Literary Analysis Essay Assignment Sheet Examples

Using literary quotations

Use the guidelines below to learn how to use literary quotations.


 

For further information, check out Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Acknowledging Sources, or you may wish to see when the Writing Center is next offering its workshop entitled Intro to Literary Analysis.

Incorporating Quotations

  • As you choose quotations for a literary analysis, remember the purpose of quoting.

  • Your paper develops an argument about what the author of the text is doing--how the text "works."

  • You use quotations to support this argument; that is, you select, present, and discuss material from the text specifically to "prove" your point--to make your case--in much the same way a lawyer brings evidence before a jury.

  • Quoting for any other purpose is counterproductive.

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Punctuating and Indenting Quotations

For the most part, you must reproduce the spelling, capitalization, and internal punctuation of the original exactly.

The following alterations are acceptable:

Changing the closing punctuation

You may alter the closing punctuation of a quotation in order to incorporate it into a sentence of your own:

"Books are not life," Lawrence emphasized.

Commas and periods go inside the closing quotation marks; the other punctuation marks go outside.

Lawrence insisted that books "are not life"; however, he wrote exultantly about the power of the novel.

Why does Lawrence need to point out that "Books are not life"?

Using the slash when quoting poetry

When quoting lines of poetry up to three lines long (which are not indented, see Indenting quotations), separate one line of poetry from another with a slash mark (see examples in Incorporating Quotations into Sentences).

Using Ellipsis Points for Omitted Material

If for the sake of brevity you wish to omit material from a quoted passage, use ellipsis points (three spaced periods) to indicate the omission.

(See this sample paragraph. The writer quoted only those portions of the original sentences that related to the point of the analysis.)

Using Square Brackets when Altering Material

When quoting, you may alter grammatical forms such as the tense of a verb or the person of a pronoun so that the quotation conforms grammatically to your own prose; indicate these alterations by placing square brackets around the changed form.

In the following quotation "her" replaces the "your" of the original so that the quote fits the point of view of the paper (third person):

When he hears Cordelia's answer, Lear seems surprised, but not dumbfounded. He advises her to "mend [her] speech a little." He had expected her to praise him the most; but compared to her sisters', her remarks seem almost insulting (1.1.95).

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Indenting Quotations

Prose or verse quotations less than four lines long are not indented. For quotations of this length, use the patterns described above.

Indent "longer" quotations in a block about ten spaces in from the left margin; when a quotation is indented, quotation marks are not used.

The MLA Handbook (1995) recommends that indented quotations be double-spaced, but many instructors prefer them single-spaced. The meaning of "longer" varies slightly from one style system to another, but a general rule is to indent quotations that are more than two (or three) lines of verse or three (or four) lines of prose.

Indent dialogue between characters in a play. Place the speaker's name before the speech quoted:

CAESAR: Et tu, Brute! Then, fall, Caesar!

CINNA: Liberty! Freedom! Tyranny is dead! (3.1.77-78)

For more information see Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Acknowledging Sources - How to Quote a Source.

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Emphasizing Your Ideas

What to include in literary analysis

Take a look at this sample paragraph. It includes 3 basic kinds of materials:

  1. statements expressing the student's own ideas about the relationship Woolf is creating;

  2. data or evidence from the text in summarized, paraphrased, and quoted form; and

  3. discussion of how the data support the writer's interpretation.

The quotations are used in accordance with the writer's purpose, i.e. to show how the development of Mrs. Ramsey's feelings indicates something about her personality.

Should I quote?

Quoting is only one of several ways to present textual material as evidence.

You can also refer to textual data, summarize, and paraphrase. You will often want merely to refer or point to passages (as in the third sentence in the sample paragraph) that contribute to your argument.

In other cases you will want to paraphrase, i.e. "translate" the original into your own words, again instead of quoting. Summarize or paraphrase when it is not so much the language of the text that justifies your position, but the substance or content.

Quote selectively

Similarly, after you have decided that you do want to use material in quoted form, quote only the portions of the text specifically relevant to your point.

Think of the text in terms of units--words, phrases, sentences, and groups of sentences (paragraphs, stanzas)--and use only the units you need.

If it is particular words or phrases that "prove" your point, you do not need to quote the sentences they appear in; rather, incorporate the words and phrases into sentences expressing your own ideas.

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Maintaining Clarity and Readability

Introduce your quotations

Introduce a quotation either by indicating what it is intended to show or by naming its source, or both.

For non-narrative poetry, it's customary to attribute quotations to "the speaker"; for a story with a narrator, to "the narrator."

For plays, novels, and other works with characters, identify characters as you quote them.

Do not use two quotations in a row, without intervening material of your own.

For further information see Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Acknowledging Sources - How to Quote a Source.

Pay attention to verb tense

Tense is a tricky issue. It's customary in literary analysis to use the present tense; it is at the present time that you (and your reader) are looking at the text.

But events in a narrative or drama take place in a time sequence. You will often need to use a past tense to refer to events that took place before the moment you are presently discussing:

When he hears Cordelia's answer, Lear seems surprised, but not dumbfounded. He advises her to "mend [her] speech a little." He had expected her to praise him the most; but compared to her sisters', her remarks seem almost insulting (1.1.95).

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Documenting Quotations

Follow your course instructor's guidelines for documenting sources. If your instructor hasn't told you which system to use to document sources, ask.

Keep in mind that when you are writing a paper about the same text and quoting from the same edition that everyone else in the class is, instructors will often allow you to use informal documentation. In this case just include the page number in parentheses after the quotation or reference to the text. To be sure, though, you should ask your course instructor.

The documentation style used in this pages is that presented in the 1995 MLA Handbook, but other style systems are commonly used. The Writing Center has information about the rules of documentation in general and about a number of the most common systems, such as APA, APSA, CBE, Chicago/Turabian, MLA, and Numbered References.

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E238 Essay Assignment Example

This essay follows the traditional compare and contrast assignment of looking at how two texts treat a narrative convention, but it is unique in that it gives two options for focus, the second of which allows students to venture into the realm of cultural studies by comparing a text read in class with a text from popular culture (a movie or television program).

Essay #1 Assignment

Worth: 15% of the course’s overall grade

Requirements: 4-6 pages. Stapled.  Double-spaced. Times New Roman 12 point font. All citations will be MLA parenthetical citation.  Include a “Works Cited” page.

Option #1: A common type of literary analysis asks you to compare and contrast elements of two different texts we’ve read (including the Kafka stories).  For example, you could analyze the similarities and differences between two characters, or you could examine how theme is handled in similar and dissimilar ways in two different texts.

For this assignment, you will draw on the writing skills that you have practiced in your interpretive responses up until now. You will focus your response, you will develop it, and you will use specific textual evidence. The difference is that you will be writing about two texts instead of one (along with new length requirements).
You may choose from any of the readings we have done this semester (or will do) up to the time this essay is due.

Option #2: Instead of comparing two written texts, you may extend your reading skills into the “texts” of the everyday by comparing and contrasting your reading of an assigned text with a reading of a “text” in popular culture.

So, for example, you could discuss the motif of privacy in We and use your reading of that text (supported with specific textual examples) to explore the presentation or construction of privacy in a popular movie or television show (such as Big Brother). Does this popular text reinforce or challenge the image of privacy that Zamyatin creates in his text? You will need to provide specific evidence from both texts to support your overall claim or thesis.

Please Note:

Be sure that you follow the standards of academic writing. Your paper will require a brief introduction, a concise and focused claim (or thesis statement), two to three main points you will address, solid reasoning, and textual evidence along with an explanation of its significance.  See the criteria sheet for more information.

**Both of these options have a lot of flexibility. Feel free to meet with me to talk through some ideas early in your writing process, or send me an email to get some feedback on specific ideas you are thinking about.

Criteria
This is both a reading and a writing course, designed to sharpen your skills of textual analysis, argumentative writing, and critical thinking. To that end, your essays will be graded using the following criteria:

Presentation. Proofreading; style and readability; proper documentation (Modern Language Association Style); a clear and specific title; clear context for someone who hasn’t read the work; effective introduction and conclusion; proper format. (See appendix A for formatting guidance.)

Organization. Thesis; topic and closing sentences; relevant, focused, organized and developed paragraphs; effective sentence and paragraph transitions; clear and understandable overall organization.

Evidence/support. Specific, accurate, convincing details; effective and relevant quotations. (See appendix B for documentation information.)

Analysis. Clear interpretation; added insight into the literary work; overall coherence of argument. A grade of A is difficult (but not impossible) to receive. A B grade indicates that you have submitted work that is above average but not exemplary in quality. Receiving a C suggests that you have met the requirements of the assignments but have not gone further than the average. Your effort was adequate but not remarkable. A D means that you have written a below-average essay because you have not met some of the assignment requirements, have careless grammatical, mechanical, or punctuation errors, or have presented unclear, disorganized writing. If you receive an F, your essay doesn’t meet the assignment requirements, doesn’t answer the written assignment question, or includes an excessive number of errors.


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