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Ten Simple Rules for Writing a Literature Review

Marco pautasso.

1 Centre for Functional and Evolutionary Ecology (CEFE), CNRS, Montpellier, France

2 Centre for Biodiversity Synthesis and Analysis (CESAB), FRB, Aix-en-Provence, France

Literature reviews are in great demand in most scientific fields. Their need stems from the ever-increasing output of scientific publications [1] . For example, compared to 1991, in 2008 three, eight, and forty times more papers were indexed in Web of Science on malaria, obesity, and biodiversity, respectively [2] . Given such mountains of papers, scientists cannot be expected to examine in detail every single new paper relevant to their interests [3] . Thus, it is both advantageous and necessary to rely on regular summaries of the recent literature. Although recognition for scientists mainly comes from primary research, timely literature reviews can lead to new synthetic insights and are often widely read [4] . For such summaries to be useful, however, they need to be compiled in a professional way [5] .

When starting from scratch, reviewing the literature can require a titanic amount of work. That is why researchers who have spent their career working on a certain research issue are in a perfect position to review that literature. Some graduate schools are now offering courses in reviewing the literature, given that most research students start their project by producing an overview of what has already been done on their research issue [6] . However, it is likely that most scientists have not thought in detail about how to approach and carry out a literature review.

Reviewing the literature requires the ability to juggle multiple tasks, from finding and evaluating relevant material to synthesising information from various sources, from critical thinking to paraphrasing, evaluating, and citation skills [7] . In this contribution, I share ten simple rules I learned working on about 25 literature reviews as a PhD and postdoctoral student. Ideas and insights also come from discussions with coauthors and colleagues, as well as feedback from reviewers and editors.

Rule 1: Define a Topic and Audience

How to choose which topic to review? There are so many issues in contemporary science that you could spend a lifetime of attending conferences and reading the literature just pondering what to review. On the one hand, if you take several years to choose, several other people may have had the same idea in the meantime. On the other hand, only a well-considered topic is likely to lead to a brilliant literature review [8] . The topic must at least be:

  • interesting to you (ideally, you should have come across a series of recent papers related to your line of work that call for a critical summary),
  • an important aspect of the field (so that many readers will be interested in the review and there will be enough material to write it), and
  • a well-defined issue (otherwise you could potentially include thousands of publications, which would make the review unhelpful).

Ideas for potential reviews may come from papers providing lists of key research questions to be answered [9] , but also from serendipitous moments during desultory reading and discussions. In addition to choosing your topic, you should also select a target audience. In many cases, the topic (e.g., web services in computational biology) will automatically define an audience (e.g., computational biologists), but that same topic may also be of interest to neighbouring fields (e.g., computer science, biology, etc.).

Rule 2: Search and Re-search the Literature

After having chosen your topic and audience, start by checking the literature and downloading relevant papers. Five pieces of advice here:

  • keep track of the search items you use (so that your search can be replicated [10] ),
  • keep a list of papers whose pdfs you cannot access immediately (so as to retrieve them later with alternative strategies),
  • use a paper management system (e.g., Mendeley, Papers, Qiqqa, Sente),
  • define early in the process some criteria for exclusion of irrelevant papers (these criteria can then be described in the review to help define its scope), and
  • do not just look for research papers in the area you wish to review, but also seek previous reviews.

The chances are high that someone will already have published a literature review ( Figure 1 ), if not exactly on the issue you are planning to tackle, at least on a related topic. If there are already a few or several reviews of the literature on your issue, my advice is not to give up, but to carry on with your own literature review,

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The bottom-right situation (many literature reviews but few research papers) is not just a theoretical situation; it applies, for example, to the study of the impacts of climate change on plant diseases, where there appear to be more literature reviews than research studies [33] .

  • discussing in your review the approaches, limitations, and conclusions of past reviews,
  • trying to find a new angle that has not been covered adequately in the previous reviews, and
  • incorporating new material that has inevitably accumulated since their appearance.

When searching the literature for pertinent papers and reviews, the usual rules apply:

  • be thorough,
  • use different keywords and database sources (e.g., DBLP, Google Scholar, ISI Proceedings, JSTOR Search, Medline, Scopus, Web of Science), and
  • look at who has cited past relevant papers and book chapters.

Rule 3: Take Notes While Reading

If you read the papers first, and only afterwards start writing the review, you will need a very good memory to remember who wrote what, and what your impressions and associations were while reading each single paper. My advice is, while reading, to start writing down interesting pieces of information, insights about how to organize the review, and thoughts on what to write. This way, by the time you have read the literature you selected, you will already have a rough draft of the review.

Of course, this draft will still need much rewriting, restructuring, and rethinking to obtain a text with a coherent argument [11] , but you will have avoided the danger posed by staring at a blank document. Be careful when taking notes to use quotation marks if you are provisionally copying verbatim from the literature. It is advisable then to reformulate such quotes with your own words in the final draft. It is important to be careful in noting the references already at this stage, so as to avoid misattributions. Using referencing software from the very beginning of your endeavour will save you time.

Rule 4: Choose the Type of Review You Wish to Write

After having taken notes while reading the literature, you will have a rough idea of the amount of material available for the review. This is probably a good time to decide whether to go for a mini- or a full review. Some journals are now favouring the publication of rather short reviews focusing on the last few years, with a limit on the number of words and citations. A mini-review is not necessarily a minor review: it may well attract more attention from busy readers, although it will inevitably simplify some issues and leave out some relevant material due to space limitations. A full review will have the advantage of more freedom to cover in detail the complexities of a particular scientific development, but may then be left in the pile of the very important papers “to be read” by readers with little time to spare for major monographs.

There is probably a continuum between mini- and full reviews. The same point applies to the dichotomy of descriptive vs. integrative reviews. While descriptive reviews focus on the methodology, findings, and interpretation of each reviewed study, integrative reviews attempt to find common ideas and concepts from the reviewed material [12] . A similar distinction exists between narrative and systematic reviews: while narrative reviews are qualitative, systematic reviews attempt to test a hypothesis based on the published evidence, which is gathered using a predefined protocol to reduce bias [13] , [14] . When systematic reviews analyse quantitative results in a quantitative way, they become meta-analyses. The choice between different review types will have to be made on a case-by-case basis, depending not just on the nature of the material found and the preferences of the target journal(s), but also on the time available to write the review and the number of coauthors [15] .

Rule 5: Keep the Review Focused, but Make It of Broad Interest

Whether your plan is to write a mini- or a full review, it is good advice to keep it focused 16 , 17 . Including material just for the sake of it can easily lead to reviews that are trying to do too many things at once. The need to keep a review focused can be problematic for interdisciplinary reviews, where the aim is to bridge the gap between fields [18] . If you are writing a review on, for example, how epidemiological approaches are used in modelling the spread of ideas, you may be inclined to include material from both parent fields, epidemiology and the study of cultural diffusion. This may be necessary to some extent, but in this case a focused review would only deal in detail with those studies at the interface between epidemiology and the spread of ideas.

While focus is an important feature of a successful review, this requirement has to be balanced with the need to make the review relevant to a broad audience. This square may be circled by discussing the wider implications of the reviewed topic for other disciplines.

Rule 6: Be Critical and Consistent

Reviewing the literature is not stamp collecting. A good review does not just summarize the literature, but discusses it critically, identifies methodological problems, and points out research gaps [19] . After having read a review of the literature, a reader should have a rough idea of:

  • the major achievements in the reviewed field,
  • the main areas of debate, and
  • the outstanding research questions.

It is challenging to achieve a successful review on all these fronts. A solution can be to involve a set of complementary coauthors: some people are excellent at mapping what has been achieved, some others are very good at identifying dark clouds on the horizon, and some have instead a knack at predicting where solutions are going to come from. If your journal club has exactly this sort of team, then you should definitely write a review of the literature! In addition to critical thinking, a literature review needs consistency, for example in the choice of passive vs. active voice and present vs. past tense.

Rule 7: Find a Logical Structure

Like a well-baked cake, a good review has a number of telling features: it is worth the reader's time, timely, systematic, well written, focused, and critical. It also needs a good structure. With reviews, the usual subdivision of research papers into introduction, methods, results, and discussion does not work or is rarely used. However, a general introduction of the context and, toward the end, a recapitulation of the main points covered and take-home messages make sense also in the case of reviews. For systematic reviews, there is a trend towards including information about how the literature was searched (database, keywords, time limits) [20] .

How can you organize the flow of the main body of the review so that the reader will be drawn into and guided through it? It is generally helpful to draw a conceptual scheme of the review, e.g., with mind-mapping techniques. Such diagrams can help recognize a logical way to order and link the various sections of a review [21] . This is the case not just at the writing stage, but also for readers if the diagram is included in the review as a figure. A careful selection of diagrams and figures relevant to the reviewed topic can be very helpful to structure the text too [22] .

Rule 8: Make Use of Feedback

Reviews of the literature are normally peer-reviewed in the same way as research papers, and rightly so [23] . As a rule, incorporating feedback from reviewers greatly helps improve a review draft. Having read the review with a fresh mind, reviewers may spot inaccuracies, inconsistencies, and ambiguities that had not been noticed by the writers due to rereading the typescript too many times. It is however advisable to reread the draft one more time before submission, as a last-minute correction of typos, leaps, and muddled sentences may enable the reviewers to focus on providing advice on the content rather than the form.

Feedback is vital to writing a good review, and should be sought from a variety of colleagues, so as to obtain a diversity of views on the draft. This may lead in some cases to conflicting views on the merits of the paper, and on how to improve it, but such a situation is better than the absence of feedback. A diversity of feedback perspectives on a literature review can help identify where the consensus view stands in the landscape of the current scientific understanding of an issue [24] .

Rule 9: Include Your Own Relevant Research, but Be Objective

In many cases, reviewers of the literature will have published studies relevant to the review they are writing. This could create a conflict of interest: how can reviewers report objectively on their own work [25] ? Some scientists may be overly enthusiastic about what they have published, and thus risk giving too much importance to their own findings in the review. However, bias could also occur in the other direction: some scientists may be unduly dismissive of their own achievements, so that they will tend to downplay their contribution (if any) to a field when reviewing it.

In general, a review of the literature should neither be a public relations brochure nor an exercise in competitive self-denial. If a reviewer is up to the job of producing a well-organized and methodical review, which flows well and provides a service to the readership, then it should be possible to be objective in reviewing one's own relevant findings. In reviews written by multiple authors, this may be achieved by assigning the review of the results of a coauthor to different coauthors.

Rule 10: Be Up-to-Date, but Do Not Forget Older Studies

Given the progressive acceleration in the publication of scientific papers, today's reviews of the literature need awareness not just of the overall direction and achievements of a field of inquiry, but also of the latest studies, so as not to become out-of-date before they have been published. Ideally, a literature review should not identify as a major research gap an issue that has just been addressed in a series of papers in press (the same applies, of course, to older, overlooked studies (“sleeping beauties” [26] )). This implies that literature reviewers would do well to keep an eye on electronic lists of papers in press, given that it can take months before these appear in scientific databases. Some reviews declare that they have scanned the literature up to a certain point in time, but given that peer review can be a rather lengthy process, a full search for newly appeared literature at the revision stage may be worthwhile. Assessing the contribution of papers that have just appeared is particularly challenging, because there is little perspective with which to gauge their significance and impact on further research and society.

Inevitably, new papers on the reviewed topic (including independently written literature reviews) will appear from all quarters after the review has been published, so that there may soon be the need for an updated review. But this is the nature of science [27] – [32] . I wish everybody good luck with writing a review of the literature.

Acknowledgments

Many thanks to M. Barbosa, K. Dehnen-Schmutz, T. Döring, D. Fontaneto, M. Garbelotto, O. Holdenrieder, M. Jeger, D. Lonsdale, A. MacLeod, P. Mills, M. Moslonka-Lefebvre, G. Stancanelli, P. Weisberg, and X. Xu for insights and discussions, and to P. Bourne, T. Matoni, and D. Smith for helpful comments on a previous draft.

Funding Statement

This work was funded by the French Foundation for Research on Biodiversity (FRB) through its Centre for Synthesis and Analysis of Biodiversity data (CESAB), as part of the NETSEED research project. The funders had no role in the preparation of the manuscript.

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Literature Reviews

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  • 1. Define your research question
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Organize your review according to the following structure:

  • Provide a concise overview of your primary thesis and the studies you explore in your review.
  • Present the subject of your review
  • Outline the key points you will address in the review
  • Use your thesis to frame your paper
  • Explain the significance of reviewing the literature in your chosen topic area (e.g., to find research gaps? Or to update your field on the current literature?)
  • Consider dividing it into sections, particularly if examining multiple methodologies
  • Examine the literature thoroughly and systematically, maintaining organization — don't just paraphrase researchers, add your own interpretation and discuss the significance of the papers you found)
  • Reiterate your thesis
  • Summarize your key findings 
  • Ensure proper formatting of your references (stick to a single citation style — be consistent!)
  • Use a citation manager, such as Zotero or EndNote, for easy formatting!

Check out UNC's guide on literature reviews, especially the section " Organizing the Body ."

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  • How to write a literary analysis essay | A step-by-step guide

How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay | A Step-by-Step Guide

Published on January 30, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on August 14, 2023.

Literary analysis means closely studying a text, interpreting its meanings, and exploring why the author made certain choices. It can be applied to novels, short stories, plays, poems, or any other form of literary writing.

A literary analysis essay is not a rhetorical analysis , nor is it just a summary of the plot or a book review. Instead, it is a type of argumentative essay where you need to analyze elements such as the language, perspective, and structure of the text, and explain how the author uses literary devices to create effects and convey ideas.

Before beginning a literary analysis essay, it’s essential to carefully read the text and c ome up with a thesis statement to keep your essay focused. As you write, follow the standard structure of an academic essay :

  • An introduction that tells the reader what your essay will focus on.
  • A main body, divided into paragraphs , that builds an argument using evidence from the text.
  • A conclusion that clearly states the main point that you have shown with your analysis.

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Table of contents

Step 1: reading the text and identifying literary devices, step 2: coming up with a thesis, step 3: writing a title and introduction, step 4: writing the body of the essay, step 5: writing a conclusion, other interesting articles.

The first step is to carefully read the text(s) and take initial notes. As you read, pay attention to the things that are most intriguing, surprising, or even confusing in the writing—these are things you can dig into in your analysis.

Your goal in literary analysis is not simply to explain the events described in the text, but to analyze the writing itself and discuss how the text works on a deeper level. Primarily, you’re looking out for literary devices —textual elements that writers use to convey meaning and create effects. If you’re comparing and contrasting multiple texts, you can also look for connections between different texts.

To get started with your analysis, there are several key areas that you can focus on. As you analyze each aspect of the text, try to think about how they all relate to each other. You can use highlights or notes to keep track of important passages and quotes.

Language choices

Consider what style of language the author uses. Are the sentences short and simple or more complex and poetic?

What word choices stand out as interesting or unusual? Are words used figuratively to mean something other than their literal definition? Figurative language includes things like metaphor (e.g. “her eyes were oceans”) and simile (e.g. “her eyes were like oceans”).

Also keep an eye out for imagery in the text—recurring images that create a certain atmosphere or symbolize something important. Remember that language is used in literary texts to say more than it means on the surface.

Narrative voice

Ask yourself:

  • Who is telling the story?
  • How are they telling it?

Is it a first-person narrator (“I”) who is personally involved in the story, or a third-person narrator who tells us about the characters from a distance?

Consider the narrator’s perspective . Is the narrator omniscient (where they know everything about all the characters and events), or do they only have partial knowledge? Are they an unreliable narrator who we are not supposed to take at face value? Authors often hint that their narrator might be giving us a distorted or dishonest version of events.

The tone of the text is also worth considering. Is the story intended to be comic, tragic, or something else? Are usually serious topics treated as funny, or vice versa ? Is the story realistic or fantastical (or somewhere in between)?

Consider how the text is structured, and how the structure relates to the story being told.

  • Novels are often divided into chapters and parts.
  • Poems are divided into lines, stanzas, and sometime cantos.
  • Plays are divided into scenes and acts.

Think about why the author chose to divide the different parts of the text in the way they did.

There are also less formal structural elements to take into account. Does the story unfold in chronological order, or does it jump back and forth in time? Does it begin in medias res —in the middle of the action? Does the plot advance towards a clearly defined climax?

With poetry, consider how the rhyme and meter shape your understanding of the text and your impression of the tone. Try reading the poem aloud to get a sense of this.

In a play, you might consider how relationships between characters are built up through different scenes, and how the setting relates to the action. Watch out for  dramatic irony , where the audience knows some detail that the characters don’t, creating a double meaning in their words, thoughts, or actions.

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Your thesis in a literary analysis essay is the point you want to make about the text. It’s the core argument that gives your essay direction and prevents it from just being a collection of random observations about a text.

If you’re given a prompt for your essay, your thesis must answer or relate to the prompt. For example:

Essay question example

Is Franz Kafka’s “Before the Law” a religious parable?

Your thesis statement should be an answer to this question—not a simple yes or no, but a statement of why this is or isn’t the case:

Thesis statement example

Franz Kafka’s “Before the Law” is not a religious parable, but a story about bureaucratic alienation.

Sometimes you’ll be given freedom to choose your own topic; in this case, you’ll have to come up with an original thesis. Consider what stood out to you in the text; ask yourself questions about the elements that interested you, and consider how you might answer them.

Your thesis should be something arguable—that is, something that you think is true about the text, but which is not a simple matter of fact. It must be complex enough to develop through evidence and arguments across the course of your essay.

Say you’re analyzing the novel Frankenstein . You could start by asking yourself:

Your initial answer might be a surface-level description:

The character Frankenstein is portrayed negatively in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein .

However, this statement is too simple to be an interesting thesis. After reading the text and analyzing its narrative voice and structure, you can develop the answer into a more nuanced and arguable thesis statement:

Mary Shelley uses shifting narrative perspectives to portray Frankenstein in an increasingly negative light as the novel goes on. While he initially appears to be a naive but sympathetic idealist, after the creature’s narrative Frankenstein begins to resemble—even in his own telling—the thoughtlessly cruel figure the creature represents him as.

Remember that you can revise your thesis statement throughout the writing process , so it doesn’t need to be perfectly formulated at this stage. The aim is to keep you focused as you analyze the text.

Finding textual evidence

To support your thesis statement, your essay will build an argument using textual evidence —specific parts of the text that demonstrate your point. This evidence is quoted and analyzed throughout your essay to explain your argument to the reader.

It can be useful to comb through the text in search of relevant quotations before you start writing. You might not end up using everything you find, and you may have to return to the text for more evidence as you write, but collecting textual evidence from the beginning will help you to structure your arguments and assess whether they’re convincing.

To start your literary analysis paper, you’ll need two things: a good title, and an introduction.

Your title should clearly indicate what your analysis will focus on. It usually contains the name of the author and text(s) you’re analyzing. Keep it as concise and engaging as possible.

A common approach to the title is to use a relevant quote from the text, followed by a colon and then the rest of your title.

If you struggle to come up with a good title at first, don’t worry—this will be easier once you’ve begun writing the essay and have a better sense of your arguments.

“Fearful symmetry” : The violence of creation in William Blake’s “The Tyger”

The introduction

The essay introduction provides a quick overview of where your argument is going. It should include your thesis statement and a summary of the essay’s structure.

A typical structure for an introduction is to begin with a general statement about the text and author, using this to lead into your thesis statement. You might refer to a commonly held idea about the text and show how your thesis will contradict it, or zoom in on a particular device you intend to focus on.

Then you can end with a brief indication of what’s coming up in the main body of the essay. This is called signposting. It will be more elaborate in longer essays, but in a short five-paragraph essay structure, it shouldn’t be more than one sentence.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is often read as a crude cautionary tale about the dangers of scientific advancement unrestrained by ethical considerations. In this reading, protagonist Victor Frankenstein is a stable representation of the callous ambition of modern science throughout the novel. This essay, however, argues that far from providing a stable image of the character, Shelley uses shifting narrative perspectives to portray Frankenstein in an increasingly negative light as the novel goes on. While he initially appears to be a naive but sympathetic idealist, after the creature’s narrative Frankenstein begins to resemble—even in his own telling—the thoughtlessly cruel figure the creature represents him as. This essay begins by exploring the positive portrayal of Frankenstein in the first volume, then moves on to the creature’s perception of him, and finally discusses the third volume’s narrative shift toward viewing Frankenstein as the creature views him.

Some students prefer to write the introduction later in the process, and it’s not a bad idea. After all, you’ll have a clearer idea of the overall shape of your arguments once you’ve begun writing them!

If you do write the introduction first, you should still return to it later to make sure it lines up with what you ended up writing, and edit as necessary.

The body of your essay is everything between the introduction and conclusion. It contains your arguments and the textual evidence that supports them.

Paragraph structure

A typical structure for a high school literary analysis essay consists of five paragraphs : the three paragraphs of the body, plus the introduction and conclusion.

Each paragraph in the main body should focus on one topic. In the five-paragraph model, try to divide your argument into three main areas of analysis, all linked to your thesis. Don’t try to include everything you can think of to say about the text—only analysis that drives your argument.

In longer essays, the same principle applies on a broader scale. For example, you might have two or three sections in your main body, each with multiple paragraphs. Within these sections, you still want to begin new paragraphs at logical moments—a turn in the argument or the introduction of a new idea.

Robert’s first encounter with Gil-Martin suggests something of his sinister power. Robert feels “a sort of invisible power that drew me towards him.” He identifies the moment of their meeting as “the beginning of a series of adventures which has puzzled myself, and will puzzle the world when I am no more in it” (p. 89). Gil-Martin’s “invisible power” seems to be at work even at this distance from the moment described; before continuing the story, Robert feels compelled to anticipate at length what readers will make of his narrative after his approaching death. With this interjection, Hogg emphasizes the fatal influence Gil-Martin exercises from his first appearance.

Topic sentences

To keep your points focused, it’s important to use a topic sentence at the beginning of each paragraph.

A good topic sentence allows a reader to see at a glance what the paragraph is about. It can introduce a new line of argument and connect or contrast it with the previous paragraph. Transition words like “however” or “moreover” are useful for creating smooth transitions:

… The story’s focus, therefore, is not upon the divine revelation that may be waiting beyond the door, but upon the mundane process of aging undergone by the man as he waits.

Nevertheless, the “radiance” that appears to stream from the door is typically treated as religious symbolism.

This topic sentence signals that the paragraph will address the question of religious symbolism, while the linking word “nevertheless” points out a contrast with the previous paragraph’s conclusion.

Using textual evidence

A key part of literary analysis is backing up your arguments with relevant evidence from the text. This involves introducing quotes from the text and explaining their significance to your point.

It’s important to contextualize quotes and explain why you’re using them; they should be properly introduced and analyzed, not treated as self-explanatory:

It isn’t always necessary to use a quote. Quoting is useful when you’re discussing the author’s language, but sometimes you’ll have to refer to plot points or structural elements that can’t be captured in a short quote.

In these cases, it’s more appropriate to paraphrase or summarize parts of the text—that is, to describe the relevant part in your own words:

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The conclusion of your analysis shouldn’t introduce any new quotations or arguments. Instead, it’s about wrapping up the essay. Here, you summarize your key points and try to emphasize their significance to the reader.

A good way to approach this is to briefly summarize your key arguments, and then stress the conclusion they’ve led you to, highlighting the new perspective your thesis provides on the text as a whole:

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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By tracing the depiction of Frankenstein through the novel’s three volumes, I have demonstrated how the narrative structure shifts our perception of the character. While the Frankenstein of the first volume is depicted as having innocent intentions, the second and third volumes—first in the creature’s accusatory voice, and then in his own voice—increasingly undermine him, causing him to appear alternately ridiculous and vindictive. Far from the one-dimensional villain he is often taken to be, the character of Frankenstein is compelling because of the dynamic narrative frame in which he is placed. In this frame, Frankenstein’s narrative self-presentation responds to the images of him we see from others’ perspectives. This conclusion sheds new light on the novel, foregrounding Shelley’s unique layering of narrative perspectives and its importance for the depiction of character.

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Like all university essays, the English paper requires critical thought and strong argumentation, but its focus on language and close textual analysis makes it unique. Here are some tips that you’ll want to keep in mind when writing about literature.

Avoid plot summary. The main purpose of an English paper is to advance an argument. As a general rule, mention only plot details that are relevant to your argument. You may occasionally need to contribute a small amount of additional information about the storyline to make your analysis coherent, but keep the summary to a minimum, and leave plenty of space for your own ideas. You can usually assume that your reader knows the narrative well.

Master the art of the analytical thesis. A good thesis is a statement of roughly one to three sentences that says something intelligent about a literary work. It is not sufficient simply to identify a theme in your thesis. For instance, saying that a text deals with the theme of love or death or betrayal is not enough. (Instead, though, you might consider the ways in which love or death or betrayal come to be understood within the text.) A thesis must be complex enough that it would not be immediately obvious to a casual reader, but it must be simple enough that it can be stated in a relatively short amount of space.

Here is a list of possible questions around which you might construct a solid thesis: How does the author’s or narrator’s perspective on a given theme shift as the text develops? Are there any apparent tensions or contradictions within the text? If so, how might they be resolved? How does the text engage with the major political or cultural ideas of the era in which it was written? How does the text challenge or undermine the dominant conventions of the genre in which it was written? These are just a few suggestions. There are thousands of ways to craft a thesis, so don’t feel limited to the questions above. Here are two examples of effective thesis statements:

By incorporating novelistic techniques—such as sustained imagery and character development—into a non-novelistic work, Alice Munro, in her short story collection Who Do You Think You Are? , subverts the narrative conventions of novelistic discourse.
Yeats’s “Easter, 1916” appears both to condemn and to celebrate the revolutionary impulse in early-twentieth-century Ireland. It is neither a nationalist rallying cry nor an anti-nationalist cautionary tale. Rather it conveys profound ambivalence toward the Easter uprising.

Let the structure of your argument determine the structure of your paper. In most cases, you will best serve your argument by deviating from the chronology of events in the text you are critiquing. It is fully acceptable to pluck pertinent evidence from the beginning, middle, and end of a literary text and to use these disparate examples in the same paragraph. Sometimes you may be asked to provide a close reading of a given literary work. Often a close reading is structured the same way as any other English paper: you present a thesis and then defend it through detailed analysis of the text. But occasionally, your professor might ask you to do a line-by-line or paragraph-by-paragraph reading of a poem, passage, or story. This is one of those rare instances in which a more sequential approach is appropriate.

Opt for analysis instead of evaluative judgments. When writing a paper, focus on analyzing the work, not celebrating it. Instead of telling your reader that a given work is beautiful, lyrical, or timeless, focus on the ideas the text conveys and the ways it goes about conveying them. You may come across a line in a poem or novel that is so beautiful, or so sloppy, that you cannot resist commenting on it. If you’re burning up to make an evaluative point, then do so. But keep it short and sweet (or short and snarky), and don’t let it become the focus of your paragraph.

Don’t confuse the author with the speaker. Often, particularly when you are analyzing a poem, it is tempting to assume that the author is also the narrator. This is usually not the case. Poetry, like the novel or short story, is a creative genre in which authors are free to inhabit the voice(s) of any character(s) they like. Most poems do not identify a narrator by name, but the fact that the speaker is unnamed does not necessarily imply that he or she stands in for the author. Remember, the person doing the writing is the writer, and the person doing the speaking is the speaker. In some cases, you may choose to treat the speaker as a stand-in for the writer. In these instances, make sure you have a reason for doing so—and consider mentioning that reason somewhere in your paper.

In the opening to Ezra Pound’s short poem “A Pact,” the speaker addresses the nineteenth-century American poet Walt Whitman, Pound’s literary predecessor: I make a pact with you, Walt Whitman— I have detested you long enough. I come to you as a grown child Who has had a pig-headed father; I am old enough now to make friends. (1-5)

Here, the speaker seeks to make amends with Whitman, whose poetry he once detested. Although the passage conveys a desire for reconciliation, it does not do so in an amicable manner. The writing is portioned out into short, terse statements, with little concession to diplomatic language. Consequently, the passage reads more like a pledge or vow than a peace offering. Moreover, Pound’s verse is inflected with familial language. The speaker refers to himself as a “grown child” who is finally “old enough now to make friends,” whereas he positions Whitman as the “pig-headed father.” Clearly, the speaker is motivated not by a genuine need for conciliation but by a begrudging sense of familial duty toward a father whom he never respected.

Integrate quotations fully into your argument. Whenever you incorporate a literary quotation into your writing, you must justify its usage. First, be sure to contextualize the quotation by giving some information about it (who is speaking, what part of the text it comes from, etc.). Then, follow each quotation with a few sentences in which you unpack the passage and relate it back to your argument. In other words, a quotation should never speak for itself: you must do the necessary work to demonstrate what the quotation means in the context of your argument. The following passage offers an argumentative close reading of a quotation from Keats:

In the opening of “To Autumn,” Keats depicts the harvest period as a “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness / Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun” (1-2). Here, the speaker juxtaposes images of seasonal abundance with notions of loss connected to the impending winter. The word “fruitfulness” has obvious associations with agricultural productivity; however, it is modified by the adjective “mellow,” which limits the reader’s conception of unbridled abundance. Moreover, Keats’s phrase “the maturing sun” sets associations with warmth and comfort against notions of old age and declining prowess.

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What is Literature? || Definition & Examples

"what is literature": a literary guide for english students and teachers.

View the full series: The Oregon State Guide to English Literary Terms

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What is Literature? Transcript (English and Spanish Subtitles Available in Video; Click HERE for Spanish Transcript)

By Evan Gottlieb & Paige Thomas

The question of what makes something literary is an enduring one, and I don’t expect that we’ll answer it fully in this short video. Instead, I want to show you a few different ways that literary critics approach this question and then offer a short summary of the 3 big factors that we must consider when we ask the question ourselves.

Let’s begin by making a distinction between “Literature with a capital L” and “literature with a small l.”

“Literature with a small l” designates any written text: we can talk about “the literature” on any given subject without much difficulty.

“Literature with a capital L”, by contrast, designates a much smaller set of texts – a subset of all the texts that have been written.

what_is_literature_little_l.png

speaker gesturing to literature with a small "l" rather than with a big "L"

So what makes a text literary or what makes a text “Literature with a capital L”?

Let’s start with the word itself.  “Literature” comes from Latin, and it originally meant “the use of letters” or “writing.” But when the word entered the Romance languages that derived from Latin, it took on the additional meaning of “knowledge acquired from reading or studying books.” So we might use this definition to understand “Literature with a Capital L” as writing that gives us knowledge--writing that should be studied.

But this begs the further question: what books or texts are worth studying or close reading ?

For some critics, answering this question is a matter of establishing canonicity.  A work of literature becomes “canonical” when cultural institutions like schools or universities or prize committees classify it as a work of lasting artistic or cultural merit.

The canon, however, has proved problematic as a measure of what “Literature with a capital L” is because the gatekeepers of the Western canon have traditionally been White and male. It was only in the closing decades of the twentieth century that the canon of Literature was opened to a greater inclusion of diverse authors.

And here’s another problem with that definition: if inclusion in the canon were our only definition of Literature, then there could be no such thing as contemporary Literature, which, of course, has not yet stood the test of time.

And here’s an even bigger problem: not every book that receives good reviews or a wins a prize turns out to be of lasting value in the eyes of later readers.

On the other hand, a novel like Herman Melville’s Moby-Di ck, which was NOT received well by critics or readers when it was first published in 1851, has since gone on to become a mainstay of the American literary canon.

moby_dick_with_quote.png

graphic with cover of Melville's "Moby Dick" and quote

As you can see, canonicity is obviously a problematic index of literariness.

So… what’s the alternative?  Well, we could just go with a descriptive definition: “if you love it, then it’s Literature!”

But that’s a little too subjective.  For example, no matter how much you may love a certain book from your childhood (I love The Very Hungry Caterpillar ) that doesn’t automatically make it literary, no matter how many times you’ve re-read it.

Furthermore, the very idea that we should have an emotional attachment to the books we read has its own history that cannot be detached from the rise of the middle class and its politics of telling people how to behave.

Ok, so “literature with a capital L” cannot always by defined by its inclusion in the canon or the fact that it has been well-received so…what is it then? Well, for other critics, what makes something Literature would seem to be qualities within the text itself.

According to the critic Derek Attridge, there are three qualities that define modern Western Literature:

1. a quality of invention or inventiveness in the text itself;

2.  the reader’s sense that what they are reading is singular. In other words, the unique vision of the writer herself.

3. a sense of ‘otherness’ that pushes the reader to see the world around them in a new way

Notice that nowhere in this three-part definition is there any limitation on the content of Literature. Instead, we call something Literature when it affects the reader at the level of style and construction rather than substance.

In other words, Literature can be about anything!

what_is_literature_caterpillar.png

speaker telling a secret with photo of Carle's "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" in the background

The idea that a truly literary text can change a reader is of course older than this modern definition. In the English tradition, poetry was preferred over novels because it was thought to create mature and sympathetic reader-citizens.

Likewise, in the Victorian era, it was argued that reading so-called “great” works of literature was the best way for readers to realize their full spiritual potentials in an increasingly secular world.

But these never tell us precisely what “the best” is.  To make matters worse, as I mentioned already, “the best” in these older definitions was often determined by White men in positions of cultural and economic power.

So we are still faced with the question of whether there is something inherent in a text that makes it literary.

Some critics have suggested that a sense of irony – or, more broadly, a sense that there is more than one meaning to a given set of words – is essential to “Literature with a capital L.”

Reading for irony means reading slowly or at least attentively.  It demands a certain attention to the complexity of the language on the page, whether that language is objectively difficult or not.

In a similar vein, other critics have claimed that the overall effect of a literary text should be one of “defamiliarization,” meaning that the text asks or even forces readers to see the world differently than they did before reading it.

Along these lines, literary theorist Roland Barthes maintained that there were two kinds of texts: the text of pleasure, which we can align with everyday Literature with a small l” and the text of jouissance , (yes, I said jouissance) which we can align with Literature. Jouissance makes more demands on the reader and raises feelings of strangeness and wonder that surpass the everyday and even border on the painful or disorienting.

Barthes’ definition straddles the line between objectivity and subjectivity. Literature differs from the mass of writing by offering more and different kinds of experiences than the ordinary, non-literary text.

Literature for Barthes is thus neither entirely in the eye of the beholder, nor something that can be reduced to set of repeatable, purely intrinsic characteristics.

This negative definition has its own problems, though. If the literary text is always supposed to be innovative and unconventional, then genre fiction, which IS conventional, can never be literary.

So it seems that whatever hard and fast definition we attempt to apply to Literature, we find that we run up against inevitable exceptions to the rules.

As we examine the many problematic ways that people have defined literature, one thing does become clear. In each of the above examples, what counts as Literature depends upon three interrelated factors: the world, the text, and the critic or reader.

You see, when we encounter a literary text, we usually do so through a field of expectations that includes what we’ve heard about the text or author in question [the world], the way the text is presented to us [the text], and how receptive we as readers are to the text’s demands [the reader].

With this in mind, let’s return to where we started. There is probably still something to be said in favor of the “test of time” theory of Literature.

After all, only a small percentage of what is published today will continue to be read 10, 20, or even 100 years from now; and while the mechanisms that determine the longevity of a text are hardly neutral, one can still hope that individual readers have at least some power to decide what will stay in print and develop broader cultural relevance.

The only way to experience what Literature is, then, is to keep reading: as long as there are avid readers, there will be literary texts – past, present, and future – that challenge, excite, and inspire us.

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As taught in, learning resource types, writing about literature, course description.

Portrait of Mary Shelley by Richard Rothwell. Scan of a print. Original housed at the National Portrait Gallery, London.

The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

What this handout is about

This handout describes some steps for planning and writing papers about literary texts. For additional information on writing about drama and poetry specifically, please see the Writing Center’s handouts on writing about drama and on writing poetry explications .

Demystifying the process

Writing an analysis of a piece of literature can be a mystifying process. First, literary analyses (or papers that offer an interpretation of literary texts) rely on the assumption that stories, poems, and plays must mean something. How do such texts mean something? If an author wanted to convey a meaning, wouldn’t they be much better off writing an essay just telling us what she meant?

It’s pretty easy to see how at least some stories, for example, convey clear meanings or morals. Just think about a parable like the prodigal son or a nursery tale about “crying wolf.” Stories like these are reduced down to the bare elements, giving us just enough detail to lead us to their main points, and because they are relatively easy to understand and tend to stick in our memories, they’re often used in some kinds of education.

But if the meanings were always as clear as they are in parables, who would really need to write a paper analyzing them? Interpretations of literature would not be interesting if the meanings of these texts were clear to everyone who reads them. Thankfully (or perhaps regrettably, depending on your perspective) the texts we’re asked to interpret in our classes are a good bit more complicated than most parables. They frequently use characters, settings, syntax, formal elements, and actions to illustrate issues that have no easy resolution. They show different sides of a problem, and they can raise new questions. In short, the literary texts we read in class have meanings that are arguable and complicated, and it’s our job to sort them out.

It might seem that these texts do have specific meanings, and the instructor has already decided what those meanings are. But even the most well-informed professor rarely arrives at conclusions that someone else wouldn’t disagree with. In fact, most professors are aware that their interpretations are debatable and actually love a good argument. But let’s not go to the other extreme. To say that there is no one answer is not to say that anything we decide to say about a literary text is valid, interesting, or valuable. Interpretations of literature are often opinions, but not all opinions are equal.

So what makes a valid and interesting opinion? A good interpretation of fiction will:

  • avoid the obvious (in other words, it won’t argue a conclusion that most readers could reach on their own from a general knowledge of the story)
  • support its main points with strong evidence from the story
  • use careful reasoning to explain how that evidence relates to the main points of the interpretation.

The following steps are intended as a guide through the difficult process of writing an interpretive paper that meets these criteria. Writing tends to be a highly individual task, so adapt these suggestions to fit your own habits and inclinations.

Writing a paper on fiction in 9 steps

1. become familiar with the text.

There’s no substitute for a good general knowledge of your text. A good paper inevitably begins with the writer having a solid understanding of the work that they interpret. Being able to have the whole book, short story, poem, or play in your head—at least in a general way—when you begin thinking through ideas will be a great help and will actually allow you to write the paper more quickly in the long run. It’s even a good idea to spend some time just thinking about the text. Flip back through the book and consider what interests you about this piece of writing—what seemed strange, new, or important?

2. Explore potential topics

Perhaps your instructor has given you a list of topics to choose, or perhaps you have been asked to create your own. Either way, you’ll need to generate ideas to use in the paper—even with an assigned topic, you’ll have to develop your own interpretation. Let’s assume for now that you are choosing your own topic.

After reading your text, a topic may just jump out at you, or you may have recognized a pattern or identified a problem that you’d like to think about in more detail. What is a pattern or a problem?

A pattern can be the recurrence of certain kinds of imagery, vocabulary, formal elements (like rhyme and meter), or events. Usually, repetition of particular aspects tends to render those elements more conspicuous. Let’s say I’m writing a paper on Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein . In the course of reading that book, I keep noticing the author’s use of biblical imagery: Victor Frankenstein anticipates that “a new species would bless me as its creator and source” (52) while the monster is not sure whether to consider himself as an Adam or a Satan. These details might help me interpret the way characters think about themselves and about each other, as well as allow me to infer what the author might have wanted her reader to think by using the Bible as a frame of reference. On another subject, I also notice that the book repeatedly refers to types of education. The story mentions books that its characters read and the different contexts in which learning takes place.

A problem, on the other hand, is something that bugs you or that doesn’t seem to add up. For example, a character might act in some way that’s unaccountable, a narrator may leave out what we think is important information (or may focus on something that seems trivial), or a narrator or character may offer an explanation that doesn’t seem to make sense to us. Not all problems lead in interesting directions, but some definitely do and even seem to be important parts of the text. In the novel Frankenstein , Victor works day and night to achieve his goal of bringing life to the dead, but once he realizes his goal, he is immediately repulsed by his creation and runs away. Why? Is there something wrong with his creation, something wrong with his goal in the first place, or something wrong with Victor himself? The book doesn’t give us a clear answer but seems to invite us to interpret this problem.

If nothing immediately strikes you as interesting or no patterns or problems jump out at you, don’t worry. Just start making a list of whatever you remember from your reading, regardless of how insignificant it may seem to you now. Consider an image that stuck with you, a character’s peculiar behavior or comments, a word choice that you found interesting, the unusual way the narrator describes an event, or the author’s placement of an action in an odd context.

There’s a good chance that some of these intriguing moments and oddities will relate to other points in the text, eventually revealing some kind of pattern and giving you potential topics for your paper. Also keep in mind that if you found something peculiar in the text you’re writing about, chances are good that other people will have been perplexed by these moments as well and will be interested to see how you make sense of it all. It’s even a good idea to test your ideas out on a friend, a classmate, or an instructor since talking about your ideas will help you develop them and push them beyond obvious interpretations of the text. And it’s only by pushing those ideas that you can write a paper that raises interesting issues or problems and that offers creative interpretations related to those issues.

3. Select a topic with a lot of evidence

If you’re selecting from a number of possible topics, narrow down your list by identifying how much evidence or how many specific details you could use to investigate each potential issue. Do this step just off the top of your head. Keep in mind that persuasive papers rely on ample evidence and that having a lot of details to choose from can also make your paper easier to write.

It might be helpful at this point to jot down all the elements of the text that have some bearing on the two or three topics that seem most promising. This can give you a more visual sense of how much evidence you will have to work with on each potential topic. It’s during this activity that having a good knowledge of your text will come in handy and save you a lot of time. Don’t launch into a topic without considering all the options first because you may end up with a topic that seemed promising initially but that only leads to a dead end.

4. Write out a working thesis

Based on the evidence that relates to your topic—and what you anticipate you might say about those pieces of evidence—come up with a working thesis. Don’t spend a lot of time composing this statement at this stage since it will probably change. A changing thesis statement is a good sign that you’re starting to say more interesting and complex things on your subject. (Our Thesis Statements handout provides an example of a developing thesis statement for a literary analysis assignment.) At this point in my Frankenstein project, I’ve become interested in ideas on education that seem to appear pretty regularly, and I have a general sense that aspects of Victor’s education lead to tragedy. Without considering things too deeply, I’ll just write something like “Victor Frankenstein’s tragic ambition was fueled by a faulty education.”

5. Make an extended list of evidence

Once you have a working topic in mind, skim back over the text and make a more comprehensive list of the details that relate to your point. For my paper about education in Frankenstein , I’ll want to take notes on what Victor Frankenstein reads at home, where he goes to school and why, what he studies at school, what others think about those studies, etc. And even though I’m primarily interested in Victor’s education, at this stage in the writing, I’m also interested in moments of education in the novel that don’t directly involve this character. These other examples might provide a context or some useful contrasts that could illuminate my evidence relating to Victor. With this goal in mind, I’ll also take notes on how the monster educates himself, what he reads, and what he learns from those he watches. As you make your notes keep track of page numbers so you can quickly find the passages in your book again and so you can easily document quoted passages when you write without having to fish back through the book.

At this point, you want to include anything, anything, that might be useful, and you also want to avoid the temptation to arrive at definite conclusions about your topic. Remember that one of the qualities that makes for a good interpretation is that it avoids the obvious. You want to develop complex ideas, and the best way to do that is to keep your ideas flexible until you’ve considered the evidence carefully. A good gauge of complexity is whether you feel you understand more about your topic than you did when you began (and even just reaching a higher state of confusion is a good indicator that you’re treating your topic in a complex way).

If, for example, you are jotting down your ideas about Frankenstein , you can focus on the observations from the narrator or things that certain characters say or do. These elements are certainly important. It might help you come up with more evidence if you also take into account some of the broader components that go into making fiction, things like plot, point of view, character, setting, and symbols.

Plot is the string of events that go into the narrative. Think of this as the “who did what to whom” part of the story. Plots can be significant in themselves since chances are pretty good that some action in the story will relate to your main idea. For my paper on education in Frankenstein , I’m interested in Victor’s going to the University of Ingolstadt to realize his father’s wish that Victor attend school where he could learn about another culture. Plots can also allow you to make connections between the story you’re interpreting and some other stories, and those connections might be useful in your interpretation. For example, the plot of Frankenstein , which involves a man who desires to bring life to the dead and creates a monster in the process, bears some similarity to the ancient Greek story of Icarus who flew too close to the sun on his wax wings. Both tell the story of a character who reaches too ambitiously after knowledge and suffers dire consequences.

Your plot could also have similarities to whole groups of other stories, all having conventional or easily recognizable plots. These types of stories are often called genres. Some popular genres within fiction include the gothic, the romance, the detective story, the bildungsroman (this is just a German term for a novel that is centered around the development of its main characters), and the novel of manners (a novel that focuses on the behavior and foibles of a particular class or social group). These categories are often helpful in characterizing a piece of writing, but this approach has its limitations. Many novels don’t fit nicely into one genre, and others seem to borrow a bit from a variety of different categories; the same can be said for other forms of literature, like poetry and drama. For example, given my working thesis on education, I am more interested in Victor’s development than in relating Frankenstein to the gothic genre, so I might decide to treat the novel as a bildungsroman.

And just to complicate matters that much more, it’s important to take into account not only the larger genre(s) a literary piece fits within (like the bildungsroman and the gothic) but also the form(s) utilized in that piece. For example, a story might be told in a series of letters (this is called an epistolary form), in a sequence of journal entries, or in a combination of forms ( Frankenstein is actually told as a journal included within a letter).

These matters of form can also introduce questions of point of view, that is, who is telling the story and what do they or don’t they know. Is the tale told by an omniscient or all-knowing narrator who doesn’t interact in the events, or is it presented by one of the characters within the story? Can the reader trust that person to give an objective account, or does that narrator color the story with her own biases and interests?

Character refers to the qualities assigned to the individual figures in the plot. Consider why the author assigns certain qualities to a character or characters and how any such qualities might relate to your topic. For example, a discussion of Victor Frankenstein’s education might take into account aspects of his character that appear to be developed (or underdeveloped) by the particular kind of education he undertakes. Victor tends to be ambitious, even compulsive about his studies, and I might be able to argue that his tendency to be extravagant leads him to devote his own education to writers who asserted grand, if questionable, conclusions.

Setting is the environment in which all of the actions take place. What is the time period, the location, the time of day, the season, the weather, the type of room or building? What is the general mood, and who is present? All of these elements can reflect on the story’s events, and though the setting of a story tends to be less conspicuous than plot and character, setting still colors everything that’s said and done within its context. If Victor Frankenstein does all of his experiments in “a solitary chamber, or rather a cell, at the top of the house, and separated from all the other apartments by a staircase” (53), we might conclude that there is something anti-social, isolated, and stale, maybe even unnatural, about his project and his way of learning.

Obviously, if you consider all of these elements, you’ll probably have too much evidence to fit effectively into one paper. In this example using the novel Frankenstein , your goal is merely to consider each of these aspects of fiction and include only those that are most relevant to your topic and most interesting to your reader. A good interpretive paper does not need to cover all elements of the story—plot, genre, narrative form, character, and setting. In fact, a paper that did try to say something about all of these elements would be unfocused. You might find that most of your topic could be supported, for instance, by a consideration of character alone. That’s fine. For my Frankenstein paper, I’m finding that my evidence largely has to do with the setting, evidence that could lead to some interesting conclusions that my reader probably hasn’t recognized on their own.

6. Select your evidence

Once you’ve made your expanded list of evidence, decide which supporting details are the strongest. First, select the facts which bear the closest relation to your thesis statement. Second, choose the pieces of evidence you’ll be able to say the most about. Readers tend to be more dazzled with your interpretations of evidence than with a lot of quotes from the book. It would be useful to refer to Victor Frankenstein’s youthful reading in alchemy, but my reader will be more impressed by some analysis of how the writings of the alchemists—who pursued magical principles of chemistry and physics—reflect the ambition of his own goals. Select the details that will allow you to show off your own reasoning skills and allow you to help the reader see the story in a way they may not have seen it before.

7. Refine your thesis

Now it’s time to go back to your working thesis and refine it so that it reflects your new understanding of your topic. This step and the previous step (selecting evidence) are actually best done at the same time, since selecting your evidence and defining the focus of your paper depend upon each other. Don’t forget to consider the scope of your project: how long is the paper supposed to be, and what can you reasonably cover in a paper of that length? In rethinking the issue of education in Frankenstein , I realize that I can narrow my topic in a number of ways: I could focus on education and culture (Victor’s education abroad), education in the sciences as opposed to the humanities (the monster reads Milton, Goethe, and Plutarch), or differences in learning environments (e.g. independent study, university study, family reading). Since I think I found some interesting evidence in the settings that I can interpret in a way that will get my reader’s attention, I’ll take this last option and refine my working thesis about Victor’s faulty education to something like this:

“Victor Frankenstein’s education in unnaturally isolated environments fosters his tragic ambition.”

8. Organize your evidence

Once you have a clear thesis you can go back to your list of selected evidence and group all the similar details together. The ideas that tie these clusters of evidence together can then become the claims that you’ll make in your paper. As you begin thinking about what claims you can make (i.e. what kinds of conclusions you can reach) keep in mind that they should not only relate to all the evidence but also clearly support your thesis. Once you’re satisfied with the way you’ve grouped your evidence and with the way that your claims relate to your thesis, you can begin to consider the most logical way to organize each of those claims. To support my thesis about Frankenstein , I’ve decided to group my evidence chronologically. I’ll start with Victor’s education at home, then discuss his learning at the University, and finally address his own experiments. This arrangement will let me show that Victor was always prone to isolation in his education and that this tendency gets stronger as he becomes more ambitious.

There are certainly other organizational options that might work better depending on the type of points I want to stress. I could organize a discussion of education by the various forms of education found in the novel (for example, education through reading, through classrooms, and through observation), by specific characters (education for Victor, the monster, and Victor’s bride, Elizabeth), or by the effects of various types of education (those with harmful, beneficial, or neutral effects).

9. Interpret your evidence

Avoid the temptation to load your paper with evidence from your text. To get your readers’ interest, you need to draw their attention to elements of the story that they wouldn’t necessarily notice or understand on their own. Each time you use a specific reference to your story, be sure to explain the significance of that evidence in your own words. If you’re quoting passages without interpreting them, you’re not demonstrating your reasoning skills or helping the reader. Our handout on Paragraph Development can offer some guidance in this process; it provides a “5 Step Process to Paragraph Development” that prompts writers to explain, or interpret, each piece of evidence they include in a paragraph. In most cases, interpreting your evidence merely involves putting into your paper what is already in your head. Remember that we, as readers, are lazy—all of us. We don’t want to have to figure out a writer’s reasoning for ourselves; we want all the thinking to be done for us in the paper.

General hints

The previous nine steps are intended to give you a sense of the tasks usually involved in writing a good interpretive paper. What follows are just some additional hints that might help you find an interesting topic and maybe even make the process a little more enjoyable.

Make your thesis relevant to your readers

You’ll be able to keep your readers’ attention more easily if you show how your argument relates to something that concerns or interests them. Can you tell your reader something relevant about the context of the text you’re interpreting, about the human condition, or about broader questions? Avoid writing a paper that identifies a pattern in a story but doesn’t quite explain why that pattern leads to an interesting interpretation. Identifying the biblical references in Frankenstein might provide a good start to a paper—Mary Shelley does use a lot of biblical allusions—but a good paper must also tell the reader how those references are meaningful. Your thesis should be able to answer the brutal question “so what?”

For example, you can ask yourself how the topic you’ve selected connects to a larger category of concern. Think broadly. Literature scholars have identified connections between literature and the following: economics, family dynamics, education, religion, mortality, law, politics, sexuality, history, psychology, the environment, technology, animality, citizenship, and migration, among others. For readers, these concerns are also crosscut race, class and gender, which makes these intersecting categories dependable sources of interest. For example, if you’ve traced instances of water imagery in a novel, a next step may be to look at how that imagery is used in the text to imply something about, for instance, femininity and/or race.

Don’t assume that as long as you address one of these issues, your paper will be interesting. As mentioned in step 2, you need to address these big topics in a complex way. Avoid going into a topic with a preconceived notion of what you’ll find. Be prepared to challenge your own ideas about what gender, race, or class mean in a particular text.

Select a topic of interest to you

Though you may feel like you have to select a topic that sounds like something your instructor would be interested in, don’t overlook the fact that you’ll be more invested in your paper and probably get more out of it if you make the topic something pertinent to yourself. Pick a topic that might allow you to learn about yourself and what you find important. At the same time, your argument will be most persuasive if it’s built on the evidence you find in the text (as mentioned in step 5).

Make your thesis specific

The effort to be more specific almost always leads to a thesis that will get your reader’s attention, and it also separates you from the crowd as someone who challenges ideas and looks into topics more deeply. A paper about education in general in Frankenstein will probably not get my reader’s attention as much as a more specific topic about the impact of the learning environment on the main character. My readers may have already thought to some extent about ideas of education in the novel, if they have read it, but the chance that they have thought through something more specific like the educational environment is slimmer.

A note about genre and form

While this handout has used the example of a novel, Frankenstein , to help illustrate how to develop an argument about a literary text, the steps discussed above can apply to other forms of literature, too. But just as, however, fiction has certain features that guide your analysis (like plot and point of view), other literary forms can have their own unique formal elements that must be considered and can also fit within certain larger genres or literary traditions. For example, John Milton’s Paradise Lost is a long poem in the epic tradition that utilizes a specific meter (unrhymed iambic pentameter); these particularities of genre and form would likely shape your analysis of that text. For more information about how to analyze poetry, see our Poetry Explications handout ; for more information about how to analyze drama, see our Drama handout .

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Barnet, Sylvan, and William E. Cain. 2011. A Short Guide to Writing About Literature , 12th ed. New York: Pearson.

Shelley, Mary. 2011. Frankenstein: Norton Critical Edition , edited by J. Paul Hunter, 2nd ed. New York: W.W. Norton.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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Need to analyze The Scarlet Letter or To Kill a Mockingbird for English class, but fumbling for the right vocabulary and concepts for literary devices? You've come to the right place. To successfully interpret and analyze literary texts, you'll first need to have a solid foundation in literary terms and their definitions.

In this article, we'll help you get familiar with most commonly used literary devices in prose and poetry. We'll give you a clear definition of each of the terms we discuss along with examples of literary elements and the context in which they most often appear (comedic writing, drama, or other).

Before we get to the list of literary devices, however, we have a quick refresher on what literary devices are and how understanding them will help you analyze works of literature.

What Are Literary Devices and Why Should You Know Them?

Literary devices are techniques that writers use to create a special and pointed effect in their writing, to convey information, or to help readers understand their writing on a deeper level.

Often, literary devices are used in writing for emphasis or clarity. Authors will also use literary devices to get readers to connect more strongly with either a story as a whole or specific characters or themes.

So why is it important to know different literary devices and terms? Aside from helping you get good grades on your literary analysis homework, there are several benefits to knowing the techniques authors commonly use.

Being able to identify when different literary techniques are being used helps you understand the motivation behind the author's choices. For example, being able to identify symbols in a story can help you figure out why the author might have chosen to insert these focal points and what these might suggest in regard to her attitude toward certain characters, plot points, and events.

In addition, being able to identify literary devices can make a written work's overall meaning or purpose clearer to you. For instance, let's say you're planning to read (or re-read) The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. By knowing that this particular book is a religious allegory with references to Christ (represented by the character Aslan) and Judas (represented by Edmund), it will be clearer to you why Lewis uses certain language to describe certain characters and why certain events happen the way they do.

Finally, literary techniques are important to know because they make texts more interesting and more fun to read. If you were to read a novel without knowing any literary devices, chances are you wouldn't be able to detect many of the layers of meaning interwoven into the story via different techniques.

Now that we've gone over why you should spend some time learning literary devices, let's take a look at some of the most important literary elements to know.

List of Literary Devices: 31 Literary Terms You Should Know

Below is a list of literary devices, most of which you'll often come across in both prose and poetry. We explain what each literary term is and give you an example of how it's used. This literary elements list is arranged in alphabetical order.

An allegory is a story that is used to represent a more general message about real-life (historical) issues and/or events. It is typically an entire book, novel, play, etc.

Example: George Orwell's dystopian book Animal Farm is an allegory for the events preceding the Russian Revolution and the Stalinist era in early 20th century Russia. In the story, animals on a farm practice animalism, which is essentially communism. Many characters correspond to actual historical figures: Old Major represents both the founder of communism Karl Marx and the Russian communist leader Vladimir Lenin; the farmer, Mr. Jones, is the Russian Czar; the boar Napoleon stands for Joseph Stalin; and the pig Snowball represents Leon Trotsky.

Alliteration

Alliteration is a series of words or phrases that all (or almost all) start with the same sound. These sounds are typically consonants to give more stress to that syllable. You'll often come across alliteration in poetry, titles of books and poems ( Jane Austen is a fan of this device, for example—just look at Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility ), and tongue twisters.

Example: "Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers." In this tongue twister, the "p" sound is repeated at the beginning of all major words.

Allusion is when an author makes an indirect reference to a figure, place, event, or idea originating from outside the text. Many allusions make reference to previous works of literature or art.

Example: "Stop acting so smart—it's not like you're Einstein or something." This is an allusion to the famous real-life theoretical physicist Albert Einstein.

Anachronism

An anachronism occurs when there is an (intentional) error in the chronology or timeline of a text. This could be a character who appears in a different time period than when he actually lived, or a technology that appears before it was invented. Anachronisms are often used for comedic effect.

Example: A Renaissance king who says, "That's dope, dude!" would be an anachronism, since this type of language is very modern and not actually from the Renaissance period.

Anaphora is when a word or phrase is repeated at the beginning of multiple sentences throughout a piece of writing. It's used to emphasize the repeated phrase and evoke strong feelings in the audience.

Example: A famous example of anaphora is Winston Churchill's "We Shall Fight on the Beaches" speech. Throughout this speech, he repeats the phrase "we shall fight" while listing numerous places where the British army will continue battling during WWII. He did this to rally both troops and the British people and to give them confidence that they would still win the war.

Anthropomorphism

An anthropomorphism occurs when something nonhuman, such as an animal, place, or inanimate object, behaves in a human-like way.

Example: Children's cartoons have many examples of anthropomorphism. For example, Mickey and Minnie Mouse can speak, wear clothes, sing, dance, drive cars, etc. Real mice can't do any of these things, but the two mouse characters behave much more like humans than mice.

Asyndeton is when the writer leaves out conjunctions (such as "and," "or," "but," and "for") in a group of words or phrases so that the meaning of the phrase or sentence is emphasized. It is often used for speeches since sentences containing asyndeton can have a powerful, memorable rhythm.

Example: Abraham Lincoln ends the Gettysburg Address with the phrase "...and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the Earth." By leaving out certain conjunctions, he ends the speech on a more powerful, melodic note.

Colloquialism

Colloquialism is the use of informal language and slang. It's often used by authors to lend a sense of realism to their characters and dialogue. Forms of colloquialism include words, phrases, and contractions that aren't real words (such as "gonna" and "ain't").

Example: "Hey, what's up, man?" This piece of dialogue is an example of a colloquialism, since it uses common everyday words and phrases, namely "what's up" and "man."

An epigraph is when an author inserts a famous quotation, poem, song, or other short passage or text at the beginning of a larger text (e.g., a book, chapter, etc.). An epigraph is typically written by a different writer (with credit given) and used as a way to introduce overarching themes or messages in the work. Some pieces of literature, such as Herman Melville's 1851 novel Moby-Dick , incorporate multiple epigraphs throughout.

Example: At the beginning of Ernest Hemingway's book The Sun Also Rises is an epigraph that consists of a quotation from poet Gertrude Stein, which reads, "You are all a lost generation," and a passage from the Bible.

Epistrophe is similar to anaphora, but in this case, the repeated word or phrase appears at the end of successive statements. Like anaphora, it is used to evoke an emotional response from the audience.

Example: In Lyndon B. Johnson's speech, "The American Promise," he repeats the word "problem" in a use of epistrophe: "There is no Negro problem. There is no Southern problem. There is no Northern problem. There is only an American problem."

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A euphemism is when a more mild or indirect word or expression is used in place of another word or phrase that is considered harsh, blunt, vulgar, or unpleasant.

Example: "I'm so sorry, but he didn't make it." The phrase "didn't make it" is a more polite and less blunt way of saying that someone has died.

A flashback is an interruption in a narrative that depicts events that have already occurred, either before the present time or before the time at which the narration takes place. This device is often used to give the reader more background information and details about specific characters, events, plot points, and so on.

Example: Most of the novel Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë is a flashback from the point of view of the housekeeper, Nelly Dean, as she engages in a conversation with a visitor named Lockwood. In this story, Nelly narrates Catherine Earnshaw's and Heathcliff's childhoods, the pair's budding romance, and their tragic demise.

Foreshadowing

Foreshadowing is when an author indirectly hints at—through things such as dialogue, description, or characters' actions—what's to come later on in the story. This device is often used to introduce tension to a narrative.

Example: Say you're reading a fictionalized account of Amelia Earhart. Before she embarks on her (what we know to be unfortunate) plane ride, a friend says to her, "Be safe. Wouldn't want you getting lost—or worse." This line would be an example of foreshadowing because it implies that something bad ("or worse") will happen to Earhart.

Hyperbole is an exaggerated statement that's not meant to be taken literally by the reader. It is often used for comedic effect and/or emphasis.

Example: "I'm so hungry I could eat a horse." The speaker will not literally eat an entire horse (and most likely couldn't ), but this hyperbole emphasizes how starved the speaker feels.

Imagery is when an author describes a scene, thing, or idea so that it appeals to our senses (taste, smell, sight, touch, or hearing). This device is often used to help the reader clearly visualize parts of the story by creating a strong mental picture.

Example: Here's an example of imagery taken from William Wordsworth's famous poem "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud":

When all at once I saw a crowd, A host of golden Daffodils; Beside the Lake, beneath the trees, Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Irony is when a statement is used to express an opposite meaning than the one literally expressed by it. There are three types of irony in literature:

  • Verbal irony: When someone says something but means the opposite (similar to sarcasm).
  • Situational irony: When something happens that's the opposite of what was expected or intended to happen.
  • Dramatic irony: When the audience is aware of the true intentions or outcomes, while the characters are not . As a result, certain actions and/or events take on different meanings for the audience than they do for the characters involved.
  • Verbal irony: One example of this type of irony can be found in Edgar Allan Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado." In this short story, a man named Montresor plans to get revenge on another man named Fortunato. As they toast, Montresor says, "And I, Fortunato—I drink to your long life." This statement is ironic because we the readers already know by this point that Montresor plans to kill Fortunato.
  • Situational irony: A girl wakes up late for school and quickly rushes to get there. As soon as she arrives, though, she realizes that it's Saturday and there is no school.
  • Dramatic irony: In William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet , Romeo commits suicide in order to be with Juliet; however, the audience (unlike poor Romeo) knows that Juliet is not actually dead—just asleep.

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Juxtaposition

Juxtaposition is the comparing and contrasting of two or more different (usually opposite) ideas, characters, objects, etc. This literary device is often used to help create a clearer picture of the characteristics of one object or idea by comparing it with those of another.

Example: One of the most famous literary examples of juxtaposition is the opening passage from Charles Dickens' novel A Tale of Two Cities :

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair …"

Malapropism

Malapropism happens when an incorrect word is used in place of a word that has a similar sound. This misuse of the word typically results in a statement that is both nonsensical and humorous; as a result, this device is commonly used in comedic writing.

Example: "I just can't wait to dance the flamingo!" Here, a character has accidentally called the flamenco (a type of dance) the flamingo (an animal).

Metaphor/Simile

Metaphors are when ideas, actions, or objects are described in non-literal terms. In short, it's when an author compares one thing to another. The two things being described usually share something in common but are unalike in all other respects.

A simile is a type of metaphor in which an object, idea, character, action, etc., is compared to another thing using the words "as" or "like."

Both metaphors and similes are often used in writing for clarity or emphasis.

"What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun." In this line from Romeo and Juliet , Romeo compares Juliet to the sun. However, because Romeo doesn't use the words "as" or "like," it is not a simile—just a metaphor.

"She is as vicious as a lion." Since this statement uses the word "as" to make a comparison between "she" and "a lion," it is a simile.

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A metonym is when a related word or phrase is substituted for the actual thing to which it's referring. This device is usually used for poetic or rhetorical effect .

Example: "The pen is mightier than the sword." This statement, which was coined by Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839, contains two examples of metonymy: "the pen" refers to "the written word," and "the sword" refers to "military force/violence."

Mood is the general feeling the writer wants the audience to have. The writer can achieve this through description, setting, dialogue, and word choice .

Example: Here's a passage from J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit: "It had a perfectly round door like a porthole, painted green, with a shiny yellow brass knob in the exact middle. The door opened on to a tube-shaped hall like a tunnel: a very comfortable tunnel without smoke, with panelled walls, and floors tiled and carpeted, provided with polished chairs, and lots and lots of pegs for hats and coats -- the hobbit was fond of visitors." In this passage, Tolkien uses detailed description to set create a cozy, comforting mood. From the writing, you can see that the hobbit's home is well-cared for and designed to provide comfort.

Onomatopoeia

Onomatopoeia is a word (or group of words) that represents a sound and actually resembles or imitates the sound it stands for. It is often used for dramatic, realistic, or poetic effect.

Examples: Buzz, boom, chirp, creak, sizzle, zoom, etc.

An oxymoron is a combination of two words that, together, express a contradictory meaning. This device is often used for emphasis, for humor, to create tension, or to illustrate a paradox (see next entry for more information on paradoxes).

Examples: Deafening silence, organized chaos, cruelly kind, insanely logical, etc.

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A paradox is a statement that appears illogical or self-contradictory but, upon investigation, might actually be true or plausible.

Note that a paradox is different from an oxymoron: a paradox is an entire phrase or sentence, whereas an oxymoron is a combination of just two words.

Example: Here's a famous paradoxical sentence: "This statement is false." If the statement is true, then it isn't actually false (as it suggests). But if it's false, then the statement is true! Thus, this statement is a paradox because it is both true and false at the same time.

Personification

Personification is when a nonhuman figure or other abstract concept or element is described as having human-like qualities or characteristics. (Unlike anthropomorphism where non-human figures become human-like characters, with personification, the object/figure is simply described as being human-like.) Personification is used to help the reader create a clearer mental picture of the scene or object being described.

Example: "The wind moaned, beckoning me to come outside." In this example, the wind—a nonhuman element—is being described as if it is human (it "moans" and "beckons").

Repetition is when a word or phrase is written multiple times, usually for the purpose of emphasis. It is often used in poetry (for purposes of rhythm as well).

Example: When Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote the score for the hit musical Hamilton, gave his speech at the 2016 Tony's, he recited a poem he'd written that included the following line:

And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside.

Satire is genre of writing that criticizes something , such as a person, behavior, belief, government, or society. Satire often employs irony, humor, and hyperbole to make its point.

Example: The Onion is a satirical newspaper and digital media company. It uses satire to parody common news features such as opinion columns, editorial cartoons, and click bait headlines.

A type of monologue that's often used in dramas, a soliloquy is when a character speaks aloud to himself (and to the audience), thereby revealing his inner thoughts and feelings.

Example: In Romeo and Juliet , Juliet's speech on the balcony that begins with, "O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?" is a soliloquy, as she is speaking aloud to herself (remember that she doesn't realize Romeo's there listening!).

Symbolism refers to the use of an object, figure, event, situation, or other idea in a written work to represent something else— typically a broader message or deeper meaning that differs from its literal meaning.

The things used for symbolism are called "symbols," and they'll often appear multiple times throughout a text, sometimes changing in meaning as the plot progresses.

Example: In F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1925 novel The Great Gatsby , the green light that sits across from Gatsby's mansion symbolizes Gatsby's hopes and dreams .

A synecdoche is a literary device in which part of something is used to represent the whole, or vice versa. It's similar to a metonym (see above); however, a metonym doesn't have to represent the whole—just something associated with the word used.

Example: "Help me out, I need some hands!" In this case, "hands" is being used to refer to people (the whole human, essentially).

While mood is what the audience is supposed to feel, tone is the writer or narrator's attitude towards a subject . A good writer will always want the audience to feel the mood they're trying to evoke, but the audience may not always agree with the narrator's tone, especially if the narrator is an unsympathetic character or has viewpoints that differ from those of the reader.

Example: In an essay disdaining Americans and some of the sites they visit as tourists, Rudyard Kipling begins with the line, "Today I am in the Yellowstone Park, and I wish I were dead." If you enjoy Yellowstone and/or national parks, you may not agree with the author's tone in this piece.

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How to Identify and Analyze Literary Devices: 4 Tips

In order to fully interpret pieces of literature, you have to understand a lot about literary devices in the texts you read. Here are our top tips for identifying and analyzing different literary techniques:

Tip 1: Read Closely and Carefully

First off, you'll need to make sure that you're reading very carefully. Resist the temptation to skim or skip any sections of the text. If you do this, you might miss some literary devices being used and, as a result, will be unable to accurately interpret the text.

If there are any passages in the work that make you feel especially emotional, curious, intrigued, or just plain interested, check that area again for any literary devices at play.

It's also a good idea to reread any parts you thought were confusing or that you didn't totally understand on a first read-through. Doing this ensures that you have a solid grasp of the passage (and text as a whole) and will be able to analyze it appropriately.

Tip 2: Memorize Common Literary Terms

You won't be able to identify literary elements in texts if you don't know what they are or how they're used, so spend some time memorizing the literary elements list above. Knowing these (and how they look in writing) will allow you to more easily pinpoint these techniques in various types of written works.

Tip 3: Know the Author's Intended Audience

Knowing what kind of audience an author intended her work to have can help you figure out what types of literary devices might be at play.

For example, if you were trying to analyze a children's book, you'd want to be on the lookout for child-appropriate devices, such as repetition and alliteration.

Tip 4: Take Notes and Bookmark Key Passages and Pages

This is one of the most important tips to know, especially if you're reading and analyzing works for English class. As you read, take notes on the work in a notebook or on a computer. Write down any passages, paragraphs, conversations, descriptions, etc., that jump out at you or that contain a literary device you were able to identify.

You can also take notes directly in the book, if possible (but don't do this if you're borrowing a book from the library!). I recommend circling keywords and important phrases, as well as starring interesting or particularly effective passages and paragraphs.

Lastly, use sticky notes or post-its to bookmark pages that are interesting to you or that have some kind of notable literary device. This will help you go back to them later should you need to revisit some of what you've found for a paper you plan to write.

What's Next?

Looking for more in-depth explorations and examples of literary devices? Join us as we delve into imagery , personification , rhetorical devices , tone words and mood , and different points of view in literature, as well as some more poetry-specific terms like assonance and iambic pentameter .

Reading The Great Gatsby for class or even just for fun? Then you'll definitely want to check out our expert guides on the biggest themes in this classic book, from love and relationships to money and materialism .

Got questions about Arthur Miller's The Crucible ? Read our in-depth articles to learn about the most important themes in this play and get a complete rundown of all the characters .

For more information on your favorite works of literature, take a look at our collection of high-quality book guides and our guide to the 9 literary elements that appear in every story !

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:

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Hannah received her MA in Japanese Studies from the University of Michigan and holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Southern California. From 2013 to 2015, she taught English in Japan via the JET Program. She is passionate about education, writing, and travel.

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Writing and Literature: Composition as Inquiry, Learning, Thinking, and Communication

(17 reviews)

writing literature

Tanya Long Bennet

Copyright Year: 2017

ISBN 13: 9781940771236

Publisher: University of North Georgia Press

Language: English

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Reviewed by Gina Burkart, Director of Learning Services and Adjunct Instructor of English, Clarke University on 12/13/22

I was very impressed. Bennet covered all of the necessary topics that are covered in the Intro to Literature course that I normally teach and used the same approach that I use with students. The glossary and index were helpful. There were also... read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 5 see less

I was very impressed. Bennet covered all of the necessary topics that are covered in the Intro to Literature course that I normally teach and used the same approach that I use with students. The glossary and index were helpful. There were also great resources and examples provided.

Content Accuracy rating: 5

The accuracy of the material was spot on. It matched how I present the material and was accessible to students.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 5

The examples were very relevant--even Call of Duty was included for students to relate to. The stories and and literature used were the same as which I often use. The language and tone was perfect and accessible/authentic for students.

Clarity rating: 5

As mentioned above, the language and tone was very accessible for students.

Consistency rating: 5

It seemed consistent.

Modularity rating: 5

The headings worked well . It was easy to navigate.

Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 5

It was organized in a format similar to how I organize my course.

Interface rating: 5

I didn't have any issues.

Grammatical Errors rating: 5

I didn't notice any.

Cultural Relevance rating: 4

It seemed more traditional in the use of texts/stories--but those are the same texts/stories that I use and this university uses--so I didn't have a problem with it.

I think it is an excellent text and will recommend it to our department!

writing literature

Reviewed by Katherine Ramsey, Academic Director of English/Literature, Spartanburg Community College on 9/22/22

This text includes a detailed table of contents, a glossary of terms, and a bibliography. It does not include an index. The books consist of nine chapters. It does include a review of rhetorical appeals and effective argumentation, which is... read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 4 see less

This text includes a detailed table of contents, a glossary of terms, and a bibliography. It does not include an index. The books consist of nine chapters. It does include a review of rhetorical appeals and effective argumentation, which is helpful. The major literary genres are covered, including creative non-fiction, which is not typically included in this type of literature anthology. This text also includes suggested texts based on theme to support instructors. However, there is only one chapter each devoted to short fiction, drama, and poetry, so the information on the various literary elements could be developed more thoroughly. Overall, this hits all the necessary basic information about literary genres and literary elements, with a decent assortment of literary works and essay assignment ideas.

I did not notice any typographic or content errors in the text. There is no overt bias detected.

Content is up to date. Links to the MLA formatting go to the most updated version of the handbook. Most of the linked materials are to readings, which will not go out of date. This text would be fairly simple to modify and update. Instructors could add additional readings and poems.

This text is a straightforward and concise book that is student centered and not so in-depth that it would intimidate students. It is an “easy read” for students; the phrasing is not overly dense or wordy. With only 9 chapters, all of the essentials are covered. Terms are in bold type face, and a glossary is provided.

The formatting of the textbook is consistent and uniform. It progresses logically and is effectively laid out for the reader, so it is easy to follow.

This text is well divided into 9 chapters, with subheadings/subsections within, making this easy to “chunk” into reading assignments.

The material is well organized, includes a review of the elements of rhetoric and argumentation, in addition to the genre studies, critical theory, terminology, and a variety of readings throughout. It flows smoothly and logically from topic to topic.

Interface rating: 4

There were no significant issues in this area. Although one text link did not open when I tried it, all of the other links were working. The charts that were included were displayed correctly and were easy to read although one chart was in landscape orientation, but it was still fairly easy to read. The margins, spacing, and general page appearance is pleasing to the eye and simple to read/navigate. The page numbers are clearly labeled, and the chapter information is in the right header bar. The book effectively uses text structures such as bolding, headings, italics, etc. in an effective manner.

I detected no grammatical errors while I was reviewing this text.

This text is well rounded and inclusive with works, both contemporary and canonical, from a wide variety of authors with diverse genders, ethnicity, and cultural backgrounds. Instructors could add additional readings to further diversify the literary perspectives, but overall, there was effort made to present a variety of authors, considering the issue of copyright that governs the use of literary texts.

Reviewed by Rebecca Owen, Part-Time Faculty, Chemeketa Community College on 3/10/22

This book covers all the major writing projects that they might encounter in a writing or literature class. Chapters are conversational, easy to follow, and provide good examples of texts and questions. It gives sample essays for the genres and... read more

This book covers all the major writing projects that they might encounter in a writing or literature class. Chapters are conversational, easy to follow, and provide good examples of texts and questions. It gives sample essays for the genres and does a fine job at explaining the why behind common writing assignments.

Content Accuracy rating: 4

The content is clear, straightforward, and easily navigable for a student reader. It does feel like there could be more possible examples to include--especially by delivering links to more representative content in some chapters, like Creative Nonfiction vs. providing whole excerpts or stories (like in the fiction chapter). I wouldn't have minded more examples, though! I think a student reader or instructor might also appreciate more examples of texts to analyze and review.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 4

I felt like the introduction led us toward an idea that this would be a way to see a similarity between popular movies/literature and social media alongside the classics (like Shakespeare, Hemingway, Joan Didion, etc). I wouldn't have minded more of those types current examples as well as the classics. It might help students see a link between the content they consume and the content they're using for class.

Very clear, very easy to follow writing throughout. I think a student reader would find this as a very helpful intro-level guide. It's very accessible for new writers.

Consistency rating: 4

I felt like the book is overall very comprehensive and complete--but it does feel like a very basic or brief look at literature analysis. I felt like it is a book that might come up when looking for texts for a composition class, but it felt much more focused on reading and interpreting literature than learning about composition. That's where the consistency felt a little off to me.

I could see using a chapter--the discussion of scholarly vs. non-scholarly sources, for instance, or ethos/logos/pathos--and posting those links to my composition students. I might not assign the whole textbook, but there are very easily digestible pieces to add to students' understanding of the subject.

Very clear, very well organized throughout. Each chapter is nicely organized with a conversational style. I liked that it included creative nonfiction as a genre, too. Lots of useful information about personal writing (and reading personal essays), too.

For the most part, everything is great. Once we get into the research paper chapter, though, there is a graph that presents sideways (chapter 8). I was reading on both a phone and a laptop, and it was tricky to access that chart both times.

I didn't notice anything alarming, grammar-wise.

I think some of the examples of texts to read could be a little more modern--more recent texts from a variety of backgrounds, cultures, original languages, ethnicity. I think it could make more of an appeal to students through new media and other multimedia examples as well.

This book was clear and easy to follow--I don't know if I would assign the entire book for a composition class, but I could see several chapters as really helpful, easy resources for certain assignments.

Reviewed by Annamaria Formichella, Professor, Buena Vista University on 12/28/21

The chapters on writing are relatively comprehensive, and I appreciated the prefatory comments in the “Why Write About Literature” section. They helped to establish the usefulness of this approach for students. On the other hand, certain of the... read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 3 see less

The chapters on writing are relatively comprehensive, and I appreciated the prefatory comments in the “Why Write About Literature” section. They helped to establish the usefulness of this approach for students. On the other hand, certain of the genre chapters are brief. The drama chapter has only about one page of content regarding dramatic structure, followed by about 117 pages of sample plays. The creative nonfiction chapter is only about five pages long. More information defining the literary genres would have been helpful as I taught my course.

The content was accurate and unbiased.

Much of the content is relevant and current, especially the sample student papers. In order to strengthen the relevance, I would recommend revising the drama chapter to include the genre of film. Film is our contemporary medium for telling visual stories, has become much more popular than traditional plays, and would resonate more powerfully with undergraduates. In a similar vein, most of the poems at the end of chapter 4 were published in the 19th-century or earlier. Contemporary poetry has changed significantly in terms of form and content, and again would appeal more strongly to young people today. Including song lyrics or links to spoken-word poetry performances would resonate with this generation of students.

The writing style is clear and jargon-free. The conversational style is likely to appeal to young readers.

The text is consistent in terms of the way the chapters are structured. Most contain bolded key terms, relevant student examples, and discussion questions. Again, as I mentioned above, the four chapters that focus on literary genres might have been more consistent in terms of depth. The poetry chapter contains much more terminology than the others.

The chapters are relatively short, which makes them easy to assign in the course. The exception would be the lengthy sample texts. Shakespeare’s The Tempest, for example, takes up almost 100 pages (and the entire book is only about 260 pages).

Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 4

The text begins with chapters about analytical writing, then moves into the four literary genres, then returns to writing assignments (literary analysis and the research paper). Although this order might have worked well for the author’s purposes, in my course it would have been preferable to begin with the genre chapters and then move on to the writing chapters. I would put chapters 2 and 3 just prior to chapter 8, so that the writing guidance could be more effectively integrated.

The text does not contain many graphic elements. In fact, there are no images at all. The few charts that are included are displayed clearly, and the reader can interact easily with the text. Because the textbook is available as a pdf, the highlighted links to outside texts do not work as hotlinks. The student must copy and paste the link into a browser. That might dissuade some young readers from pursuing extra-textual content. While the majority of the links work, I found three (Didion on p. 233, Feynman on p. 234, and Anzaldua on p. 269) that were broken (page not found or forbidden access).

There are no grammatical errors in the text.

For the most part, the textbook is inclusive. I appreciated, for example, the nuanced discussion of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in chapter 5. I do think the list of additional readings, included in the Resources for Instructors section, could be more diverse. Of the fifteen readings listed, only three are written by women, and only two have nonwhite authors.

I used this textbook in my composition II class in the fall of 2021. Midway through the semester, I asked the students for feedback on the readings. I thought I’d include a few representative comments. “I think that this textbook is ok. I appreciate that it is free but sometimes the chapters seem like they are only examples. I feel like some of the information in each chapter is unnecessary.” “I think that the chapters are helpful in certain aspects. I do wish that they used fewer examples and just discussed the topics themselves more. I feel that it uses the examples as an out to avoid having to elaborate, but that can make the concepts confusing at times. Especially when they are topics that I have never heard of before.” “The chapters are very long and there are a lot of inserts of outside text.” “The chapters themselves are not bad for the book being free, but sometimes the text seems very simple which is not a bad thing, but it is something that I noticed.” “I think this book does its job. It is not the best book in the world, but I think considering it is free, it does everything it needs to. After reading the chapters I know what the main idea was and know what I was supposed to learn. I think the chapters are short and to the point which makes it easy to read. Sometimes it is hard to get myself to spend the five to ten minutes reading the chapter when the examples are long and harder to read. I have trouble focusing on lengthy examples.” From the students’ perspective, the main takeaways seem to be that the sample texts are lengthy, and the content is fairly simple. The simplicity can make it a very useful and accessible text for some students, especially those just beginning to think about writing and literature. I did find myself quite often needing to supplement with content. Shorter sample texts might make it more likely that students would complete those readings.

Reviewed by Marion Hernandez, Adjunct Instructor English Department/DCE, Bunker Hill Community College on 6/30/21

This text covers every aspect of literature, writing skills. instructions for writing papers i each genre as well as giving clear writing lessons and sample essays. read more

This text covers every aspect of literature, writing skills. instructions for writing papers i each genre as well as giving clear writing lessons and sample essays.

The point of view is written with the student in mind and the terminology and focus are very student centered. No grammar errors are present and the level is definitely focused on college level readers.

Because the focus is on the student, concerns particular to first year students is the priority. Agin, the terminology is consistent with any pedagogy teachers might decide to present.

The writing lessons are present is a very clear manner. The format here is using bold face type to work in an outline form when describing the various points to consider in reading and writing. The materials and sample essays are pinpointed to include advanced readings suitable for college and points of view that are challenging, that is, not talking down to the students.

The chapters are consistent because the format repeats itself in a good way as it works from genre to genre giving instruction, reading and sample students papers. The format is repeated by the content is specific to the genre under study.

One of the very best features of the text is that the terminology dictates the order of both the chapters and the presentations. The chapters are clear-cut and the student could easily use only the chapters pn which the class focuses.

All the previous recommendations focus on just this point of organization. The clear cut sections are presented in clearly defined sequences would give students confidence in the text, knowing that the information is right on target and presented in an academic but casual voice. Only one thing seems to be a small weakness in the text: adequate work on building a thesis. This is not that important because every chapter cover thesis in some way, but in the research writing section, only half a page is devoted to thesis statements.

There are no distractions such as visuals, cartoons, and charts. There are diagrams and subtitles and some charts. Fro instance in the Critical Thinking chapter deductive and inductive reasoning skills. pathos and logos are charted in a clear and informative manner.

There are no grammatical errors. Sentence structure is varied and employs longer sentences with complex and compound clauses. The terminology dictates the the vocabulary would be at a college level.

Cultural Relevance rating: 5

The readings span many various time periods and points of view. Everything from Susan Glaspell to Shakespeare. Poetry has a separate unit as well as drama and all selections are provocative without being biased.

This is a wonderful text that covers every aspect of what one expects to find in an English course. Because to its comprehensive nature, the text would be perfect for a two semester course. However the organization into separate chapters and genres lends itself to a one semester course as well. i will use this for my research writing course.

Reviewed by Kirstin Krick, Instructor, Community College of Aurora on 5/30/21

The information presented in this resource outlines the major elements of literature analysis while also focusing on traditional genres. There are added segments discussing common settings in which students might also use academic research writing... read more

The information presented in this resource outlines the major elements of literature analysis while also focusing on traditional genres. There are added segments discussing common settings in which students might also use academic research writing principles. Chapters are well-rounded and easy to maneuver.

Overall, the content is simple in nature, each section breaks down a topic, expands on it, then there are exercises or sample readings that illustrate further. This text contains few to no errors as far as content in general; but the author does juxtapose questionable phraseology, opinion language, and superfluous imagery [often found in hypothetical examples] with the contradictory idea of research writing needing to be based in fact and conformed to a rigid set of formatting guidelines and structural parameters.

There are up to date samples and references mixed with outdated terminology [names, issues, trends] throughout this source. Where the author includes quite a few classical or contemporary titles, there is nothing after 2018, which is ancient history by now (2021). Although use of current examples and associations is lacking, instructors can easily implement ancillary materials more suited to the evolving world condition.

Clarity rating: 4

A majority of the text is easily readable whereas some illustrations [charts, essay samples, annotations] may have accessibility issues if students are using older versions of Windows or Word, a Mac, etc. In these cases, it might get tricky viewing and working with the source information outside of its original formatting. Annotation examples are not tabled, the only thing distinguishing the notes from the original excerpt being annotated is font style. That is being really picky though, some instructors may not feel that it affects the flow at all. To each their own.

This resource provides consistent, relevant information pertaining to topics typically discussed in literature courses, with the added bonus of outlining the essential format and structure of college-level research writing. Activities and exercises are carried out in similar fashion throughout. Additionally, the author clearly attempts to balance the amount of content presented [to the reader] in each section so it is never overwhelming.

In terms of modularity, the layout of contents is very user friendly. It’s easy to “get around” and sections are not too congested with distracting visual implements. What is promised in the introduction is delivered to its conclusion, the author does a great job of keeping expectations transparent without oversimplifying.

For the most part, the ideas in this source are fleshed out clearly, save a few rocky areas. One thing that might throw the reader off is the order in which writing concepts are presented. As an example, Argument is discussed in depth at the beginning, but Analysis is not mentioned except in reference to specific genres. It seems slightly counterintuitive not to have a section on critical/analytical thinking and reasoning before delving into the complexities of argumentation.

Navigating through this resource is a breeze! There aren’t excessive advertisements on the sites the reader is linked to either, just nice, clean web pages that have been well vetted (most of which are also mainstays in the field of literature). That being said, whether it will quench the modern day student’s thirst for interaction or obsession with social media, remains to be seen.

Grammatical Errors rating: 4

Due to the author’s choice of simple, relatable terms, along with clearly outlined activities and examples, there are no obvious errors when it comes to the overall content. Tiny incongruities may exist, such as sources not being quoted or cited with appropriate punctuation. The concern there is that parts of the text are incorrectly formatted [APA, MLA, CMS] which contradicts parameters illustrated in later chapters.

In the author’s defense, this resource was created in 2018, pre-pandemic; which now seems like light years in the past, so although it could use a touch-up, there is no need for a full on make-over here. When the writer puts forth hypotheticals, they pass the basic test of not being gender or race bias but the full source doesn’t include cultural considerations (like a multiple language learner’s perspective) or present case studies specifically designed to exemplify instances of diversity. Under some circumstances, the cultural aspect is lost in time, there are several outdated references and examples that present missed opportunities to get students communicating about people with different cultural backgrounds and unique world views. Instructors may want to do some maintenance in those sections.

In OER (whenever referenced) the author's name is spelled Bennet, but on the original source it is Bennett. That could be an issue for the writer, especially when citing or documenting.

Reviewed by Donald Carreira Ching, Instructor, Leeward Community College on 3/12/21

Overall, what I like about this text is that it concisely covers what it needs to. There is a table of contents, a glossary, additional resources for instructors, and a bibliography. read more

Overall, what I like about this text is that it concisely covers what it needs to. There is a table of contents, a glossary, additional resources for instructors, and a bibliography.

The content is accurate and concise. This text works as a great reference point for instructors and students. I also like that it covers a wide-range of writing forms.

This is great for a wide-range of courses. The fact that you can re-mix and build the work in various ways makes it particularly relevant, especially when combined with other outside resources and readings.

Text is written in a clear and concise way. Examples are provided. Text is student-focused.

The text is ordered and organized consistently. Sections are broken up in a consistent way.

As mentioned in the relevance section, the license allows the text to be remixed and integrated in the way that suits the instructor. It is easily and readily divisible. I also like the concision of the sections.

Well organized and presented. Concise.

I didn't notice any errors in regard to the interface. Everything was readable and accessible.

Text is free of grammatical errors.

Cultural Relevance rating: 2

The book does not contain readings but what is contained in the text is focused on a Western-audience. More diversity in perspective and content would be appreciated. This is perhaps my biggest concern with the text, but it's a common one across all of the OER texts.

Reviewed by C. Mason, Adjunct Instructor of English, Middlesex Community College on 6/30/20

The text aspires to comprehensiveness, but serves better as a useful introduction to literary analysis. The examples of literature provided may appear limited, but that opens the door for instructors to introduce their own examples and have... read more

The text aspires to comprehensiveness, but serves better as a useful introduction to literary analysis. The examples of literature provided may appear limited, but that opens the door for instructors to introduce their own examples and have students implement these various critical approaches. The initial chapters are a bit underdeveloped. For example, Historical Analysis gets a sentence. A more thorough examination of logical fallacies would be appreciated. That said, the sections on comprehending and writing about fiction, poetry and drama are the heart of the text and are effective.

The analytical content is accurate. With respect to MLA citation, the text may need to be updated in the future.

As stated, the text provides students with a foundational grounding in literary criticism. This analysis is often applied to traditional works of literature. One might welcome more contemporary works of literature, along with more recent forms of literary criticism. This is not the primary focus of the text. These gaps provide an excellent opportunity for instructors to introduce recent critical approaches, or ask students to seek these out and evaluate these approaches as part of a project. On another note, there is always the possibility that the sample student paper on Call of Duty may be viewed as outdated by future students.

The procession through the subject matter, from the introduction through fiction, poetry, and drama, is logical. This will certainly benefit students who wish to use the text as quick reference for composing assignments.

The chapters are thoughtfully and consistently organized.

The modules clearly follow a logical pattern. An instructor could break it apart if necessary. For example, the poetry chapter could stand on its own. Overall, each chapter is informed by previous chapters and anticipates future chapters, providing a holistic approach to examining literature.

Overall, the structure of the book holds together quite well. Occasionally, transitions between chapters are a bit clunky. A careful instructor can easily bridge these gaps for the class.

The formatting is consistent. Students should be able to navigate the text on their phones, if necessary.

There are apparently none.

One would certainly appreciate a more diverse grouping of authors. Obtaining author permissions may have posed difficulties. That said, because the offerings of open source materials are fluid, one may be able successfully supplement the readings by drawing from other texts.

I would strongly consider this text for an introductory literature course.

Reviewed by Laurette Folk, Adjunct Professor of English, North Shore Community College on 6/30/20

While I enjoyed reading Writing and Literature and found it very accessible, it seems to be missing some key elements and is out of scope in others. 1. While the works included here are exemplary and timeless, there are few modern-day, living... read more

While I enjoyed reading Writing and Literature and found it very accessible, it seems to be missing some key elements and is out of scope in others. 1. While the works included here are exemplary and timeless, there are few modern-day, living writers discussed. How are students supposed to know where we are now with respect to the literary canon? I think of writers/poets like Marie Howe, Sharon Olds, Billy Collins, Jhumpa Lahiri, Alice Munro, Lynn Nottage. Also, the diversity of the literary canon is not exactly obvious through the work selected. We have primarily white and African American writers studied here. 2. The Effective Argument chapter needs to be condensed. Some of the law terms such as "enthymeme" are out of scope and not needed. Inductive reasoning is really the only type of logic needed for this class. 3. I found the discussion on thesis statements to be weak. Students in an introductory literature class struggle with thesis statements and need examples of working, final, and erroneous statements. 4. In chapter 2, "Forming a Perspective on a Subject/Discovering and Honoring Your Passions and Values" the sample paper "Call of Duty: Short of Reality" is better suited for a first semester composition class via the concept essay. I understand that it is important for students to hone in on their passions, but professors must hold the primary texts as paramount for a literature class. Where is the connection to the character in the story regarding his war experience? There in no evidence of this, no in-text citations; the novel The Sun Also Rises is not even in the Works Cited page.

Although somewhat verbose at times, I found the discussion to be quite accurate, with the exception of number 4 in "Comprehensiveness."

Modifying the text with modern-day poets, fiction writers, and playwrights can be easily implemented.

This text is written in conversational language with concrete examples that are easy to comprehend.

The consistency of the main literary elements of theme, imagery, character/narrator, setting, etc could be better emphasized with respect to the genres. For instance, theme is common to all of the literary genres discussed.

Text can be easily used to teach the different genres of literature in a particular sequence for each semester.

Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 3

I don't agree with the author's philosophy of teaching poetry first. Poetry is often dense, complex, and abstract ("Ode on a Grecian Urn" is a perfect example of this) and will surely send students mentally heading for the hills. Beginning the course with concrete, relatable stories in short fiction and introducing the main literary elements regarding this genre is a better strategy.

The interface of the text is mostly fine; there were some links that didn't work, however. These are p. 37, link to the Poetry Foundation; p. 47 link to "Blackberry Eating" (link does not take you directly to the poem, but to the home page); p. 258, "The Hunting of the Hare" story in the Works Cited page, EBSCO link in Works Cited.

Ostentatious grammatical errors were not immediately apparent.

Cultural Relevance rating: 3

See comment in "Comprehensiveness."

I liked the main philosophy of the book--to reach students. Discussions on passive vs. active reading, why we need literary terminology, evidence, writing as a process, and research are thorough. My main complaint is the lack of literary diversity and the esoteric law terms.

Reviewed by Michael Alleman, Associate Professor, LSUE on 4/30/20

The textbook provides what few others do: analysis of and guidance in the core methods of literary argumentation in particular, although Chapter 3 (Effective Argument) would be valuable in a number of writing situations. The writer has done a... read more

The textbook provides what few others do: analysis of and guidance in the core methods of literary argumentation in particular, although Chapter 3 (Effective Argument) would be valuable in a number of writing situations. The writer has done a commendable job of covering critical reading compositional strategies, including literary research in an economical way. The only quibble I have is the limited literary pieces, but these author is limited to what they can choose, so I do not hold this against the text.

I find the concepts and strategies to conform to best practices.

The textbook could have made better use of hyperlinks to online texts or supplemental material. Some links do not work.

The writing is clear because the writer focuses on conveying ideas and methods in a simple and succinct style.

No problems here.

The nine chapters can work for either a short (7-8 week) course or long (15 week) course, and the text provides a mix-and-match flexibility that can be easily adapted to a long or short session.

I love the organization, especially the Tractatus-like numbering system which make it easy to organize the sections and subsections to suit a particular course's emphasis.

Interface rating: 3

Some problems with dead links or links leading to sites access to which is denied.

No noticeable errors.

The text is inclusive and sensitive.

There's a lot you can do with this book. It can act as the foundation of the course, or it can be used in a supplementary fashion. I might consider assigning one or two of the chapters to any of my classes that require critical writing about texts. This

Reviewed by Alissa Cruz, Adjunct English Instructor, Blue Ridge Community College on 4/13/20

The book covers genre, approach, reasoning and more. I was impressed with the range it was able to cover. read more

The book covers genre, approach, reasoning and more. I was impressed with the range it was able to cover.

This book is accurate and thorough.

The examples and ideas in this book are relevant and current, but will not be outdated quickly. The book is arranged in a way that is logical and easy to follow.

This book is excellent in terms of clarity. The tone is perfect for students. Everything is explained well with strong, relevant examples that students can relate to. In some cases, such as the Effective Argument section, there could have been more explanation or more examples given. Sometimes a student needs more than one example to understand the concept.

The text is consistent and thorough. The glossary of terms in the back is particularly helpful.

The text is divided into sections that are readable and that make sense for the student. Everything is presented well and has relevant titles.

It is organized in a logical, helpful manner. I would not change a thing about how the text is presented.

The books interface is perfect until Chapter 8 (pages 241-42). This section has a very helpful calendar example of how a student should break up working on their essay. The drawback is that the calendar is vertical and not easy to read. If this was flipped to a horizontal structure it would be easier to follow. Everything else in the book is set up well.

The book is grammatically sound.

The text is not insensitive in any way. There could be more inclusion of literature that includes a variety of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds.

An aspect that I really enjoyed was the style in which it was written. It is casual and accessible for the student. The author uses many examples that allow the student to see the relevance of the topic. There are a good number of diverse stories, plays, essays, and poems to look at. There are helpful links to outside sources, sample essays, and helpful diagrams to enhance the students' understanding.

Reviewed by Kathryn Enders, Lecturer, Shenandoah University on 7/17/19

As a textbook addressing students in a freshman composition course, "Writing and Literature" has very little about writing. Chapters on "The Literary Analysis Essay" and "The Research Paper" are pushed to the end of the book. The two paragraphs on... read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 2 see less

As a textbook addressing students in a freshman composition course, "Writing and Literature" has very little about writing. Chapters on "The Literary Analysis Essay" and "The Research Paper" are pushed to the end of the book. The two paragraphs on "Articulating an Effective Thesis" fail to offer examples, and although sample student papers are later included, they do not identify the strengths or weaknesses of those papers or show the writing process. Overall, this is not a helpful textbook on composition. Nor is this textbook especially comprehensive when it comes to analyzing literature. The chapter on drama consists mostly of two complete plays that would be better accessed through online links. Chapters on poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction are slightly more thorough. The questions about literature that seem to be the impetus for the subtitle "Composition as Inquiry, Learning, Thinking, and Communication" really are nothing more than questions at the end of a reading. Nothing new here!

Content Accuracy rating: 3

The information presented here is accurate enough, but shallow. An instructor could use the textbook as a starting point, perhaps, though many other textbooks provide this information in more accessible and engaging formats.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 1

With little variety of literature and few samples of the process of writing, this textbook is probably already irrelevant one year after publication with the content easily found elsewhere. As the author writes, "For success in any project, a writer must be aware of and carefully consider his [sic] audience." Unfortunately, Bennett did not take her own advice. This textbook does not address the situation of a contemporary student. For example, in arguing the benefits of writing about literature in a composition course, her first explanation is that an imaginary professor, Dr. Lopez, would have chosen this approach because, "He is better able to evaluate the effectiveness of your compositions if they are written on a topic with which he has some expertise." That rationale gives students little reason to want to read literature or write about it, other than to please the professor and get out of the class as quickly as possible.

Clarity rating: 3

The language used in this textbook is clear and defines terms used, but it fails to address its intended audience in an engaging, informative, and consistent way.

Consistency rating: 2

In some cases, this textbook refers students to other open-source locations to read the literature selections being discussed, but in other cases, it includes the entire text. This inconsistency makes sense (perhaps) with short texts like poetry, but not so much with the entirety of "The Tempest" and "Trifles". As a result the quality of chapters is uneven. This seems like an unfinished attempt.

Modularity rating: 1

As currently organized, this is not a course-friendly text. Also, more links to more literature selections would be helpful.

Chapters were clearly organized, though content was uneven. For a composition textbook, I would expect more discussion of writing earlier in the book.

No interface issues

I found no glaring grammatical errors except a reliance on the male generic pronoun.

The text assumes a male generic pronoun throughout; the literature chosen for analysis is Western canonical. At times, the author's voice seemed patronizing, as when she suggested students "probably enjoy reading certain kinds of texts, such as internet articles on your pet interests.... You may even have literary favorites."

I'm surprised that the ratings of this textbook have been so high despite the critical comments made by other reviewers. Is that because of getting high marks on "modularity" and "interface"? If this text were not available through the Open Textbook Library, it would not be worth purchasing. A big disappointment and I will not use it for my classes!

Reviewed by Thom Addington, Visiting Assistant Professor, Richard Bland College on 4/12/19

The "About the Book" section suggests an engagement in reconfiguring literature-centered composition practice in the age of social media and digital humanities. Ultimately, the textbook does not follow this through. While it references pop culture... read more

The "About the Book" section suggests an engagement in reconfiguring literature-centered composition practice in the age of social media and digital humanities. Ultimately, the textbook does not follow this through. While it references pop culture touchstones in video games and other media, these references are scattered across the text and not deployed in a way that generates critical discussion on expanding definitions of literature, literacy, and/or critical engagement through composition. As a result, the textbook repackages a very traditional understanding of literature and literary analysis in a way that makes it feel disconnected from the contemporary student. The recognition of one's passions, however, as important context(s) that impact reading and writing is well-taken and could perhaps be expanded and developed as a central contribution of a revised edition.

While the textbook is forthcoming about its literary bias, its treatment of texts and its assumptions about the reader lean towards universalizing. Moreover, its handling of new media and literary nonfiction is beginning to feel outdated.

The textbook's present content is relevant insofar as the canon (both categorically and by composition) remains so. It would be beneficial and impactful to look ahead to how the various literary genres, schools of criticism, and works are developing.

The textbook presents and unpacks literary and critical concepts in accessible prose.

The textbook is consistent in its structuring and unpacking of concepts and practices, but framing commentary is at times excluded in sections.

Modularity rating: 4

In certain chapters, the division among framing material, literary text, and student application could be demarcated more clearly. While the genre chapters could function as standalone units, the first three chapters build on one another in such a way that they must be assigned in order.

Individual chapters are introduced clearly and thoroughly, and each of the genre chapters could function as a standalone piece; however, some closer attention could be payed to the linkages between chapters after the first three.

Aside from the alignment of some tables, the textbook's interface is crisp and clean. There may be some benefit in reevaluating the use of font, color, and page arrangement, but these would be improvements rather than corrections. The centering of the literary text on the page in the short prose and drama sections does not inhibit reading, but it does make these sections border on the overly long and visually monotonous.

I found no grammatical errors.

As noted in previous reviews, the textbook draws its content almost exclusively from the Western literary canon; the majority of the works considered are written by white men. The textbook does engage the work of six writers of color: Charles Chesnutt, Langston Hughes, Robert Hayden, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Maya Angelou, and Gloria Anzaldua. Their respective works, however, are given marginal status. Angelou and Anzaldua, the only two women writers of color, are only listed in the “Also for Consideration” portions of their respective sections. While texts such as Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address,” and Shakespeare’s The Tempest invite inquiry into issues such as race, nationalism, and empire, the textbook does not enter this terrain.

Reviewed by Nicole Drewitz-Crockett, Associate Professor of English, Emory and Henry College on 4/11/19

Since this book is taking a particular approach to teaching college writing, it is not attempting to be comprehensive in subject matter. Instead, it focuses on ways composition can be taught through literature. In that vein, the text does a good... read more

Since this book is taking a particular approach to teaching college writing, it is not attempting to be comprehensive in subject matter. Instead, it focuses on ways composition can be taught through literature. In that vein, the text does a good job of moving instructors and students through a comprehensive process of reading closely and arguing effectively in a variety of literary genres. Although the text does not provide an index, it does offer a helpful glossary and several resources for instructors including possible themes and primary works and assignment ideas.

The content is accurate and easily digestible for students. It provides a good foregrounding in effective reading and argument before venturing into literary genres and analysis. The text does a good job of revealing its bias from the beginning; as a good example of argumentation, it indicates why a professor might choose to teach composition using literature rather than non-fiction.

Primarily because this text does not include a section of primary readings, it will have good longevity. Although the suggested thematic list of texts is helpful and there are some primary text examples weaved throughout the text, a given instructor can easily use any pieces of literature with this book.

This text is very clear and highly accessible. It is easy to read. While one could see it as "too easy" for a college audience, it invites the students to read difficult material outside of the text. In other words, it instructs them on how to read and how to argue in student-friendly prose so that they can clearly grasp the framework for reading more difficult materials outside of the text. This strategy is quite helpful when instructing a class of students whose abilities can vary widely.

It is consistent in terminology and framework throughout.

It would be difficult to take this text apart into modules that don't follow the prescribed organizational pattern. While an instructor could certainly teach the genres included in any order desired, the first three chapters build on one another to build the framework necessary for analyzing those genres.

The text is well-organized. It progresses clearly from foundational ideas and terms to genres in which one might practice using those ideas and terms.

This text is extremely straight forward. There are no issues in navigation; it is a basic chapter by chapter book in black and white. In fact, I would offer that as a slight criticism. Although there a couple of charts, some images would be helpful for student interest.

The book does not contain errors that disrupted my reading.

Of the primary text examples this book included and suggested for thematic courses, almost all of them are well-known, canonical texts. Although some women's voices and voices of color are included, the literary selections are primarily written by white men. This surprises me somewhat since I am familiar with Dr. Bennet's work on Appalachian author Lee Smith. Even though the primary texts in the book are limited, I will again state that the instructor would be able to easily add primary texts. Perhaps that is why "classic" texts were chosen.

Reviewed by James Gapinski, Instructional Specialist, Chemeketa Community College on 3/8/19

The description of this book seems to suggest that WRITING AND LITERATURE will explore how literary texts remain relevant and vital amid a modern era of hashtags and image-rich media. The book approaches this goal, but it never fully achieves it.... read more

The description of this book seems to suggest that WRITING AND LITERATURE will explore how literary texts remain relevant and vital amid a modern era of hashtags and image-rich media. The book approaches this goal, but it never fully achieves it. The introduction specifically situates this book as a beginning college-level reader, but the topics discussed feel at times esoteric, and at other times the book comes off as reductive. There are some moments when modern examples are peppered into this book—for example, there’s a sample that discusses the popular Call of Duty videogame franchise. However, the majority of this book does not directly deal with a deep discussion of how literature fits into a landscape dominated by new media. Moreover, the texts discussed often draw from a classic American and European texts, and there is not much time spent on new modes of thinking or diverse voices. Students reading this book are being told that literature is vital to their lives and that rhetorical analysis of literature builds crucial college-level skills, but this message falls flat when the text often resorts to the same Western canon that has already been drilled into their heads throughout high school. There is not enough expansion of knowledge here. Ultimately, the book feels like a stodgy literary text that has been dressed up with some approximations of a modern student’s perspective.

This book is relatively accurate, but it makes some assumptions about its audience and about new media that come off as reductive.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 2

WRITING AND LITERATURE will need substantial updating to remain relevant. The few examples of new media that are discussed will likely be obsolete in a couple years, and some other material already feels dated. The book’s central goal seems to be convincing students that classic modes of writing are still relevant, but it does not fully achieve this goal.

The book uses accessible language in most chapters, and new terms are quickly defined for readers. Transitions between chapters could be strengthened; the book’s main ideas are not always linked, and there are missed opportunities for callbacks or review of previous information. However, the book is clear and readable overall. Adept students will be able to identify the core themes and of each isolated chapter.

This book is consistent in its formatting. Chapter breaks are clear, bulleted lists help set key information apart, and sections are clearly marked. Students reading this book will discover a consistent layout and feel to each chapter.

WRITING AND LITERATURE has some clear modules, but many of them may be longer than they need to be. Breaking each section into smaller subsections could improve navigation, especially for students who have trouble synthesizing large swaths of text.

Individual chapters flow well; there is a logical internal progression. Overall, each chapter works well as a standalone piece. These pieces, however, do not always add up to a cohesive whole. The book is occasionally disjointed and transitions from one chapter to the next could be smoother.

There are some tables, samples, and lists to guide students. The use of color could be more thoughtful, and the chapters themselves could be enhanced with more explicit concluding ideas and next steps for students who want to apply their newfound knowledge. The interface is usable, but it could be improved with some additional special formatting.

I did not notice any glaring grammatical problems.

Cultural Relevance rating: 1

As mentioned by previous reviewers, this text relies heavily on a whitewashed Western canon. Obviously, an OER textbook author is often limited by licensing. However, there are many public domain works from diverse authors; there is no justifiable need to rely so heavily on a predominantly white male canon even in an OER textbook. A quick search of Project Gutenberg yields numerous diverse pieces of literature from the American civil rights era. Additionally, there are places in this book where the WRITING AND LITERATURE does not directly address or embed texts into the work, opting to simply recommend that students follow a URL to read a freely available website. This workaround could be used more thoughtfully in order to share contemporary work that is more universal, culturally relevant, and better aligns with the book’s rhetorical goals.

WRITING AND LITERATURE has a grand vision that is not fully executed. The idea is impressive, and I fully support texts that seek to venerate and celebrate literature in the composition classroom. I’d love to see an updated version that is more culturally competent, comprehensive, and strengthens its links to the lives of everyday students.

Reviewed by Cassandra Sachar, Assistant Professor, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania on 1/27/19

The book attempts to cover many different aspects related to writing and literature; however, due to the ambitious breadth, it often only skims the surface of many of the topics. For example, while I appreciate the background on different types of... read more

The book attempts to cover many different aspects related to writing and literature; however, due to the ambitious breadth, it often only skims the surface of many of the topics. For example, while I appreciate the background on different types of literary criticism in Ch. 2, there are no actual examples of the different critical approaches and no follow-up student exercises. Additionally, literary terms are defined throughout the book but are often not explained. The glossary, list of links for additional works of literature, and assignment ideas at the back of the book are well-organized and helpful.

I did not find any inaccuracies or biases, but many of the descriptions were not detailed enough, which I believe will lead to poor comprehension of several concepts for readers. For example, in order for a reader to understand blank verse, the book could easily show lines of poetry, but there is merely a short definition.

The writer incorporates examples from modern life that are sure to help college readers relate, but none of these should make this book seem outdated in the next decade or so, as I cannot imagine that social media (which she references) will become obsolete. From the book's description, which mentions "Buzzfeeds, hashtags, and Tweets," I expected more references to modern technology, but the author may be making a concerted effort to avoid discussing trends so as not to have the world outgrow her work too quickly. While I appreciate the inclusion of (mostly British) classic texts, I would have liked to see more modern writings, as well.

The writer maintains a pleasant, very readable style and strives to make her ideas accessible with many easy-to-relate analogies. However, there are times when the introduction to a concept goes on for far too long, causing the reader to lose focus, and then the concept itself is often not described in adequate detail. For example, there is a whole section about a student playing video games. The purpose of this is to explain the importance of forming a perspective, but it's very long-winded. Then, the student's full research paper is included, but there is no explanation on what was done well or poorly. Why not just share a snippet of the paper to illustrate a point?

The text uses consistent headings and organization; however, there are places where sample texts are given without much context. Some texts are introduced with focal areas and/or follow-up questions, yet others, such as the poems at the end of Ch. 4, are simply provided without direction. Also, I cannot understand why the book includes the entire play of _The Tempest_; why not just provide a piece and a link?

Every chapter is short (except the one that includes an entire play) and thus does not present an overwhelming reading assignment to a student. I do not believe the text needs to be presented in a linear fashion; there is such breadth to this book that the chapters could easily be mixed, matched, and/or left out.

Chapter titles and headings are informative. I believe some of the content presented in narrative form would be more easily accessible to the reader if formatted into bulleted lists. This would cut much of the wordiness.

The book is presented clearly with no distortions. The font is easy to read, and the writer uses color to her advantage, such as showcasing different methods of annotation. There are a few calendar pages which are printed sideways, but this is not really an issue.

I did not locate a single grammatical error. This text looks very professional.

Nothing in this book is culturally insensitive, and the author includes pieces from some writers of color. The literature is mostly American or British in origin and could include other parts of the world, but I do understand that the author is limited by copyright laws.

Reviewed by Joy Sanchez-Taylor, Associate Professor, LaGuardia Community College (CUNY) on 12/5/18

This text is well-organized and clearly addresses ways to write about different genres of literature. I like that the text begins by explaining how the study of literature can be relevant to students who are not English majors. The chapter follow... read more

This text is well-organized and clearly addresses ways to write about different genres of literature. I like that the text begins by explaining how the study of literature can be relevant to students who are not English majors. The chapter follow a logical progression and cover all of the major topic for literary analysis. I find Dr. Long Bennet to be very knowledgeable about her subject. My major critiques of the text are the separation of “fun reading” like science fiction and fantasy and “literary” readings. This view is an outdated classification. These days, literature professors are assigning a variety of literary works in their courses to try to fully engage students. Which leads me to my second criticism of the text: the choice of readings. I understand that with an open-access textbook, Dr. Long Bennet was limited in her choices of literary examples. But for future versions, it would be great if she could try to get permission to include more contemporary texts.

I find the text to be accurate overall. The descriptions of the critical perspectives could have been more detailed. Some of the citations will need to be updated to MLA 8 format. I particularly like the research essay checklist and glossary sections.

The overall advice for writing about literature will be relevant for many years. The MLA citation examples, however, will need to be updated whenever MLA changes their guidelines, which happened again recently.

Overall, I find the wording to be clear. I think some of the writing, such as the justifications for why non-English majors should write about literature, are a little wordy. Students don’t need every reason why they should write about literature; a few concise examples of how literary analysis can help them in other courses would be more effective.

The chapters are very consistently organized.

A professor could easily teach the genre chapters in whatever order they preferred.

The textbook has strong organization and flow.

Overall, the text was clear and the visuals were easy to read. Some of the visuals, such as the sample essay planning calendar, will need to be printed out for students to read because they are sideways in the text.

I would like to see examples of authors from a diverse range of backgrounds and time periods. Again, this is difficult to achieve when dealing with author permissions, but it is not impossible.

I plan to use some of the writing descriptions and materials in my course, but I will change the literary samples to include a more diverse range of authors.

Table of Contents

  • Why Write About Literature?
  • Chapter 1: Reading Like a Professional
  • Chapter 2: Forming a Perspective on the Subject
  • Chapter 3: Effective Argument
  • Chapter 4: Experiencing the Power of Poetry
  • Chapter 5: The Truths of Fiction
  • Chapter 6: All the World's a Stage
  • Chapter 7: Creative Nonfiction, The Fourth Genre
  • Chapter 8: The Literary Analysis Essay
  • Chapter 9: The Research Paper

Ancillary Material

  • Ancillary materials are available by contacting the author or publisher .

About the Book

In the age of Buzzfeeds, hashtags, and Tweets, students are increasingly favoring conversational writing and regarding academic writing as less pertinent in their personal lives, education, and future careers. Writing and Literature: Composition as Inquiry, Learning, Thinking and Communication connects students with works and exercises and promotes student learning that is kairotic and constructive. Dr. Tanya Long Bennett, professor of English at the University of North Georgia, poses questions that encourage active rather than passive learning. Furthering ideas presented in Contribute a Verse: A Guide to First-Year Composition as a complimentary companion, Writing and Literature builds a new conversation covering various genres of literature and writing. Students learn the various writing styles appropriate for analyzing, addressing, and critiquing these genres including poetry, novels, dramas, and research writing. The text and its pairing of helpful visual aids throughout emphasizes the importance of critical reading and analysis in producing a successful composition. Writing and Literature is a refreshing textbook that links learning, literature, and life.

About the Contributors

Dr. Tanya Long Bennet, University of North Georgia

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Humanities LibreTexts

1.2: Why Read and Write About Literature?

  • Last updated
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  • Page ID 118569

  • Heather Ringo & Athena Kashyap
  • City College of San Francisco via ASCCC Open Educational Resources Initiative

Why Read Literature?

In the age of memes, Twitter, Youtube, and streaming television services, literature might seem like a relic of the past. Indeed, fewer people are reading literature than ever. According to an article published in the Washington Post, "in 2015, 43 percent of adults read at least one work of literature in the previous year. That's the lowest percentage in any year since NEA surveys began tracking r eading and arts participation in 1982 when the literature reading rate was 57 percent" (Ingraham). If the decline of literature-reading in adults isn't the death knoll of literature, the decline in teenagers might be. According to NPR, in a recently conducted poll, "nearly half of 17-year-olds say they read for pleasure no more than one or two times a year — if that" ( Ludden). How many books have you read this year? How many poems? Indeed, in a world of Netflix and TikTok, it is difficult for stinky old books to compete.

But this is hardly a new problem if it is even a problem at all.

Consider the words of master-of-clapbacks Sir Philip Sydney, #throwback to the late 1500s and early 1600s. After the invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg, many people saw the proliferation of novels and plays as morally poisonous. Talking heads of the time argued that poetry and literature were a waste of time, or "fake news" as some might call it today. They questioned the purpose of fictional works. Poet and diplomat Sir Philip Sydney responded with a scathing literary smack-down to the haters. He argued the poet has a special talent to create new, beautiful worlds that no other professional can claim, and that those who question the purpose of poetry have "earth-creeping" minds and are "momes" (AKA fools, blockheads). He further stated that he hopes these momes never get "favor" (love) because they don't know how to write sonnets to woo their love interests and that they don't get an epitaph on their graves, because that is the poet's job. Ouch, harsh.

In today's world, it seems that Sidney would probably consider most people momes. After all, very few of us read or appreciate poetry regularly. Most of our reading and writing is done on the internet: in the forms of Facebook posts, memes, tweets, snapchats, Tik Tok videos, and viral news. In response to this trend, many famous authors and literary critics have stated that literature is dead (Breuklander). Indeed, if we define literature as only printed novels and poetry, perhaps it is, for all intents and purposes, dead. But... what if we were to define literature as Sidney did--a creation made from the "zodiac of [the poet's] own wit," improving upon nature itself through invention? Might some of today's internet media fall into that definition?

What if literature isn't dead after all...but thriving more than ever? What if we radically reconsider the parameters of literature? What if literature has just evolved from sonnets and novels to tweets and memes? In this textbook, we will explore how technology has blurred the lines between Literature and literature. We will question and explore the "usefulness" of literature in a world that encourages split-second attention spans. We will see how literature has solved problems in the past, and explore how it can be used to solve problems in the future. Medicine, a threat to the status quo, entertainment, activism, or boring stinky old piles of pages: what is literature to you?

No matter the reader, no matter the writer, no matter the genre, literature is a cultural relic, a manifestation of the human experience. Thus, it can teach us things about our society and about ourselves we might not be able to learn from other types of media. It enables us to experience and discuss ideas from the safety of our armchairs, to project ourselves onto characters and environments, to explore worlds and lived experiences we otherwise would never have the opportunity to experience.

Additionally, data suggests reading literature benefits us in profound ways.

Benefits of Literature

Studies show reading literature may help

  • promote empathy and social skills (Castano and Kidd)
  • alleviate symptoms of depression (Billington et al.)
  • business leaders succeed (Coleman)
  • prevent dementia by stimulating the mind (Thorpe)

These are just a few of the studied benefits of literature. As we continue to gain increasing complexity in terms of measuring brain activity and developing other tools to measure brain function, scientists may find more benefits.

Why Write About Literature?

You might be asking yourself why you should bother writing about something you've read. After all, isn't creative writing more fun, journalistic writing more interesting, and technical writing more useful? Maybe, but consider this: writing about literature will let you exercise your critical thinking skills like no other style of writing will. Even if you don't want to pursue a career involving literature, you can use critical thinking and analysis in any field from philosophy to business to physics. More than being able to think critically, you need to be able to express those thoughts in a coherent fashion. Writing about literature will allow you to practice this invaluable communication skill.

“Okay,” you say, “that's all good and well. But hasn't anything I have to say about a story already been said? So what's the point, then?” When you write your paper, you might end up saying something that has been discussed, argued over, or proposed by literary critics and students alike. However, when you write something, you present a point of view through your unique voice. Even if something has been said about a book many times, you can add something new to that discussion. Perhaps you can state an idea in simpler terms, or you want to disagree with a popular viewpoint. Even if you're writing to an instructor's prompt, your voice will make the paper unique.

How Do I Start?

To many of us, writing a response to something we've had to read sounds more than a little daunting. There are so many things to examine and analyze in a book, play, or poem. But before you decide that writing about writing just isn't for you, think about this--you already have many of the skills you need to write a good response to literature.

How many times have you heard about someone who watched a horror movie and yelled, “Don't go into the basement!” at the potential victim. Or maybe you've listened to a song and thought about how the lyrics described your life almost perfectly. Perhaps you like to jump up and cheer for your favorite team even if you're watching the game from home. Each time you do one of these things, you are responding to something you've seen or heard. And when you read a book, you likely do the same thing. Have you ever read anything and sympathized with or hated a character? If so, you've already taken your first step in responding to literature.

However, the next steps are a little harder. You need to be able to put your response into writing so other people can understand why you believe one thing or another about a book, play, or poem. In addition, writing an essay based on how a story makes you think or feel is only one of many ways to respond to what you read. In order to write a strong paper, you will need to examine a text both subjectively and objectively . If you only write about your personal reaction to a book, there won't be much to support your argument except your word alone. Thus, you will need to use some facts from the text to support your argument. Rather than trying to evaluate every nuance of a text all at once, you should start with the basics: character and plot. From there, you can examine the theme of the work and then move on to the finer points such as the writing itself. For instance, when determining how you want to analyze a piece of literature, you might want to ask yourself the following series of questions:

  • Who are the characters?
  • What are they doing?
  • Why and how are they doing it?
  • Do their actions relate to any broader topics or issues?
  • How does the author convey this through their writing?

Questions to consider when writing about literature

Of course, answering these questions will only start your analysis. However, if you can answer them, you will have a strong grasp of the basic elements of the story. From there, you can go on to more specific questions, such as, “How does symbolism help illustrate the theme?” or “What does the author say about the relationships between characters through the dialogue he gives them?” However, before you can start answering detailed questions like these, you should look at the basic elements of what you're reading. Some of the most common elements in a piece of literature include:

  • Plot (story or play) or structure (poem)
  • Symbolism and Figurative Language

As you work through each genre in this book, try to examine each of these elements in each piece of literature you read.

Optional, Supplemental Reading: Excerpt from Sir Philip Sidney's Defense of Poesy

"There is no art delivered unto mankind that has not the works of nature for his principal object, without which they could not consist, and on which they so depend as they become actors and players, as it were, of what nature will have set forth. So doth the astronomer look upon the stars, and, by that he sees, set down what order nature has taken therein. So do the geometrician and arithmetician in their divers sorts of quantities. So doth the musician in times tell you which by nature agree, which not. The natural philosopher thereon has his name, and the moral philosopher stands upon the natural virtues, vices, and passions of man; and “follow nature,” says he, “therein, and thou shalt not err.” The lawyer says what men have determined, the historian what men have done. The grammarian speaks only of the rules of speech, and the rhetorician and logician, considering what in nature will soonest prove and persuade, thereon give artificial rules, which still are compassed within the circle of a question, according to the proposed matter. The physician weighs the nature of man’s body, and the nature of things helpful or hurtful unto it. And the metaphysic, though it be in the second and abstract notions, and therefore be counted supernatural, yet doth he, indeed, build upon the depth of nature.

Only the poet, disdaining to be tied to any such subjection, lifted up with the vigor of his own invention, doth grow, in effect, into another nature, in making things either better than nature brings forth, or, quite anew, forms such as never were in nature, as the heroes, demi-gods, cyclops, chimeras, furies, and such like; so as he goes hand in hand with nature, not enclosed within the narrow warrant of her gifts, but freely ranging within the zodiac of his own wit. Nature never set forth the earth in so rich tapestry as divers poets have done; neither with pleasant rivers, fruitful trees, sweet-smelling flowers, nor whatsoever else may make the too-much-loved earth more lovely; her world is brazen, the poets only deliver a golden...

But if—fie of such a but!—you be born so near the dull-making cataract of Nilus, that you cannot hear the planet-like music of poetry; if you have so earth-creeping a mind that it cannot lift itself up to look to the sky of poetry, or rather, by a certain rustical disdain, will become such a mome [blockhead—ed.], as to be a Momus of poetry; then, though I will not wish unto you the ass’ ears of Midas, nor to be driven by a poet’s verses, as Bubonax was, to hang himself; nor to be rimed to death, as is said to be done in Ireland; yet thus much curse. I must send you in the behalf of all poets:—that while you live in love, and never get favor for lacking skill of a sonnet; and when you die, your memory die from the earth for want of an epitaph." -- Sir Philip Sydney

Works Cited

Billington, Josie, Dowrick, Christopher, Hamer, Andrew, Robinson, Jude and Clare Williams. An investigation into the therapeutic benefits of reading in relation to depression and well-being. Liverpool Health Inequalities Research Institute. University of Liverpool, Nov. 2010. https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/media/livacuk/iphs/web_version_therapeutic_benefits_of_reading_final_report_Mar.pdf

Breuklander, Joel. "Literature is Dead (According to Straight, White Guys at Least)." The Atlantic, 18 July 2013. Web. https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2013/07/literature-is-dead-according-to-straight-white-guys-at-least/277906/ Accessed 12 August 2018

Castano, Emanuele and David Kidd. "Reading Literary Fiction Improves Theory of Mind." Science. 18 Oct. 2013;342(6156):377-80.

Coleman, John. "The Benefits of Poetry for Professionals." Harvard Business Review, 2012. https://hbr.org/2012/11/the-benefits-of-poetry-for-pro

Ingraham, Christopher. "The long, steady decline of literary reading." The Washington Post, 7 Sep 2016. Web. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/09/07/the-long-steady-decline-of-literary-reading/?utm_term=.ad2fa9146ec0 Accessed 2 August 2018.

Ludden, Jennifer. "Why Aren't Teens Reading Like They Used To?" NPR. 12 May 2014. https://www.npr.org/2014/05/12/311111701/why-arent-teens-reading-like-they-used-to Accessed 02 August 2018.

Thorpe, J.R. "Why Reading Poetry Is Good For Your Brain." Bustle , 20 Apr. 2017. https://www.bustle.com/p/why-reading-poetry-is-good-for-your-brain-51884

Sidney, Sir Philip. The Defense of Poesy. The Poetry Foundation. 13 Oct. 2009. Web. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/articles/69375/the-defence-of-poesy Accessed 2 August 2018.

Contributors and Attributions

  • Why Write About Literature sections adapted from "Writing About Literature Basics" from Commonsense Composition by Crystle Bruno of San Jose State University licensed CC BY-NC 4.0

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Guides • Perfecting your Craft

Posted on Nov 30, 2021

How to Write Literary Fiction in 6 Steps

Literary fiction can be a slippery genre to write within, seeing how it avoids easy definitions. In many ways, that’s a good thing: multifaceted and expansive, it’s probably the category of books that contains the widest range of stories, and the one readers always approach with a readiness for surprise.

To make the most of writing in this fun genre, we’ve assembled 6 simple steps you can follow.

5hr1nEz9In0 Video Thumb

1. Start with a topic you wish to explore

The first step is simple: all you need is to identify a theme or topic that interests you. At this stage, your “topic” can be universal or very specific. There’s no need to transpose this topic into a particular character and a situation yet — just think about some of the issues that you find curious or feel strongly about.  These could include aspects of the human experience or matters related to society and social structures. 

To give you a few examples of some works and their overall themes :

  • Motherhood — Mieko Kawakami’s Breasts and Eggs , where the protagonist considers accepting a sperm donation and becoming a single mother;
  • Grief — Raymond Carver’s ‘A Small, Good Thing,’ where a mother is faced with the her son’s sudden unexpected death;
  • Power — Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall , which charts Thomas Cromwell’s rise to prominence in the Tudor times.

2. Identify the core of your theme or idea

How to write literary fiction | Book covers of titles that have been edited by Reedsy editors

You don’t need to have a thesis to expound upon in your story — Les Misérables would be tragically reduced if you just condensed it into “stealing is bad,” and many works of literary fiction are similarly more complex than a single statement. Ideally, though, your work will be saying s omething . 

Take Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being , for example. It tells the parallel stories of two people: one a schoolgirl in Japan, the other a Japanese-American author living in British Columbia. The story is about identity, as it shows the two characters searching for some kind of meaning in their relationships and their place in the world.   

Avoid moralistic lessons

Whether you overtly show your personal beliefs to your readers or let them draw their own conclusions, it is still helpful for you as a writer to figure out how you feel about certain issues. (That may happen as you write, which is not an issue, as you can edit your work later on.) If you do have clear feelings on the subject at hand, however, be careful not to write a story that falls flat by offering a one-sided moralistic “lesson.” Instead, think about how your narrative can show the nuanced complexities of an issue. Allow contradictions to exist in your work, without worrying about teaching the reader the right way. No one likes to be patronized.

writing literature

Need some more guidance? Check out our free course 'How to Craft a Killer Short Story' — it was created by Laura Mae Isaacman , an editor who has worked with Joyce Carol Oates and other luminaries of the short fiction world.

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3. Ground your idea in a specific situation…

Your next step is to come up with a specific character in a specific situation that hinges on your central theme. Say you want to write about “the immigrant experience.” You don’t need to come up with an astonishing hot take on what it’s like to live away from home, but you can depict a specific person’s experience in a moving, relatable, or entertaining way if you just commit to some detail. 

Here are a few more ideas for developing a plot based on your theme:

Conduct a fictional experiment

Because literary fiction stories are very commonly character-driven, you can use a story as a space to conduct a hypothetical experiment. 

  • If X and Y personalities are brought together in Z circumstances, what will happen?
  • How do different characters respond to the same problem?
  • How would person A react if person B acted in a certain way? 

A book that does this well is Bryan Washington’s Memorial , which chronicles the changes in a romantic relationship, when one of the two young men must go to Japan to visit his ill father. The book tests their romance with a newly-created distance — tracing their shifting dynamic as they’re both forced to open themselves up in new ways.

Don’t be afraid to be weird

Literary fiction is home to a lot of very, very strange fiction, where writers can have fun and embrace bizarre ideas. When writing literary fiction, listen to any whimsical or wacky ideas that come to you, whether your protagonist develops a substance abuse relationship with lip balm, turns into a lamp, or starts to speak in ways no one understands.

writing literature

One recent example of ‘weird’ literary fiction is Suyaka Murata’s Earthlings , which tells the story of Natsuki — a woman convinced she’s an alien and trying to navigate societal pressures while retaining her personal integrity. It’s an utterly bizarre story that pushes past what’s considered acceptable behavior and makes readers see the standards for “acceptability” in a new light.

4. Or filter it through a particular character’s experience

Literary fiction is usually character-driven, and characters are best explored when an event takes place and reveals the finer textures of their personality. Though stories about stasis, where nothing happens, are acceptable in literary fiction, you’ll find that events help move your story forward, and give you the trigger needed to unpack your characters.

In literary fiction that overlaps with genre fiction, these events tend towards the dramatic, like the rise of a totalitarian government (think Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale ), significant historical events (Thomas Cromwell’s rise to power in Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall ) or fantastical elements like the widespread amnesia in Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant .

writing literature

In experimental, realist, or contemporary forms of literary fiction, the event can either be a small, otherwise insignificant moment, or a major life event. It all counts: an offhand comment made by a stranger, a death or birth, or an emotionally poignant moment like dropping off your child at nursery for the first time.

You don’t need a likeable protagonist

In genre fiction, the reader often roots for the main character: they want to see the unlucky-in-love writer find romance, the detective solve the crime, or the teenager “ come-of-age ”. But flawed characters are far more common in literary fiction — where stories sometimes function as character studies trying to understand how a character has come to be a certain way, or to simply observe or satirize the breadth of human behavior. 

How to write literary fiction | Gary Budden

A great example of a flawed character can be found in Eliza Clark’s Boy Parts , where Irina, an explicit photographer of random Newcastle men, falls into a self-destructive and violent spiral. She’s not a character to idolize, but one whose crazy downfall readers find compelling.

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David Foster Wallace’s short story collection Brief Interviews with Hideous Men also features flawed characters: here, fictional interviews reveal the egocentric, cruel behavior of certain men. The interview format singles out their words, which would otherwise be lost in a story merging plot with dialogue .

When writing literary fiction, set yourself free from the need to create benevolent, likeable figures: saintly figures are unrealistic and flat anyway, so your readers will thank you for more nuanced characterization .

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4. Consider how you might tell your story in unexpected ways

Literary fiction is associated with unusual and interesting approaches to storytelling — fractured chronology, unusual media, strange POV choices ( second person narration , anyone?)... 

Think about it this way: poets are used to paying attention to the way they present their ideas, weighing up the limitations and opportunities residing in each form — literary fiction borrows this flexibility from poetry, allowing you to be wildly experimental (or wildly traditional). Consider creative formal approaches that might help you illustrate your points: you can tell your story in future tense, in HTML, in texts, or start in medias res … As long as your story’s final form is an intentional choice and not a random afterthought, anything goes.

Don’t go crazy for no reason

writing literature

Don’t go wild for the sake of it. There should always be a reason behind a strange formal choice: the form needs to tie in with the content. Consider the novel ‘ little scratch ’ by Rebecca Watson, for example. While the story is told in experimental, stream-of-consciousness prose, the form perfectly mirrors the protagonist’s fraught emotional state after experiencing sexual assault. Without some solid reason for making such a grand stylistic choice, you run the risk of succumbing to literary fiction’s most common pitfall: pretension.

Don’t be afraid to 'steal'

There’s no such thing as plagiarism when it comes to writing techniques . Everyone’s influenced by everyone, so don’t worry so much about being unique: instead, ask yourself how you can learn from others’ approaches and how you can adapt successful techniques to improve your story. Just don’t pretend you innovated in a cultural vacuum, and acknowledge your influences when speaking about your work.

To give you an example of how you might take an idea and put your own spin on it, look at Maggie Nelson’s Bluets and Patricia Lockwood’s No One is Talking About This . While both use fragmented, first-person vignettes — telling a succession of seemingly unrelated stories — the intended effect is very different indeed.

Bluets uses confessional vignettes to intimately portray the writer’s melancholy, whereas No One is Talking About This uses vignettes to mirror the internet’s endless feed of information. The fragmented technique they share sets both texts up with a foundation of honesty, a sense of being confided to — so if you like something that another author has done, feel free to ‘steal’ it and see how it works in a different context!

5. Remember your story structure basics

writing literature

No matter how strange, experimental, or innovative a story is, it still needs to be coherently structured. When choosing the right structure for your project, establish what you want the reader to feel. The Fichtean Curve , for example, is ideal for narratives driven by suspense and tension, while Freytag’s Pyramid is suited to tragedies ending in total catastrophe. 

How you organize your story matters a great deal. As a minimum, you have to make sure your story opening and your ending are intriguing, complete, and compelling, and your middle isn’t uneventful. If there’s anything going on that distorts the linearity of time, you also need to spend some time clarifying the chronology of your narrative and ensuring it’s communicated clearly to your readers. 

If you aren’t sure about the structural choices you’ve made, a developmental edit by a professional editor is guaranteed to help you see things more clearly:

And here are a few more handy resources from our blog:

  • What is a Narrative Arc? A Guide to Storytelling Through Story Structure
  • What is an Inciting Incident? Definition and Examples
  • Rising Action: Where the Story Really Happens (With Examples)
  • What is a Denouement? Definition and Examples

You can get creative with structure, too

Need some inspiration for structuring your story? Here are some creative literary fiction structures:

  • Lauren Oyler’s Fake Accounts , is divided into four sections, metatextually titled Beginning, Middle (Something Happens), Middle (Nothing Happens), and Climax — the novel uses its structure to provide ironic commentary on the predictability of modern life.
  • Paul Auster's 4321 tells four parallel stories following four versions of the same protagonist — all genetically identical but whose lives are shaped by the whims of random chance. As the story cycles between the different incarnations of our hero, it throws a light on the universe's infinite possibilities and how every life can hinge on the question, "What if?"
  • Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude combines an overarching linear, chronological structure, with cyclical narrative elements that show how the past repeats itself, generation after generation.
  • Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent completely shatters the linearity of time, jumping backward and forward in time and between characters to mirror the explosive effect of its central event: a bombing. The reading experience parallels the experience of the characters, as they try to piece together what has happened from disparate shards of information.
  • Olivia Sudjic’s Sympathy follows a spiral-like structure, examining seemingly tangential information as it slowly makes its way to the core of the story. The effect is that it accurately imitates the experience of falling down the Internet rabbit-hole of a new obsession, which the novel uses as one of its central themes.

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6. Roll up your sleeves and mercilessly edit your first draft

Even if you feel your first draft is terrible, it can still emerge from the editing process as something you’re proud of. To master self-editing, check out our free course:

Free course: How to self-edit like a pro

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And one final tip, specific to literary fiction writing:

For prose, purple is not the only color

People tend to view literary fiction as something “difficult,” so they try to write in a complicated, ornate way that matches that impression. But while it’s true that readers of literary fiction will expect a carefully considered writing style, there is no single “literary” way to write, so don’t overthink it. 

Instead, use whatever writing style suits your story and its aims best. A lyrical, poetic style is perfectly fine if it fits your purpose: Madeline Miller’s Circe , for example, uses language reminiscent of classical poetry to fully immerse readers in the mythical environment. On the other hand, a lot of highly regarded literary fiction is minimalist in style, pared down to a clinical and precise use of simple words to quietly convey exact moments of daily life. Examples include Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake and Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love , a taste of which you can get below:

  • “So many years I had spent as a child sifting his bright features for his thoughts, trying to glimpse among them one that bore my name. But he was a harp with only one string, and the note it played was himself.” — Circe by Madeline Miller
  • “She has given birth to vagabonds. She is the keeper of all these names and numbers now, numbers she once knew by heart, numbers and addresses her children no longer remember.” — The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
  • “He poured more gin into his glass. He added an ice cube and a sliver of lime. We waited and sipped our drinks. Laura and I touched knees again. I put a hand on her warm thigh and left it there.” — What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver

The idea here is that you write without feeling self-conscious about whether your writing is literary enough. Write in a way that helps your story progress — that’s enough.

Like all writing, literary fiction is a genre to conquer by practising. Focus on the story you want to write, and not the story you think others want to see you write. It’s a freeing distinction in helping you break past writer’s block . 

We hope these tips have inspired you to listen to your own instincts more and other people less — writing literary fiction should be a chance to experiment and play with your writing, not an opportunity to admonish yourself for not being original enough. Have fun!

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Writing in Literature: Overview

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Welcome to the Purdue OWL

This page is brought to you by the OWL at Purdue University. When printing this page, you must include the entire legal notice.

Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.

These sections describe in detail the assignments students may complete when writing about literature. These sections also discuss different approaches (literary theory/criticism) students may use to write about literature. These resources build on the Writing About Literature materials.

In many ways, writing a paper for an English class is no different than writing one for any other class. You are still required to read the material thoroughly, do research, and make an argument of some kind. An essay on literature does present, however, some unique differences, which can cause trouble for the unprepared writer. These pages will provide you with some ideas on how to deal with those differences.

Getting Started

In English classes, two of the most common paper assignments are writing prompt papers and general research papers. Writing prompts are shorter papers assigned throughout the semester or as in-class assignments. Research papers (term papers) are usually much longer than writing prompt papers and are often due half-way through or near the end of the semester. They usually carry a large percentage of the grade.

Other OWL Resources:

  • Essay Writing
  • Writing About Literature
  • Writing a Literary Analysis Presentation

writing literature

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Automated literature review creation tool.

  • Academic Research: Create a literature review for your thesis, dissertation, or research paper.
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JASON RANTZ

Rantz: Seattle English students told it’s ‘white supremacy’ to love reading, writing

Feb 14, 2024, 7:08 PM

Image: Lincoln High School in Seattle teachings on white supremacy leads to controversy. Seattle wh...

Lincoln High School in Seattle teachings on white supremacy leads to controversy. (School photo courtesy of the school district website; quiz images provided by a parent in the school district)

(School photo courtesy of the school district website; quiz images provided by a parent in the school district)

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BY JASON RANTZ

The Jason Rantz Show, 3pm-7pm on KTTH

Students in a Seattle English class were told that their love of reading and writing is a characteristic of “white supremacy,” in the latest Seattle Public Schools high school controversy. The lesson plan has one local father speaking out, calling it “educational malpractice.”

As part of the Black Lives Matter at School Week, World Literature and Composition students at Lincoln High School were given a handout with definitions of the “9 characteristics of white supremacy,” according to the father of a student. Given the subject matter of the class, the father found it odd this particular lesson was brought up.

The Seattle high schoolers were told that “Worship of the Written Word” is white supremacy because it is “an erasure of the wide range of ways we communicate with each other.” By this definition, the very subject of World Literature and Composition is racist. It also chides the idea that we hyper-value written communication because it’s a form of “honoring only what is written and even then only what is written to a narrow standard, full of misinformation and lies.” The worksheet does not provide any context for what it actually means.

“I feel bad for any students who actually internalize stuff like this as it is setting them up for failure,” the father explained to the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH.

More from Jason Rantz: Communist Seattle teacher breaks silence to support Hamas, claim ‘ACAB’

Everything is ‘white supremacy’ at Seattle Public Schools

The father asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution against his child by Seattle Public Schools. He said the other pieces of the worksheet were equally disturbing.

The worksheet labels “objectivity,” “individualism,” and “perfectionism” as white supremacy. If students deny their own racism — or that any of the nine characteristics are legitimately racist — is also white supremacy. Denialism or being overly defensive is a racist example of an “entitlement to name what is an [sic] isn’t racism and that those with power have a right to be shielded from the stresses of antiracist work.”

The father argues the concepts are “incoherent and cannot stand any sort of reasoned analysis.” And he notes that it’s set up to ensure students accept every concept without ever questioning the claims.

“How is a 15-year-old kid supposed to object in class when ‘denial and defensiveness’ is itself a characteristic of white supremacy? This is truly educational malpractice.”

writing literature

Terms and definitions regarding white supremacy given to Lincoln High students.

White students told to apologize in yet another Seattle high school controversy

Another aspect of the white supremacy lesson at this Seattle school involved a video titled “Getting Called Out: How to Apologize” by Franchesca Ramsey. It’s reportedly presented in the context of white students expressing what the teacher views as “white supremacy.”

“Getting called out, in this context of this video, is when you say or do something that upholds the oppression of a marginalized group of people,” Ramsey says.

Ramsey says her advice is about becoming an ally and “doing the right thing.” She explains you shouldn’t “get defensive” by denying you’re oppressing marginalized people, even if you’re not actually oppressing marginalized people.

“What you really need to do is listen because this is where the other person is hopefully going to explain to you what you did wrong and how you can explain it,” she says.

In the context of the worksheet on white supremacy, it seems clear that students must merely accept that they are upholding oppression. Using the worksheet, if a student defends independence or a love of reading and writing, that student is supposed to accept that it’s white supremacist thinking and stop acting independently or loving to read and write.

writing literature

The worksheet on white supremacy.

Father says Seattle Public Schools isn’t serving students

The father says he taught his son to be on the lookout for this kind of Radical Left indoctrination. It’s why his son flagged the worksheets to him. But he notes that the curriculum doesn’t exactly help his kid on the subject he’s supposed to be learning.

“My problem with this curriculum is that this is supposed to be a writing and literature class and lessons like these do nothing to help my kid become a better writer,” the father explained. “I’m sure Lincoln administration will point to the high ELA proficiency scores but the high proportion of HCC [highly capable] kids (40% of the student body) is a big factor. With so many smart, hard working kids (white supremacists) it’s easy to support these luxury beliefs but system-wide only 63% of kids are proficient in English. Is this really the best use of class time? ”

The father also wonders how many students will fall for this toxic thinking across Seattle schools where concepts around white supremacy are so clearly partisan.

“I feel bad for any students who actually internalize stuff like this as it is setting them up for failure,” he said.

Seattle Public Schools spokespeople provided their normal response to requests for comment: none.

writing literature

‘How do white supremacy characteristics show up in your personal lives?’ was a question in a worksheet given to Lincoln High students.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show on weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the  podcast here . Follow Jason on  X, formerly known as Twitter ,  Instagram  and  Facebook .

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  1. Writing About Literature

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  2. A basic guide to writing a literature review

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  3. How to write a literature review: Tips, Format and Significance

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  1. Writing Literature review on history 2024

  2. How to write literature review #academicsuccess #thesiswriting #school #students

  3. Part 2 Writing the Review of Literature

  4. What is Literature??

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COMMENTS

  1. Writing a Literature Review

    A literature review is a document or section of a document that collects key sources on a topic and discusses those sources in conversation with each other (also called synthesis ). The lit review is an important genre in many disciplines, not just literature (i.e., the study of works of literature such as novels and plays).

  2. Writing in Literature

    Purdue OWL Subject-Specific Writing Writing in Literature Writing in Literature Writing in Literature This OWL sections contains resources for writing about literature across a variety of genres and contexts. In this section Writing About Poetry Subsections Writing About Film Literary Terms Writing About Fiction Writing About Literature

  3. Introduction

    Writing About Literature Introduction Introduction What Makes a Good Literature Paper? An argument When you write an extended literary essay, often one requiring research, you are essentially making an argument. You are arguing that your perspective-an interpretation, an evaluative judgment, or a critical evaluation-is a valid one.

  4. How to Write a Literature Review

    There are five key steps to writing a literature review: Search for relevant literature Evaluate sources Identify themes, debates, and gaps Outline the structure Write your literature review

  5. How to Write a Literature Review: Six Steps to Get You from ...

    For people writing literature reviews for articles or books, this system also could work, especially when you are writing in a field with which you are already familiar. The mere fact of having a system can make the literature review seem much less daunting, so I recommend this system for anyone who feels overwhelmed by the prospect of writing ...

  6. Literature Reviews

    A literature review discusses published information in a particular subject area, and sometimes information in a particular subject area within a certain time period. A literature review can be just a simple summary of the sources, but it usually has an organizational pattern and combines both summary and synthesis.

  7. Writing a Literature Review

    Include References/Works Cited List. As you are writing the literature review you will mention the author names and the publication years in your text, but you will still need to compile comprehensive citations for each entry at the end of your review. Follow APA, MLA, or Chicago style guidelines, as your course requires.

  8. The Writing Center

    In a review of the literature, the writer provides an overview of the most important research and scholarship on a specific topic, problem, or question. (In this context, "literature" refers to the important scholarly sources on a topic, not fiction, poetry, or drama.) The lit review is often said to provide "a map of the field" or "a sense of ...

  9. Writing about Literature

    Learn how to write a literary analysis that establishes an argument, supports your claims with evidence, and relates the story or poem to the human experience. Follow the steps for identifying the conflict, drafting a claim, textual support, and the "so what?" factor. See examples of literary analysis and a video tutorial.

  10. Ten Simple Rules for Writing a Literature Review

    Literature reviews are in great demand in most scientific fields. Their need stems from the ever-increasing output of scientific publications .For example, compared to 1991, in 2008 three, eight, and forty times more papers were indexed in Web of Science on malaria, obesity, and biodiversity, respectively .Given such mountains of papers, scientists cannot be expected to examine in detail every ...

  11. 6. Write the review

    Literature Reviews; 6. Write the review; Search this Guide Search. Literature Reviews. An overview of conducting literature reviews in the social sciences and STEM fields. ... Examine the literature thoroughly and systematically, maintaining organization — don't just paraphrase researchers, add your own interpretation and discuss the ...

  12. How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay

    Step 1: Reading the text and identifying literary devices The first step is to carefully read the text (s) and take initial notes. As you read, pay attention to the things that are most intriguing, surprising, or even confusing in the writing—these are things you can dig into in your analysis.

  13. Writing about Literature

    Writing about Literature Written by Simon Lewsen, University College Writing Centre Printable PDF Version Fair-Use Policy Like all university essays, the English paper requires critical thought and strong argumentation, but its focus on language and close textual analysis makes it unique.

  14. Literature

    literature, a body of written works. The name has traditionally been applied to those imaginative works of poetry and prose distinguished by the intentions of their authors and the perceived aesthetic excellence of their execution.

  15. The art of writing literature review: What do we know and what do we

    The art of writing literature review: What do we know and what do we need to know? - ScienceDirect Volume 29, Issue 4, August 2020, 101717 The art of writing literature review: What do we know and what do we need to know? Justin Paul a b , Alex Rialp Criado c d Add to Mendeley https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ibusrev.2020.101717 Get rights and content

  16. What is Literature? || Definition & Examples

    1. a quality of invention or inventiveness in the text itself; 2. the reader's sense that what they are reading is singular. In other words, the unique vision of the writer herself. 3. a sense of 'otherness' that pushes the reader to see the world around them in a new way

  17. Writing About Literature

    Students, scholars, bloggers, reviewers, fans, and book-group members write about literature, but so do authors themselves. Through the ways they engage with their own texts and those of other artists, sampling, remixing, and rethinking texts and genres, writers reflect on and inspire questions about the creative process. We will examine Mary Shelley's reshaping of Milton's _Paradise Lost ...

  18. Literature

    Demystifying the process Writing an analysis of a piece of literature can be a mystifying process. First, literary analyses (or papers that offer an interpretation of literary texts) rely on the assumption that stories, poems, and plays must mean something. How do such texts mean something?

  19. The 31 Literary Devices You Must Know

    Literary devices are techniques that writers use to create a special and pointed effect in their writing, to convey information, or to help readers understand their writing on a deeper level. Often, literary devices are used in writing for emphasis or clarity.

  20. Writing and Literature: Composition as Inquiry, Learning, Thinking, and

    Writing and Literature is a refreshing textbook that links learning, literature, and life. In the age of Buzzfeeds, hashtags, and Tweets, students are increasingly favoring conversational writing and regarding academic writing as less pertinent in their personal lives, education, and future careers. Writing and Literature: Composition as ...

  21. 1.2: Why Read and Write About Literature?

    Benefits of Literature. Studies show reading literature may help. promote empathy and social skills (Castano and Kidd) alleviate symptoms of depression (Billington et al.) business leaders succeed (Coleman) prevent dementia by stimulating the mind (Thorpe) These are just a few of the studied benefits of literature.

  22. How to Write Literary Fiction in 6 Steps

    How to Write Literary Fiction in 6 Steps Literary fiction can be a slippery genre to write within, seeing how it avoids easy definitions. In many ways, that's a good thing: multifaceted and expansive, it's probably the category of books that contains the widest range of stories, and the one readers always approach with a readiness for surprise.

  23. Overview

    Writing in Literature: Overview In many ways, writing a paper for an English class is no different than writing one for any other class. You are still required to read the material thoroughly, do research, and make an argument of some kind.

  24. AI Literature Review Generator

    Generate a comprehensive literature review based on a specific research topic. HyperWrite's AI Literature Review Generator is a revolutionary tool that automates the process of creating a comprehensive literature review. Powered by the most advanced AI models, this tool can search and analyze scholarly articles, books, and other resources to identify key themes, methodologies, findings, and ...

  25. Books on Writing and Authorship

    resources to support literature and writing research. Recommended books on literature; Databases and journal articles; Citing Sources in MLA; Books on Writing and Authorship. Books; Ebooks; Nonfiction writing; Need Help? Sr. Paper; Books. Write Better by Andrew T. LePeau. Call Number: PN 145 .L4 2019 Reference Collection.

  26. Rantz: Seattle students told it's 'white supremacy' to love reading

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