writing literary analysis paper
Choosing your literary essay topic on Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee is the first step to writing your literary analysis paper.
After reading the novel, you should be able to decide in which direction you’d like to take your paper.
Topics/ approaches (Focus on only one of the following, though some may overlap):
Example: Analyze not only the chosen characters’ personality but also what role they played in advancing the overall theme of the novel.
Examples: It could be hope for change, both in South Africa and in David Lurie. OR: the disgrace David Lurie has suffered over the affair with a student and how that matches the disgrace South Africa has suffered through apartheid.
Example: Analyze one or more scenes in which hope that change for the better is possible through a character’s remorse and subsequent action, for example, the scene in which David Lurie apologizes to the parents OR the scene in which Lucy gets raped.
The possible issue to be addressed in introduction or conclusion:
Characteristics that make the work typical (or atypical) of the period, the setting, or the author that produced it. For this information, you must go to a library database (you must read “How to Access Miami Dade Databases” if you don’t know how) or a valid search site, such as Google Scholar (there is often a fee for this one).
Do not open or close with biographical material on the author. Biographical material is important as it influences the author’s writing only and should not be a focus of your paper.
Guidelines for Literary Essay
Be aware that you will be writing about a novel, which in its broadest sense is any extended fictional narrative almost always in prose, in which the representation of character is often the focus. Good authors use the elements of fiction, such as plot, theme, setting etc. purposefully, with a very clear goal in mind. One of the paths to literary analysis is to discover what the author’s purpose is with each of his choices. Avoid the problem that many students have, which is to hold the erroneous assumption that simply retelling what happened in detail is good enough (no, it is not). Plot summary is necessary, but not the intended goal in a literary essay.
In addition to being written at college level, your essay must meet the following criteria.
The following are not acceptable sources:
Why not? Because for one, they are not original sources. Encyclopedias and textbooks are useful to provide an overview or introduction to a topic for complete beginners. These are meant to get you started on a subject. They are not research documents.Wikipedia: Many instructors forbid reference to Wikipedia at all. Some professors do allow its use, and the use of encyclopedias in general, but don’t do it. It’s generally reliable for checking routine facts and extremely specialized topics, but Wikipedia, actually all encyclopedias suffer from the problem that they are not a primary sources. Wikipedia has the added problem that although it is working on correcting errors, it still has weak quality control. It is susceptible to deliberate sabotage, vandalism, even censorship. So don’t use it if you’re not familiar enough with the subject matter to spot biases or errors, and don’t cite it in any academic paper at all.
Remember: While you assemble your sources, keep your handbook open (or your online source handy). There are too many details to remember everything.