response essay for the course is (most likely) the most challenging graded item. Remember that this assignment is a literary analysis that you need not back up with sources [but you can]. This means that you should approach this assignment by rereading the areas on the schools of literary criticism (reposted below) and think deeply about our readings. You should find your favorite reading from the course thus far and consider why this reading appeals to you. For example, you might find that you enjoyed Hills Like White Elephants. If a classmate were to ask you why you liked it you might answer, “I like stories about relationships.” We now have the seed of the paper’s thesis.
Relationships are often considered in the school of literary criticism known as “gender study.” So you are now writing a paper about Hemingway and Gender Study.
Next, we need a thesis. This is the main argument of the paper. This requires you to think even more deeply about the story. Why did this relationship interest you as a reader? Perhaps you feel that the woman in the story is being passive-aggressive and Hemingway is commenting on that? You are now ready to write your paper!
What is a “Critical Response Essay?”
Critical Response Essays are intended to demonstrate the student’s understanding of the assigned literary works and give the student the opportunity to reflect on his or her academic considerations of that work or author. To do this the student should use one of the schools of literary criticism that are studied in this class as a starting place. This seems complex and daunting at first, but it can be quite simple. To begin, a student should choose one of the readings that have been assigned and combine this with one of the schools of literary criticism we will consider to come up with an argumentative topic and thesis for his or her paper.
What should my topic be?
Areas of Fiction Study (remember to choose something specific under these umbrella topics):
- Narration/Point of View
- Symbols & Figurative Language
Sample Topic Questions:
- How does the journal style of narration in Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” affect the readers’ point of view?
- How is Montresor considered an “unreliable” narrator in Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado”?
- In Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants,” how effective is the dialogue in providing indirect characterization?
- Analyze and prove that a theme exists in any text. The instructorcan make this specific to texts discussed in class
- How does Georgiana’s birthmark function as a symbol in Hawthorne’s “The Birthmark”?
- What about the genders of the characters that affect your reading? (Gender Study)
- Do any of the events of the author’s life seem relevant to the work? (Biographic Criticism)
- Do the characters seem to display behaviors that modern psychologists would find interesting? (Psychoanalytic Criticism)
- Are any of the items in the text symbolic? (Semiotics)
- How does class or level of wealth affect what the narrator or characters are acting on? (Marxist Criticism)
- How do you think this particular reading assignment fits into its period of time? (Historical Literary Criticism)
- How does the race of the characters or author come into the narrative? (African American Literary Criticism, Ethnic Criticism)
- In what significant ways can we expect readers to react to this work? (Reader Response)
Remember that it all rests on an argument and your argument requires a thesis statement
The thesis sentence is, by far, the most important sentence in the paper. The goal of this sentence is to outline for the reader what the argument of the paper will be. It most often is found as the last sentence of the first paragraph and holds such an important place in your paper that you should expect that a poor thesis statement will lead to a poor grade. The thesis statement is a foundation for the argument and should attempt to succinctly and clearly let the reader know what the paper is going to be about. A good rule of thumb when writing either a critical response paper or a research paper is to make sure that every sentence in the paper is in some way continuing to prove the argument first established by the thesis.
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