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Writing a literary essay

Writing a literary essay - Organizing the Literary Essay 1...

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Organizing the Literary Essay 1. Introductory paragraph A. Your background should be as focused as possible. The idea is to introduce your own thesis argument about a very specific aspect or question in the text. You don’t have to worry about covering the entire text or making broad generalizations about how members of a society regard a particular issue. (The latter would be hard to defend in a brief paper, anyway.) B. You must have a thesis argument. The thesis is usually found in the intro paragraph. The thesis is evaluated for its clarity, focus, and creativity. Is it a point that we wouldn’t normally get on a first reading of the text? Does the reader get a sense of why this point is so important or interesting to make? II. Body paragraphs of the essay A. Organization -Each body paragraph should have one unique main point that is a stage in your developing thesis argument. (Watch out for repetition within and across paragraphs. If a paragraph provides general background rather than support for your specific argument, consider making it part of your introduction or deleting it.) -Make sure there are logical transitions between paragraphs to show how these points in your argument are connected. Is it clear, in other words, why you bring up each point in the order that you do? -There’s no need to summarize an argument at the end of a paragraph. B. Support All of the supporting evidence for your claims in each body paragraph should come from close analysis of quoted passages or, to a lesser extent, some analysis of plot details . Use paraphrase mainly in the pre-writing process. See class handout on paraphrase versus analysis . III. Conclusion The conclusion in a literary paper doesn’t restate the opening thesis argument. Instead: -You can look at some of the implications of your argument as a whole or of a point near the end of your discussion. For example, now that you have evaluated the stages in Raina’s development, how does Fowler resolve the paradox of an independent personality being seen as “flawed”? Why might she conclude by making this character a potential mass murderer without telling us exactly what did occur? -Avoid making too broad a closing claim (e.g., “Fowler condemns the contradictions in any definition of the family”), just as you would avoid it in the introduction.
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Developing the Thesis In an analytical or persuasive paper, a topic is the general subject you wish to explore. The thesis is the specific argument you will make from that topic. The difference between a good thesis and an outstanding one is its clarity and creativity. 1. Try to choose an argument focused enough to be discussed in the given paper length. Example: "Women were often perceived as the weaker sex in early American culture" is the thesis for an encyclopedia. The argument that Isaac Asimov, in one particular story, questions gender stereotypes through the presence of an alien is more appropriate for a 4- 5-page paper.
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