beginner's guide to literary analysis

Understanding literature & how to write literary analysis.

Literary analysis is the foundation of every college and high school English class. Once you can comprehend written work and respond to it, the next step is to learn how to think critically and complexly about a work of literature in order to analyze its elements and establish ideas about its meaning.

If that sounds daunting, it shouldn’t. Literary analysis is really just a way of thinking creatively about what you read. The practice takes you beyond the storyline and into the motives behind it. 

While an author might have had a specific intention when they wrote their book, there’s still no right or wrong way to analyze a literary text—just your way. You can use literary theories, which act as “lenses” through which you can view a text. Or you can use your own creativity and critical thinking to identify a literary device or pattern in a text and weave that insight into your own argument about the text’s underlying meaning. 

Now, if that sounds fun, it should , because it is. Here, we’ll lay the groundwork for performing literary analysis, including when writing analytical essays, to help you read books like a critic. 

What Is Literary Analysis?

As the name suggests, literary analysis is an analysis of a work, whether that’s a novel, play, short story, or poem. Any analysis requires breaking the content into its component parts and then examining how those parts operate independently and as a whole. In literary analysis, those parts can be different devices and elements—such as plot, setting, themes, symbols, etcetera—as well as elements of style, like point of view or tone. 

When performing analysis, you consider some of these different elements of the text and then form an argument for why the author chose to use them. You can do so while reading and during class discussion, but it’s particularly important when writing essays. 

Literary analysis is notably distinct from summary. When you write a summary , you efficiently describe the work’s main ideas or plot points in order to establish an overview of the work. While you might use elements of summary when writing analysis, you should do so minimally. You can reference a plot line to make a point, but it should be done so quickly so you can focus on why that plot line matters . In summary (see what we did there?), a summary focuses on the “ what ” of a text, while analysis turns attention to the “ how ” and “ why .”

While literary analysis can be broad, covering themes across an entire work, it can also be very specific, and sometimes the best analysis is just that. Literary critics have written thousands of words about the meaning of an author’s single word choice; while you might not want to be quite that particular, there’s a lot to be said for digging deep in literary analysis, rather than wide. 

Although you’re forming your own argument about the work, it’s not your opinion . You should avoid passing judgment on the piece and instead objectively consider what the author intended, how they went about executing it, and whether or not they were successful in doing so. Literary criticism is similar to literary analysis, but it is different in that it does pass judgement on the work. Criticism can also consider literature more broadly, without focusing on a singular work. 

Once you understand what constitutes (and doesn’t constitute) literary analysis, it’s easy to identify it. Here are some examples of literary analysis and its oft-confused counterparts: 

Summary: In “The Fall of the House of Usher,” the narrator visits his friend Roderick Usher and witnesses his sister escape a horrible fate.  

Opinion: In “The Fall of the House of Usher,” Poe uses his great Gothic writing to establish a sense of spookiness that is enjoyable to read. 

Literary Analysis: “Throughout ‘The Fall of the House of Usher,’ Poe foreshadows the fate of Madeline by creating a sense of claustrophobia for the reader through symbols, such as in the narrator’s inability to leave and the labyrinthine nature of the house. 

In summary, literary analysis is:

  • Breaking a work into its components
  • Identifying what those components are and how they work in the text
  • Developing an understanding of how they work together to achieve a goal 
  • Not an opinion, but subjective 
  • Not a summary, though summary can be used in passing 
  • Best when it deeply, rather than broadly, analyzes a literary element

Literary Analysis and Other Works

As discussed above, literary analysis is often performed upon a single work—but it doesn’t have to be. It can also be performed across works to consider the interplay of two or more texts. Regardless of whether or not the works were written about the same thing, or even within the same time period, they can have an influence on one another or a connection that’s worth exploring. And reading two or more texts side by side can help you to develop insights through comparison and contrast.

For example, Paradise Lost is an epic poem written in the 17th century, based largely on biblical narratives written some 700 years before and which later influenced 19th century poet John Keats. The interplay of works can be obvious, as here, or entirely the inspiration of the analyst. As an example of the latter, you could compare and contrast the writing styles of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Edgar Allan Poe who, while contemporaries in terms of time, were vastly different in their content. 

Additionally, literary analysis can be performed between a work and its context. Authors are often speaking to the larger context of their times, be that social, political, religious, economic, or artistic. A valid and interesting form is to compare the author’s context to the work, which is done by identifying and analyzing elements that are used to make an argument about the writer’s time or experience. 

For example, you could write an essay about how Hemingway’s struggles with mental health and paranoia influenced his later work, or how his involvement in the Spanish Civil War influenced his early work. One approach focuses more on his personal experience, while the other turns to the context of his times—both are valid. 

Why Does Literary Analysis Matter? 

Sometimes an author wrote a work of literature strictly for entertainment’s sake, but more often than not, they meant something more. Whether that was a missive on world peace, commentary about femininity, or an allusion to their experience as an only child, the author probably wrote their work for a reason, and understanding that reason—or the many reasons—can actually make reading a lot more meaningful. 

Performing literary analysis as a form of study unquestionably makes you a better reader. It’s also likely that it will improve other skills, too, like critical thinking, creativity, debate, and reasoning. 

At its grandest and most idealistic, literary analysis even has the ability to make the world a better place. By reading and analyzing works of literature, you are able to more fully comprehend the perspectives of others. Cumulatively, you’ll broaden your own perspectives and contribute more effectively to the things that matter to you. 

Literary Terms to Know for Literary Analysis 

There are hundreds of literary devices you could consider during your literary analysis, but there are some key tools most writers utilize to achieve their purpose—and therefore you need to know in order to understand that purpose. These common devices include: 

  • Characters: The people (or entities) who play roles in the work. The protagonist is the main character in the work. 
  • Conflict: The conflict is the driving force behind the plot, the event that causes action in the narrative, usually on the part of the protagonist
  • Context : The broader circumstances surrounding the work political and social climate in which it was written or the experience of the author. It can also refer to internal context, and the details presented by the narrator 
  • Diction : The word choice used by the narrator or characters 
  • Genre: A category of literature characterized by agreed upon similarities in the works, such as subject matter and tone
  • Imagery : The descriptive or figurative language used to paint a picture in the reader’s mind so they can picture the story’s plot, characters, and setting 
  • Metaphor: A figure of speech that uses comparison between two unlike objects for dramatic or poetic effect
  • Narrator: The person who tells the story. Sometimes they are a character within the story, but sometimes they are omniscient and removed from the plot. 
  • Plot : The storyline of the work
  • Point of view: The perspective taken by the narrator, which skews the perspective of the reader 
  • Setting : The time and place in which the story takes place. This can include elements like the time period, weather, time of year or day, and social or economic conditions 
  • Symbol : An object, person, or place that represents an abstract idea that is greater than its literal meaning 
  • Syntax : The structure of a sentence, either narration or dialogue, and the tone it implies
  • Theme : A recurring subject or message within the work, often commentary on larger societal or cultural ideas
  • Tone : The feeling, attitude, or mood the text presents

How to Perform Literary Analysis

Step 1: read the text thoroughly.

Literary analysis begins with the literature itself, which means performing a close reading of the text. As you read, you should focus on the work. That means putting away distractions (sorry, smartphone) and dedicating a period of time to the task at hand. 

It’s also important that you don’t skim or speed read. While those are helpful skills, they don’t apply to literary analysis—or at least not this stage. 

Step 2: Take Notes as You Read  

As you read the work, take notes about different literary elements and devices that stand out to you. Whether you highlight or underline in text, use sticky note tabs to mark pages and passages, or handwrite your thoughts in a notebook, you should capture your thoughts and the parts of the text to which they correspond. This—the act of noticing things about a literary work—is literary analysis. 

Step 3: Notice Patterns 

As you read the work, you’ll begin to notice patterns in the way the author deploys language, themes, and symbols to build their plot and characters. As you read and these patterns take shape, begin to consider what they could mean and how they might fit together. 

As you identify these patterns, as well as other elements that catch your interest, be sure to record them in your notes or text. Some examples include: 

  • Circle or underline words or terms that you notice the author uses frequently, whether those are nouns (like “eyes” or “road”) or adjectives (like “yellow” or “lush”).
  • Highlight phrases that give you the same kind of feeling. For example, if the narrator describes an “overcast sky,” a “dreary morning,” and a “dark, quiet room,” the words aren’t the same, but the feeling they impart and setting they develop are similar. 
  • Underline quotes or prose that define a character’s personality or their role in the text.
  • Use sticky tabs to color code different elements of the text, such as specific settings or a shift in the point of view. 

By noting these patterns, comprehensive symbols, metaphors, and ideas will begin to come into focus.  

Step 4: Consider the Work as a Whole, and Ask Questions

This is a step that you can do either as you read, or after you finish the text. The point is to begin to identify the aspects of the work that most interest you, and you could therefore analyze in writing or discussion. 

Questions you could ask yourself include: 

  • What aspects of the text do I not understand?
  • What parts of the narrative or writing struck me most?
  • What patterns did I notice?
  • What did the author accomplish really well?
  • What did I find lacking?
  • Did I notice any contradictions or anything that felt out of place?  
  • What was the purpose of the minor characters?
  • What tone did the author choose, and why? 

The answers to these and more questions will lead you to your arguments about the text. 

Step 5: Return to Your Notes and the Text for Evidence

As you identify the argument you want to make (especially if you’re preparing for an essay), return to your notes to see if you already have supporting evidence for your argument. That’s why it’s so important to take notes or mark passages as you read—you’ll thank yourself later!

If you’re preparing to write an essay, you’ll use these passages and ideas to bolster your argument—aka, your thesis. There will likely be multiple different passages you can use to strengthen multiple different aspects of your argument. Just be sure to cite the text correctly! 

If you’re preparing for class, your notes will also be invaluable. When your teacher or professor leads the conversation in the direction of your ideas or arguments, you’ll be able to not only proffer that idea but back it up with textual evidence. That’s an A+ in class participation. 

Step 6: Connect These Ideas Across the Narrative

Whether you’re in class or writing an essay, literary analysis isn’t complete until you’ve considered the way these ideas interact and contribute to the work as a whole. You can find and present evidence, but you still have to explain how those elements work together and make up your argument. 

How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay

When conducting literary analysis while reading a text or discussing it in class, you can pivot easily from one argument to another (or even switch sides if a classmate or teacher makes a compelling enough argument). 

But when writing literary analysis, your objective is to propose a specific, arguable thesis and convincingly defend it. In order to do so, you need to fortify your argument with evidence from the text (and perhaps secondary sources) and an authoritative tone. 

A successful literary analysis essay depends equally on a thoughtful thesis, supportive analysis, and presenting these elements masterfully. We’ll review how to accomplish these objectives below. 

Step 1: Read the Text. Maybe Read It Again. 

Constructing an astute analytical essay requires a thorough knowledge of the text. As you read, be sure to note any passages, quotes, or ideas that stand out. These could serve as the future foundation of your thesis statement. Noting these sections now will help you when you need to gather evidence. 

The more familiar you become with the text, the better (and easier!) your essay will be. Familiarity with the text allows you to speak (or in this case, write) to it confidently. If you only skim the book, your lack of rich understanding will be evident in your essay. Alternatively, if you read the text closely—especially if you read it more than once, or at least carefully revisit important passages—your own writing will be filled with insight that goes beyond a basic understanding of the storyline. 

Step 2: Brainstorm Potential Topics 

Because you took detailed notes while reading the text, you should have a list of potential topics at the ready. Take time to review your notes, highlighting any ideas or questions you had that feel interesting. You should also return to the text and look for any passages that stand out to you. 

When considering potential topics, you should prioritize ideas that you find interesting. It won’t only make the whole process of writing an essay more fun, your enthusiasm for the topic will probably improve the quality of your argument, and maybe even your writing. Just like it’s obvious when a topic interests you in a conversation, it’s obvious when a topic interests the writer of an essay (and even more obvious when it doesn’t). 

Your topic ideas should also be specific, unique, and arguable. A good way to think of topics is that they’re the answer to fairly specific questions. As you begin to brainstorm, first think of questions you have about the text. Questions might focus on the plot, such as: Why did the author choose to deviate from the projected storyline? Or why did a character’s role in the narrative shift? Questions might also consider the use of a literary device, such as: Why does the narrator frequently repeat a phrase or comment on a symbol? Or why did the author choose to switch points of view each chapter? 

Once you have a thesis question , you can begin brainstorming answers—aka, potential thesis statements . At this point, your answers can be fairly broad. Once you land on a question-statement combination that feels right, you’ll then look for evidence in the text that supports your answer (and helps you define and narrow your thesis statement). 

For example, after reading “ The Fall of the House of Usher ,” you might be wondering, Why are Roderick and Madeline twins?, Or even: Why does their relationship feel so creepy?” Maybe you noticed (and noted) that the narrator was surprised to find out they were twins, or perhaps you found that the narrator’s tone tended to shift and become more anxious when discussing the interactions of the twins.

Once you come up with your thesis question, you can identify a broad answer, which will become the basis for your thesis statement. In response to the questions above, your answer might be, “Poe emphasizes the close relationship of Roderick and Madeline to foreshadow that their deaths will be close, too.” 

Step 3: Gather Evidence 

Once you have your topic (or you’ve narrowed it down to two or three), return to the text (yes, again) to see what evidence you can find to support it. If you’re thinking of writing about the relationship between Roderick and Madeline in “The Fall of the House of Usher,” look for instances where they engaged in the text. 

This is when your knowledge of literary devices comes in clutch. Carefully study the language around each event in the text that might be relevant to your topic. How does Poe’s diction or syntax change during the interactions of the siblings? How does the setting reflect or contribute to their relationship? What imagery or symbols appear when Roderick and Madeline are together? 

By finding and studying evidence within the text, you’ll strengthen your topic argument—or, just as valuably, discount the topics that aren’t strong enough for analysis. 

what is literature essay

Step 4: Consider Secondary Sources 

In addition to returning to the literary work you’re studying for evidence, you can also consider secondary sources that reference or speak to the work. These can be articles from journals you find on JSTOR, books that consider the work or its context, or articles your teacher shared in class. 

While you can use these secondary sources to further support your idea, you should not overuse them. Make sure your topic remains entirely differentiated from that presented in the source. 

Step 5: Write a Working Thesis Statement

Once you’ve gathered evidence and narrowed down your topic, you’re ready to refine that topic into a thesis statement. As you continue to outline and write your paper, this thesis statement will likely change slightly, but this initial draft will serve as the foundation of your essay. It’s like your north star: Everything you write in your essay is leading you back to your thesis. 

Writing a great thesis statement requires some real finesse. A successful thesis statement is: 

  • Debatable : You shouldn’t simply summarize or make an obvious statement about the work. Instead, your thesis statement should take a stand on an issue or make a claim that is open to argument. You’ll spend your essay debating—and proving—your argument. 
  • Demonstrable : You need to be able to prove, through evidence, that your thesis statement is true. That means you have to have passages from the text and correlative analysis ready to convince the reader that you’re right. 
  • Specific : In most cases, successfully addressing a theme that encompasses a work in its entirety would require a book-length essay. Instead, identify a thesis statement that addresses specific elements of the work, such as a relationship between characters, a repeating symbol, a key setting, or even something really specific like the speaking style of a character. 

Example: By depicting the relationship between Roderick and Madeline to be stifling and almost otherworldly in its closeness, Poe foreshadows both Madeline’s fate and Roderick’s inability to choose a different fate for himself. 

Step 6: Write an Outline 

You have your thesis, you have your evidence—but how do you put them together? A great thesis statement (and therefore a great essay) will have multiple arguments supporting it, presenting different kinds of evidence that all contribute to the singular, main idea presented in your thesis. 

Review your evidence and identify these different arguments, then organize the evidence into categories based on the argument they support. These ideas and evidence will become the body paragraphs of your essay. 

For example, if you were writing about Roderick and Madeline as in the example above, you would pull evidence from the text, such as the narrator’s realization of their relationship as twins; examples where the narrator’s tone of voice shifts when discussing their relationship; imagery, like the sounds Roderick hears as Madeline tries to escape; and Poe’s tendency to use doubles and twins in his other writings to create the same spooky effect. All of these are separate strains of the same argument, and can be clearly organized into sections of an outline. 

Step 7: Write Your Introduction

Your introduction serves a few very important purposes that essentially set the scene for the reader: 

  • Establish context. Sure, your reader has probably read the work. But you still want to remind them of the scene, characters, or elements you’ll be discussing. 
  • Present your thesis statement. Your thesis statement is the backbone of your analytical paper. You need to present it clearly at the outset so that the reader understands what every argument you make is aimed at. 
  • Offer a mini-outline. While you don’t want to show all your cards just yet, you do want to preview some of the evidence you’ll be using to support your thesis so that the reader has a roadmap of where they’re going. 

Step 8: Write Your Body Paragraphs

Thanks to steps one through seven, you’ve already set yourself up for success. You have clearly outlined arguments and evidence to support them. Now it’s time to translate those into authoritative and confident prose. 

When presenting each idea, begin with a topic sentence that encapsulates the argument you’re about to make (sort of like a mini-thesis statement). Then present your evidence and explanations of that evidence that contribute to that argument. Present enough material to prove your point, but don’t feel like you necessarily have to point out every single instance in the text where this element takes place. For example, if you’re highlighting a symbol that repeats throughout the narrative, choose two or three passages where it is used most effectively, rather than trying to squeeze in all ten times it appears. 

While you should have clearly defined arguments, the essay should still move logically and fluidly from one argument to the next. Try to avoid choppy paragraphs that feel disjointed; every idea and argument should feel connected to the last, and, as a group, connected to your thesis. A great way to connect the ideas from one paragraph to the next is with transition words and phrases, such as: 

  • Furthermore 
  • In addition
  • On the other hand
  • Conversely 

what is literature essay

Step 9: Write Your Conclusion 

Your conclusion is more than a summary of your essay's parts, but it’s also not a place to present brand new ideas not already discussed in your essay. Instead, your conclusion should return to your thesis (without repeating it verbatim) and point to why this all matters. If writing about the siblings in “The Fall of the House of Usher,” for example, you could point out that the utilization of twins and doubles is a common literary element of Poe’s work that contributes to the definitive eeriness of Gothic literature. 

While you might speak to larger ideas in your conclusion, be wary of getting too macro. Your conclusion should still be supported by all of the ideas that preceded it. 

Step 10: Revise, Revise, Revise

Of course you should proofread your literary analysis essay before you turn it in. But you should also edit the content to make sure every piece of evidence and every explanation directly supports your thesis as effectively and efficiently as possible. 

Sometimes, this might mean actually adapting your thesis a bit to the rest of your essay. At other times, it means removing redundant examples or paraphrasing quotations. Make sure every sentence is valuable, and remove those that aren’t. 

Other Resources for Literary Analysis 

With these skills and suggestions, you’re well on your way to practicing and writing literary analysis. But if you don’t have a firm grasp on the concepts discussed above—such as literary devices or even the content of the text you’re analyzing—it will still feel difficult to produce insightful analysis. 

If you’d like to sharpen the tools in your literature toolbox, there are plenty of other resources to help you do so: 

  • Check out our expansive library of Literary Devices . These could provide you with a deeper understanding of the basic devices discussed above or introduce you to new concepts sure to impress your professors ( anagnorisis , anyone?). 
  • This Academic Citation Resource Guide ensures you properly cite any work you reference in your analytical essay. 
  • Our English Homework Help Guide will point you to dozens of resources that can help you perform analysis, from critical reading strategies to poetry helpers. 
  • This Grammar Education Resource Guide will direct you to plenty of resources to refine your grammar and writing (definitely important for getting an A+ on that paper). 

Of course, you should know the text inside and out before you begin writing your analysis. In order to develop a true understanding of the work, read through its corresponding SuperSummary study guide . Doing so will help you truly comprehend the plot, as well as provide some inspirational ideas for your analysis.

what is literature essay

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This handout provides examples and description about writing papers in literature. It discusses research topics, how to begin to research, how to use information, and formatting.

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.

A debatable thesis statement

Like any argument paper you have ever written for a first-year composition course, you must have a specific, detailed thesis statement that reveals your perspective, and, like any good argument, your perspective must be one which is debatable.

You would not want to make an argument of this sort:

Shakespeare's Hamlet is a play about a young man who seeks revenge. That doesn't say anything-it's basically just a summary and is hardly debatable.

A better thesis would be this:

Hamlet experiences internal conflict because he is in love with his mother. That is debatable, controversial even. The rest of a paper with this argument as its thesis will be an attempt to show, using specific examples from the text and evidence from scholars, (1) how Hamlet is in love with his mother, (2) why he's in love with her, and (3) what implications there are for reading the play in this manner.

You also want to avoid a thesis statement like this:

Spirituality means different things to different people. King Lear , The Book of Romans , and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance each view the spirit differently. Again, that says nothing that's not already self-evident. Why bother writing a paper about that? You're not writing an essay to list works that have nothing in common other than a general topic like "spirituality." You want to find certain works or authors that, while they may have several differences, do have some specific, unifying point. That point is your thesis.
Lear , Romans , and Zen each view the soul as the center of human personality. Then you prove it, using examples from the texts that show that the soul is the center of personality.

Interesting Literature

How to Write a Good English Literature Essay

By Dr Oliver Tearle (Loughborough University)

How do you write a good English Literature essay? Although to an extent this depends on the particular subject you’re writing about, and on the nature of the question your essay is attempting to answer, there are a few general guidelines for how to write a convincing essay – just as there are a few guidelines for writing well in any field.

We at Interesting Literature  call them ‘guidelines’ because we hesitate to use the word ‘rules’, which seems too programmatic. And as the writing habits of successful authors demonstrate, there is no  one way to become a good writer – of essays, novels, poems, or whatever it is you’re setting out to write. The French writer Colette liked to begin her writing day by picking the fleas off her cat.

Edith Sitwell, by all accounts, liked to lie in an open coffin before she began her day’s writing. Friedrich von Schiller kept rotten apples in his desk, claiming he needed the scent of their decay to help him write. (For most student essay-writers, such an aroma is probably allowed to arise in the writing-room more organically, over time.)

We will address our suggestions for successful essay-writing to the average student of English Literature, whether at university or school level. There are many ways to approach the task of essay-writing, and these are just a few pointers for how to write a better English essay – and some of these pointers may also work for other disciplines and subjects, too.

Of course, these guidelines are designed to be of interest to the non-essay-writer too – people who have an interest in the craft of writing in general. If this describes you, we hope you enjoy the list as well. Remember, though, everyone can find writing difficult: as Thomas Mann memorably put it, ‘A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.’ Nora Ephron was briefer: ‘I think the hardest thing about writing is writing.’ So, the guidelines for successful essay-writing:

1. Planning is important, but don’t spend too long perfecting a structure that might end up changing.

This may seem like odd advice to kick off with, but the truth is that different approaches work for different students and essayists. You need to find out which method works best for you.

It’s not a bad idea, regardless of whether you’re a big planner or not, to sketch out perhaps a few points on a sheet of paper before you start, but don’t be surprised if you end up moving away from it slightly – or considerably – when you start to write.

Often the most extensively planned essays are the most mechanistic and dull in execution, precisely because the writer has drawn up a plan and refused to deviate from it. What  is a more valuable skill is to be able to sense when your argument may be starting to go off-topic, or your point is getting out of hand,  as you write . (For help on this, see point 5 below.)

We might even say that when it comes to knowing how to write a good English Literature essay,  practising  is more important than planning.

2. Make room for close analysis of the text, or texts.

Whilst it’s true that some first-class or A-grade essays will be impressive without containing any close reading as such, most of the highest-scoring and most sophisticated essays tend to zoom in on the text and examine its language and imagery closely in the course of the argument. (Close reading of literary texts arises from theology and the analysis of holy scripture, but really became a ‘thing’ in literary criticism in the early twentieth century, when T. S. Eliot, F. R. Leavis, William Empson, and other influential essayists started to subject the poem or novel to close scrutiny.)

Close reading has two distinct advantages: it increases the specificity of your argument (so you can’t be so easily accused of generalising a point), and it improves your chances of pointing up something about the text which none of the other essays your marker is reading will have said. For instance, take In Memoriam  (1850), which is a long Victorian poem by the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson about his grief following the death of his close friend, Arthur Hallam, in the early 1830s.

When answering a question about the representation of religious faith in Tennyson’s poem  In Memoriam  (1850), how might you write a particularly brilliant essay about this theme? Anyone can make a general point about the poet’s crisis of faith; but to look closely at the language used gives you the chance to show  how the poet portrays this.

For instance, consider this stanza, which conveys the poet’s doubt:

A solid and perfectly competent essay might cite this stanza in support of the claim that Tennyson is finding it increasingly difficult to have faith in God (following the untimely and senseless death of his friend, Arthur Hallam). But there are several ways of then doing something more with it. For instance, you might get close to the poem’s imagery, and show how Tennyson conveys this idea, through the image of the ‘altar-stairs’ associated with religious worship and the idea of the stairs leading ‘thro’ darkness’ towards God.

In other words, Tennyson sees faith as a matter of groping through the darkness, trusting in God without having evidence that he is there. If you like, it’s a matter of ‘blind faith’. That would be a good reading. Now, here’s how to make a good English essay on this subject even better: one might look at how the word ‘falter’ – which encapsulates Tennyson’s stumbling faith – disperses into ‘falling’ and ‘altar’ in the succeeding lines. The word ‘falter’, we might say, itself falters or falls apart.

That is doing more than just interpreting the words: it’s being a highly careful reader of the poetry and showing how attentive to the language of the poetry you can be – all the while answering the question, about how the poem portrays the idea of faith. So, read and then reread the text you’re writing about – and be sensitive to such nuances of language and style.

The best way to  become attuned to such nuances is revealed in point 5. We might summarise this point as follows: when it comes to knowing how to write a persuasive English Literature essay, it’s one thing to have a broad and overarching argument, but don’t be afraid to use the  microscope as well as the telescope.

3. Provide several pieces of evidence where possible.

Many essays have a point to make and make it, tacking on a single piece of evidence from the text (or from beyond the text, e.g. a critical, historical, or biographical source) in the hope that this will be enough to make the point convincing.

‘State, quote, explain’ is the Holy Trinity of the Paragraph for many. What’s wrong with it? For one thing, this approach is too formulaic and basic for many arguments. Is one quotation enough to support a point? It’s often a matter of degree, and although one piece of evidence is better than none, two or three pieces will be even more persuasive.

After all, in a court of law a single eyewitness account won’t be enough to convict the accused of the crime, and even a confession from the accused would carry more weight if it comes supported by other, objective evidence (e.g. DNA, fingerprints, and so on).

Let’s go back to the example about Tennyson’s faith in his poem  In Memoriam  mentioned above. Perhaps you don’t find the end of the poem convincing – when the poet claims to have rediscovered his Christian faith and to have overcome his grief at the loss of his friend.

You can find examples from the end of the poem to suggest your reading of the poet’s insincerity may have validity, but looking at sources beyond the poem – e.g. a good edition of the text, which will contain biographical and critical information – may help you to find a clinching piece of evidence to support your reading.

And, sure enough, Tennyson is reported to have said of  In Memoriam : ‘It’s too hopeful, this poem, more than I am myself.’ And there we have it: much more convincing than simply positing your reading of the poem with a few ambiguous quotations from the poem itself.

Of course, this rule also works in reverse: if you want to argue, for instance, that T. S. Eliot’s  The Waste Land is overwhelmingly inspired by the poet’s unhappy marriage to his first wife, then using a decent biographical source makes sense – but if you didn’t show evidence for this idea from the poem itself (see point 2), all you’ve got is a vague, general link between the poet’s life and his work.

Show  how the poet’s marriage is reflected in the work, e.g. through men and women’s relationships throughout the poem being shown as empty, soulless, and unhappy. In other words, when setting out to write a good English essay about any text, don’t be afraid to  pile on  the evidence – though be sensible, a handful of quotations or examples should be more than enough to make your point convincing.

4. Avoid tentative or speculative phrasing.

Many essays tend to suffer from the above problem of a lack of evidence, so the point fails to convince. This has a knock-on effect: often the student making the point doesn’t sound especially convinced by it either. This leaks out in the telling use of, and reliance on, certain uncertain  phrases: ‘Tennyson might have’ or ‘perhaps Harper Lee wrote this to portray’ or ‘it can be argued that’.

An English university professor used to write in the margins of an essay which used this last phrase, ‘What  can’t be argued?’

This is a fair criticism: anything can be argued (badly), but it depends on what evidence you can bring to bear on it (point 3) as to whether it will be a persuasive argument. (Arguing that the plays of Shakespeare were written by a Martian who came down to Earth and ingratiated himself with the world of Elizabethan theatre is a theory that can be argued, though few would take it seriously. We wish we could say ‘none’, but that’s a story for another day.)

Many essay-writers, because they’re aware that texts are often open-ended and invite multiple interpretations (as almost all great works of literature invariably do), think that writing ‘it can be argued’ acknowledges the text’s rich layering of meaning and is therefore valid.

Whilst this is certainly a fact – texts are open-ended and can be read in wildly different ways – the phrase ‘it can be argued’ is best used sparingly if at all. It should be taken as true that your interpretation is, at bottom, probably unprovable. What would it mean to ‘prove’ a reading as correct, anyway? Because you found evidence that the author intended the same thing as you’ve argued of their text? Tennyson wrote in a letter, ‘I wrote In Memoriam  because…’?

But the author might have lied about it (e.g. in an attempt to dissuade people from looking too much into their private life), or they might have changed their mind (to go back to the example of  The Waste Land : T. S. Eliot championed the idea of poetic impersonality in an essay of 1919, but years later he described  The Waste Land as ‘only the relief of a personal and wholly insignificant grouse against life’ – hardly impersonal, then).

Texts – and their writers – can often be contradictory, or cagey about their meaning. But we as critics have to act responsibly when writing about literary texts in any good English essay or exam answer. We need to argue honestly, and sincerely – and not use what Wikipedia calls ‘weasel words’ or hedging expressions.

So, if nothing is utterly provable, all that remains is to make the strongest possible case you can with the evidence available. You do this, not only through marshalling the evidence in an effective way, but by writing in a confident voice when making your case. Fundamentally, ‘There is evidence to suggest that’ says more or less the same thing as ‘It can be argued’, but it foregrounds the  evidence rather than the argument, so is preferable as a phrase.

This point might be summarised by saying: the best way to write a good English Literature essay is to be honest about the reading you’re putting forward, so you can be confident in your interpretation and use clear, bold language. (‘Bold’ is good, but don’t get too cocky, of course…)

5. Read the work of other critics.

This might be viewed as the Holy Grail of good essay-writing tips, since it is perhaps the single most effective way to improve your own writing. Even if you’re writing an essay as part of school coursework rather than a university degree, and don’t need to research other critics for your essay, it’s worth finding a good writer of literary criticism and reading their work. Why is this worth doing?

Published criticism has at least one thing in its favour, at least if it’s published by an academic press or has appeared in an academic journal, and that is that it’s most probably been peer-reviewed, meaning that other academics have read it, closely studied its argument, checked it for errors or inaccuracies, and helped to ensure that it is expressed in a fluent, clear, and effective way.

If you’re serious about finding out how to write a better English essay, then you need to study how successful writers in the genre do it. And essay-writing is a genre, the same as novel-writing or poetry. But why will reading criticism help you? Because the critics you read can show you how to do all of the above: how to present a close reading of a poem, how to advance an argument that is not speculative or tentative yet not over-confident, how to use evidence from the text to make your argument more persuasive.

And, the more you read of other critics – a page a night, say, over a few months – the better you’ll get. It’s like textual osmosis: a little bit of their style will rub off on you, and every writer learns by the examples of other writers.

As T. S. Eliot himself said, ‘The poem which is absolutely original is absolutely bad.’ Don’t get precious about your own distinctive writing style and become afraid you’ll lose it. You can’t  gain a truly original style before you’ve looked at other people’s and worked out what you like and what you can ‘steal’ for your own ends.

We say ‘steal’, but this is not the same as saying that plagiarism is okay, of course. But consider this example. You read an accessible book on Shakespeare’s language and the author makes a point about rhymes in Shakespeare. When you’re working on your essay on the poetry of Christina Rossetti, you notice a similar use of rhyme, and remember the point made by the Shakespeare critic.

This is not plagiarising a point but applying it independently to another writer. It shows independent interpretive skills and an ability to understand and apply what you have read. This is another of the advantages of reading critics, so this would be our final piece of advice for learning how to write a good English essay: find a critic whose style you like, and study their craft.

If you’re looking for suggestions, we can recommend a few favourites: Christopher Ricks, whose  The Force of Poetry is a tour de force; Jonathan Bate, whose  The Genius of Shakespeare , although written for a general rather than academic audience, is written by a leading Shakespeare scholar and academic; and Helen Gardner, whose  The Art of T. S. Eliot , whilst dated (it came out in 1949), is a wonderfully lucid and articulate analysis of Eliot’s poetry.

James Wood’s How Fiction Works  is also a fine example of lucid prose and how to close-read literary texts. Doubtless readers of  Interesting Literature will have their own favourites to suggest in the comments, so do check those out, as these are just three personal favourites. What’s your favourite work of literary scholarship/criticism? Suggestions please.

Much of all this may strike you as common sense, but even the most commonsensical advice can go out of your mind when you have a piece of coursework to write, or an exam to revise for. We hope these suggestions help to remind you of some of the key tenets of good essay-writing practice – though remember, these aren’t so much commandments as recommendations. No one can ‘tell’ you how to write a good English Literature essay as such.

But it can be learned. And remember, be interesting – find the things in the poems or plays or novels which really ignite your enthusiasm. As John Mortimer said, ‘The only rule I have found to have any validity in writing is not to bore yourself.’

Finally, good luck – and happy writing!

And if you enjoyed these tips for how to write a persuasive English essay, check out our advice for how to remember things for exams  and our tips for becoming a better close reader of poetry .

30 thoughts on “How to Write a Good English Literature Essay”

You must have taken AP Literature. I’m always saying these same points to my students.

I also think a crucial part of excellent essay writing that too many students do not realize is that not every point or interpretation needs to be addressed. When offered the chance to write your interpretation of a work of literature, it is important to note that there of course are many but your essay should choose one and focus evidence on this one view rather than attempting to include all views and evidence to back up each view.

Reblogged this on SocioTech'nowledge .

Not a bad effort…not at all! (Did you intend “subject” instead of “object” in numbered paragraph two, line seven?”

Oops! I did indeed – many thanks for spotting. Duly corrected ;)

That’s what comes of writing about philosophy and the subject/object for another post at the same time!

Reblogged this on Scribing English .

  • Pingback: Recommended Resource: Interesting Literature.com & how to write an essay | Write Out Loud

Great post on essay writing! I’ve shared a post about this and about the blog site in general which you can look at here: http://writeoutloudblog.com/2015/01/13/recommended-resource-interesting-literature-com-how-to-write-an-essay/

All of these are very good points – especially I like 2 and 5. I’d like to read the essay on the Martian who wrote Shakespeare’s plays).

Reblogged this on Uniqely Mustered and commented: Dedicate this to all upcoming writers and lovers of Writing!

I shall take this as my New Year boost in Writing Essays. Please try to visit often for corrections,advise and criticisms.

Reblogged this on Blue Banana Bread .

Reblogged this on worldsinthenet .

All very good points, but numbers 2 and 4 are especially interesting.

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Reblogged this on rainniewu .

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Great post. Interesting infographic how to write an argumentative essay http://www.essay-profy.com/blog/how-to-write-an-essay-writing-an-argumentative-essay/

Reblogged this on DISTINCT CHARACTER and commented: Good Tips

Reblogged this on quirkywritingcorner and commented: This could be applied to novel or short story writing as well.

Reblogged this on rosetech67 and commented: Useful, albeit maybe a bit late for me :-)

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Actualidad Literatura

What is a literary essay.

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Michel Eyquem de Montaigne, father of the literary essay

The literary essay is counted as one of the major genres in literature. It is found alongside dramaturgy, narrative and poetry —although with a more didactic nuance—. It is a short text written in prose where the author analyzes, examines or interprets a topic in a subjective but documented way. Its purpose is to argue about a specific topic.

The themes for an essay are as varied as life itself. It has been written about politics, pedagogy, art or philosophy. The argumentative approach is based on the author's need to express their opinions about something. What is intended is to justify these arguments through research without becoming a technical work.

Characteristics of a literary essay

A literary essay is not a thesis or a monograph - these works are more of a scientific quality. The essay is a brief and free exposition aimed at a wide audience. For this reason, it uses a language that seeks to be understood by the greatest number of people.

However, as a general rule he uses stylistic and poetic resources. These give greater liveliness to the argument that the author wishes to develop. In this way, the literary essay has certain characteristics necessary to include it within this category . Some of them are the following:

  • Presents opinions based on the author's research work;
  • It serves as a preliminary and educational text to generate debates;
  • It is sensible writing that summarizes a topic of academic, moral, or social value (Wikipedia.org, 2022).

Parts of a literary essay

One of the greatest qualities of a literary essay is to be a free, indicative and suggestive document. It is flexible because its function is to allow the author to introduce a theme and approach it from his point of view. . But there are common features that usually make up a text of this type. This could be a model structure to develop an essay:

In this section The principle of the argument of the topic to be developed in the following paragraphs is exposed. In general, it seeks to be brief to give way to the content.

Development

It is here that the author raises the arguments themselves. Theses and theories are exposed. You can also cite sources of information to inform the reader of the foundations of your study. This section is usually the longest and most complex.

It is about the conclusions reached by the essayist. Here are the final arguments of the idea , and those characteristics that support the writer's arguments are highlighted. Usually it is not a very broad section.

Internal structures that a literary essay can have

Thanks to the freedom offered by itself a literary essay, its internal structure can be arranged in various ways. It all depends on how the author intends to shape his idea—conclusions before development or development before introduction. Depending on the case, we have these variants:

analytical and deductive

Through this composition, the author first states the main idea of ​​his argument. He then proceeds to develop the theme, provide the reader with information, and examine his theory in more detail.

Synthesizing and inductive

This type of structure examines the arguments at the beginning of the text, and leaves for the end the presentation of the thesis or conclusions.

In this case, the thesis is exposed at the beginning of the essay. In the center are written the arguments and data collected by the essayist. Likewise, the thesis of the beginning is reformulated from the data, to later use the conclusions (idunneditorial.com, 2022).

Types of literary essay

Literary essays have tried to classify themselves on many occasions. Nevertheless, what differentiates them has to do with the themes or positions they address. Some examples of this are:

literary essay of novels

This type of essay seeks to analyze the narrative content -usually complex- to create debates about them. An example of this is García Márquez : story of a deicide, of the writer Mario Vargas Llosa.

philosophical literary essay

Nicolás Maquiavelo

Nicholas Machiavelli

There are specific essays on philosophical topics. However, in addition to addressing issues related to life or death, love or society..., this type of text is characterized by the use of aesthetic narrative techniques as literary devices.

Mixed literary essays

We can find tests that address more than one topic. It may be that the author learned to speak of narrative-history, poetry-philosophy or society-politics.

How to write a literary essay

Before taking on the task of writing an essay, it is necessary to carry out a research process on the topic to be discussed. It is very helpful to create a list of ideas, classify them, and discard those that do not seem convenient. .

According to your criteria, an author can use or highlight a natural or artificial formula to help him structure his topic. These might be:

  • Rhetoricians: to convince the reader.
  • Chronological: associated with the explanation of a phenomenon.
  • Didactic: developed in such a way that they go from the simple to the complex.
  • In the media really : from the question to the starting point of development.

With this clear, it is possible to establish a specific distribution. Ideally, you should write with the aim of offering a broader understanding, with a mature and satisfactory result for both the essayist and the reader.

On the other hand, when writing an argumentative essay, the thesis is the main part. In it the author must present his position.

In the case of an expository literary essay, the essayist must offer a clear definition of the topic. It is not recommended that the text exceed one or two paragraphs (Wikipedia, 2022). The conclusion is just as important as the other parts. However, it should be the most concise.

A little history about the literary essay

Throughout our tradition there has been a remarkable inventory of thinkers who exposed their ideas to the world. Nevertheless, the first record we have of a literary essay proper —named as such for its stylistic novelty— on 1580 . In this year the French writer Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (1553-1582) gave his trials . The term comes from their native language, and means "attempt."

On the other hand, we have Francis Bocon (1561-1626), who would publish his own trials in 1597. Still, It would not be until the eighteenth century that this literary genre would take the necessary strength to become what it is today. Movements such as the Enlightenment and bourgeois Individualism brought essays to the common people by the hand of Samuel Johnson or William Hazlitt (biografiasyvidas.com, 2022).

Examples of famous literary essays

The literary essay has served for many people gifted with genius to express their ideas. In this sense, the annals of history have collected some of the most brilliant and transcendental expositions of essays that exist. An example of them are the following works:

  • Essays on morality and politics (1597), by Francis Bacon;
  • The Prince (1550 ) Niccolo Machiavelli ;
  • The poetic principle (1850) of Edgar Allan Poe ;
  • Don Quixote Meditations (1914), by José Ortega y Gasset;
  • Law spirit (1748) by Montesquieu;
  • the metaphor again (1928) of Jorge Luis Borges.

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  • How to Write a Literature Review | Guide, Examples, & Templates

How to Write a Literature Review | Guide, Examples, & Templates

Published on January 2, 2023 by Shona McCombes . Revised on September 11, 2023.

What is a literature review? A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources on a specific topic. It provides an overview of current knowledge, allowing you to identify relevant theories, methods, and gaps in the existing research that you can later apply to your paper, thesis, or dissertation topic .

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

A good literature review doesn’t just summarize sources—it analyzes, synthesizes , and critically evaluates to give a clear picture of the state of knowledge on the subject.

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Table of contents

What is the purpose of a literature review, examples of literature reviews, step 1 – search for relevant literature, step 2 – evaluate and select sources, step 3 – identify themes, debates, and gaps, step 4 – outline your literature review’s structure, step 5 – write your literature review, free lecture slides, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions, introduction.

  • Quick Run-through
  • Step 1 & 2

When you write a thesis , dissertation , or research paper , you will likely have to conduct a literature review to situate your research within existing knowledge. The literature review gives you a chance to:

  • Demonstrate your familiarity with the topic and its scholarly context
  • Develop a theoretical framework and methodology for your research
  • Position your work in relation to other researchers and theorists
  • Show how your research addresses a gap or contributes to a debate
  • Evaluate the current state of research and demonstrate your knowledge of the scholarly debates around your topic.

Writing literature reviews is a particularly important skill if you want to apply for graduate school or pursue a career in research. We’ve written a step-by-step guide that you can follow below.

Literature review guide

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See an example

what is literature essay

Writing literature reviews can be quite challenging! A good starting point could be to look at some examples, depending on what kind of literature review you’d like to write.

  • Example literature review #1: “Why Do People Migrate? A Review of the Theoretical Literature” ( Theoretical literature review about the development of economic migration theory from the 1950s to today.)
  • Example literature review #2: “Literature review as a research methodology: An overview and guidelines” ( Methodological literature review about interdisciplinary knowledge acquisition and production.)
  • Example literature review #3: “The Use of Technology in English Language Learning: A Literature Review” ( Thematic literature review about the effects of technology on language acquisition.)
  • Example literature review #4: “Learners’ Listening Comprehension Difficulties in English Language Learning: A Literature Review” ( Chronological literature review about how the concept of listening skills has changed over time.)

You can also check out our templates with literature review examples and sample outlines at the links below.

Download Word doc Download Google doc

Before you begin searching for literature, you need a clearly defined topic .

If you are writing the literature review section of a dissertation or research paper, you will search for literature related to your research problem and questions .

Make a list of keywords

Start by creating a list of keywords related to your research question. Include each of the key concepts or variables you’re interested in, and list any synonyms and related terms. You can add to this list as you discover new keywords in the process of your literature search.

  • Social media, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok
  • Body image, self-perception, self-esteem, mental health
  • Generation Z, teenagers, adolescents, youth

Search for relevant sources

Use your keywords to begin searching for sources. Some useful databases to search for journals and articles include:

  • Your university’s library catalogue
  • Google Scholar
  • Project Muse (humanities and social sciences)
  • Medline (life sciences and biomedicine)
  • EconLit (economics)
  • Inspec (physics, engineering and computer science)

You can also use boolean operators to help narrow down your search.

Make sure to read the abstract to find out whether an article is relevant to your question. When you find a useful book or article, you can check the bibliography to find other relevant sources.

You likely won’t be able to read absolutely everything that has been written on your topic, so it will be necessary to evaluate which sources are most relevant to your research question.

For each publication, ask yourself:

  • What question or problem is the author addressing?
  • What are the key concepts and how are they defined?
  • What are the key theories, models, and methods?
  • Does the research use established frameworks or take an innovative approach?
  • What are the results and conclusions of the study?
  • How does the publication relate to other literature in the field? Does it confirm, add to, or challenge established knowledge?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the research?

Make sure the sources you use are credible , and make sure you read any landmark studies and major theories in your field of research.

You can use our template to summarize and evaluate sources you’re thinking about using. Click on either button below to download.

Take notes and cite your sources

As you read, you should also begin the writing process. Take notes that you can later incorporate into the text of your literature review.

It is important to keep track of your sources with citations to avoid plagiarism . It can be helpful to make an annotated bibliography , where you compile full citation information and write a paragraph of summary and analysis for each source. This helps you remember what you read and saves time later in the process.

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To begin organizing your literature review’s argument and structure, be sure you understand the connections and relationships between the sources you’ve read. Based on your reading and notes, you can look for:

  • Trends and patterns (in theory, method or results): do certain approaches become more or less popular over time?
  • Themes: what questions or concepts recur across the literature?
  • Debates, conflicts and contradictions: where do sources disagree?
  • Pivotal publications: are there any influential theories or studies that changed the direction of the field?
  • Gaps: what is missing from the literature? Are there weaknesses that need to be addressed?

This step will help you work out the structure of your literature review and (if applicable) show how your own research will contribute to existing knowledge.

  • Most research has focused on young women.
  • There is an increasing interest in the visual aspects of social media.
  • But there is still a lack of robust research on highly visual platforms like Instagram and Snapchat—this is a gap that you could address in your own research.

There are various approaches to organizing the body of a literature review. Depending on the length of your literature review, you can combine several of these strategies (for example, your overall structure might be thematic, but each theme is discussed chronologically).

Chronological

The simplest approach is to trace the development of the topic over time. However, if you choose this strategy, be careful to avoid simply listing and summarizing sources in order.

Try to analyze patterns, turning points and key debates that have shaped the direction of the field. Give your interpretation of how and why certain developments occurred.

If you have found some recurring central themes, you can organize your literature review into subsections that address different aspects of the topic.

For example, if you are reviewing literature about inequalities in migrant health outcomes, key themes might include healthcare policy, language barriers, cultural attitudes, legal status, and economic access.

Methodological

If you draw your sources from different disciplines or fields that use a variety of research methods , you might want to compare the results and conclusions that emerge from different approaches. For example:

  • Look at what results have emerged in qualitative versus quantitative research
  • Discuss how the topic has been approached by empirical versus theoretical scholarship
  • Divide the literature into sociological, historical, and cultural sources

Theoretical

A literature review is often the foundation for a theoretical framework . You can use it to discuss various theories, models, and definitions of key concepts.

You might argue for the relevance of a specific theoretical approach, or combine various theoretical concepts to create a framework for your research.

Like any other academic text , your literature review should have an introduction , a main body, and a conclusion . What you include in each depends on the objective of your literature review.

The introduction should clearly establish the focus and purpose of the literature review.

Depending on the length of your literature review, you might want to divide the body into subsections. You can use a subheading for each theme, time period, or methodological approach.

As you write, you can follow these tips:

  • Summarize and synthesize: give an overview of the main points of each source and combine them into a coherent whole
  • Analyze and interpret: don’t just paraphrase other researchers — add your own interpretations where possible, discussing the significance of findings in relation to the literature as a whole
  • Critically evaluate: mention the strengths and weaknesses of your sources
  • Write in well-structured paragraphs: use transition words and topic sentences to draw connections, comparisons and contrasts

In the conclusion, you should summarize the key findings you have taken from the literature and emphasize their significance.

When you’ve finished writing and revising your literature review, don’t forget to proofread thoroughly before submitting. Not a language expert? Check out Scribbr’s professional proofreading services !

This article has been adapted into lecture slides that you can use to teach your students about writing a literature review.

Scribbr slides are free to use, customize, and distribute for educational purposes.

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If you want to know more about the research process , methodology , research bias , or statistics , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

  • Sampling methods
  • Simple random sampling
  • Stratified sampling
  • Cluster sampling
  • Likert scales
  • Reproducibility

 Statistics

  • Null hypothesis
  • Statistical power
  • Probability distribution
  • Effect size
  • Poisson distribution

Research bias

  • Optimism bias
  • Cognitive bias
  • Implicit bias
  • Hawthorne effect
  • Anchoring bias
  • Explicit bias

A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources (such as books, journal articles, and theses) related to a specific topic or research question .

It is often written as part of a thesis, dissertation , or research paper , in order to situate your work in relation to existing knowledge.

There are several reasons to conduct a literature review at the beginning of a research project:

  • To familiarize yourself with the current state of knowledge on your topic
  • To ensure that you’re not just repeating what others have already done
  • To identify gaps in knowledge and unresolved problems that your research can address
  • To develop your theoretical framework and methodology
  • To provide an overview of the key findings and debates on the topic

Writing the literature review shows your reader how your work relates to existing research and what new insights it will contribute.

The literature review usually comes near the beginning of your thesis or dissertation . After the introduction , it grounds your research in a scholarly field and leads directly to your theoretical framework or methodology .

A literature review is a survey of credible sources on a topic, often used in dissertations , theses, and research papers . Literature reviews give an overview of knowledge on a subject, helping you identify relevant theories and methods, as well as gaps in existing research. Literature reviews are set up similarly to other  academic texts , with an introduction , a main body, and a conclusion .

An  annotated bibliography is a list of  source references that has a short description (called an annotation ) for each of the sources. It is often assigned as part of the research process for a  paper .  

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McCombes, S. (2023, September 11). How to Write a Literature Review | Guide, Examples, & Templates. Scribbr. Retrieved April 15, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/dissertation/literature-review/

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Humanities LibreTexts

1.1: What is Literature?

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

Defining Literature

In order for us to study literature with any kind of depth, first we must decide what constitutes literature. While works like William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird are almost universally accepted as literature, other works are hotly debated, or included or excluded based on the context. For example, while most consider Toni Morrison’s Beloved literature, others debate whether more recent publications such as David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas or Rupi Kaur’s Instagram poetry constitute literature. And what about the stories told through tweets, like Jennifer Egan’s “Black Box” ? What about video games, like Skyrim , or memes, like Grumpy Cat?

Students often throw their hands up in the air over such distinctions, arguing literature is subjective. Isn't it up to individual opinion? Anything can be literature, such students argue. At first glance, it could seem such distinctions are, at best, arbitrary. At worst, such definitions function as a means of enforcing cultural erasure.

However, consider a story about Kim Kardashian’s plastic surgery in People Magazine . Can this be considered on the same level of literary achievement as Hamlet ? Most would concede there is a difference in quality between these two texts. A blurb about Kim Kardashian’s latest plastic surgery, most would agree, does not constitute literature. So how can we differentiate between such works?

Literature vs. literature

As illustrated in the somewhat silly example above, one way we can define what constitutes literature is by identifying what is definitely not literature. For our intents and purposes of defining most terms in this textbook, we will use the Oxford English Dictionary ’s definitions. Many professors who teach Literature use the concept of Big L Literature vs. little l literature (Rollison).

While the definition of little l literature is fairly easy to understand and apply, the definition of Big L Literature remains amorphous. What makes a work “artistic”? How do we define “superior” or “lasting”?

Let’s break down some of the defining qualities of literature in a bit more detail, starting with the word “artistic.”

Exercise 1.1.1

Consider the following works of art. Which of these images do you feel is higher quality or more “artistic”? Which is lower-quality or less artistic? Why? Justify your position by analyzing the elements of each artwork.

man in dark suit stands on mountain overlooking a sea of clouds

While there may be some debate, most students usually respond that Friedrich's painting is more artistic. This is due to several composition differences between the two works:

  • Artist’s skill: it certainly appears as if the first image was produced by an artist with superior skill
  • Fame: for anyone who knows art history, the first image is famous while the other is not
  • Lasting quality: the first image has survived the test of time, remaining popular over two hundred years!
  • Meaning: the first image likely conjures deeper feelings, themes, or ideas, such as isolation and the primacy of nature. This is why this image has become the face of Romanticism.

But what about the images demonstrate the artists’ superior skills? While the second image appears to be produced with a simple doodle, and quickly composed, the first indicates more complexity, attention-to-detail, and craft. Freidrich leverages different colors, textures, shapes, and symbols to evoke a feeling in the viewer. Skilled artists will use different techniques, like the way they move the paintbrush, the pressure they exert or the direction of the brush. They will use textured paintbrushes for a specific effect, such as the difference between the light fluffy clouds and dark mountain rocks. They will use different color pallets to project, as accurately as possible, the feelings they are trying to evoke. In short, while anyone can paint, true artists leverage many different skills, techniques, and materials to render what is in their imagination into a real-life product.

So how does this relate to our attempts to define literature?

Literature is art, but with words.

While the artist uses different colors, paintbrushes, mediums, canvases, and techniques, the writer uses different genres and literary techniques called literary devices . Just like different types of paint, paintbrushes, and artistic tools, there are literally hundreds of literary devices, but some of the most common are metaphor, simile, personification, and imagery. Genre is the type or style of literature. Each genre has its own conventions. Literary genres include creative nonfiction, fiction, drama, and poetry . Works that are literary tend to masterfully use genre conventions and literary devices to create a world in the mind of the reader. Works that are less literary tend to be for practical and/or entertainment purposes, and the writer dedicates less focused energy towards artfully employing literary devices.

However, just because a work is not as literary as another does not mean it cannot be enjoyed. Just like a stick figure or cartoon character might be perfectly fine if intended for a particular audience or purpose, readers can still enjoy People Magazine even though it is not of the same literary quality as Hamlet .

So, to use an example from earlier:

While some literature falls into clear designations of literature or not literature, most works are open to debate. Given the sometimes difficult task of determining whether a work falls into one camp or the other, it may be more helpful to think of Literature less as a dichotomy than a spectrum, with popular magazines on one end and works like Hamlet and Beloved on the other, and most written works falling somewhere between the two extremes.

The Literary Spectrum

This spectrum can be a helpful way to think about literature because it provides a more open-ended way to discuss writing as art than simply labeling works as literary or not. After viewing the above chart, why do you think popular magazines and a Calculus textbook are considered "less literary"? In terms of popular magazines, they do not fit the definition of literature as "lasting" in the sense that they usually fade from relevancy quickly after publication. Additionally, the authors of such magazines are striving for quick entertainment rather than leaving a meaningful impression on the reader. They tend not to use literary devices, such as metaphor, in a masterful way. On the other end, Shakespeare's Hamlet definitely fits the definition of "lasting," in that it has survived hundreds of years. It is full of literary devices used for rhetorical effect and, one would argue, it touches upon deep themes such as death, the afterlife, murder, vengeance, and love, rather than trifling issues such as a starlet's most recent plastic surgery.

Certainly, works of literature are up for debate: that is the quintessential question literary scholars might ask. What makes certain literary works survive the test of time? What makes a story, poem, or drama "good"? While literary scholars are less interested in proving a certain work is "good" or not -- and more focused on analyzing the ways to illuminate a given work -- it can be helpful for you to consider what kinds of literature you like and why you like it. What about the way it was written causes you to feel the way you do about it?

Who Decides What is Literature?

Now that we have at least somewhat clarified the definition of literature, who decides what works are or are not literature? Historically speaking, kings, queens, publishers, literary critics, professors, colleges, and readers (like you!) have decided which works survive and which works do not.

Aristotle was one of the first writers to attempt to decide what works fall into the category of literature, and what works do not. While Aristotle was most famous for his contributions to science and philosophy, he is also considered one of the first literary critics. A literary critic is a person who studies and analyzes literature. A literary critic produces scholarship called literary criticism . An example of this would be Aristotle’s Poetics , in which he identifies the defining qualities of a “good” Tragedy. Aristotle’s analysis of Tragedy was so influential that it is still used today, over two thousand years later!

When a work is officially decided to constitute literature, it enters something called the Canon. Not to be confused with the large metal tube that shoots bombs popular in the 16th through the 19th centuries (cannon), the Literary Canon is a collection of works that are considered by the powers that be to constitute literature. A work that falls into this designation is called canonical. So, to use an example from Aristotle’s Poetics , Aristotle defined Sophocles’ Oedipus Trilogy as the pinnacle of the Tragic Genre. From there, in part due to Aristotle's influence, Greek society valued Oedipus so much that they kept discussing, reading, referencing, and teaching it. Thus, it became a kind of shining example of the Tragic Canon, one which has lasted thousands of years and continues to be read and lauded to this day. Other tragedies, fairly or not, are often judged on their quality in comparison to Sophocles' works. Wild to think that someone who died thousands of years ago still influences what we consider literature today!

Memes and Video Games: Today's Literature?

All this talk of thousands-of-years-old texts might seem out of touch. A lot of people think "old and boring" and literature are synonymous. Students are often surprised to hear that comic books and video games can arguably be considered literature, too. There are plenty of arguments to be made that comic books, such as Maus by Art Spiegalman (1991) or Fun Home by Alison Bechdel (2006) are literature. Cutting edge literary scholars argue video games like Kentucky Route Zero by Cardboard Computer (2015) can be considered literary. There is also literature that is published in tweets, like Jennifer Egan's "Black Box" (2012). Some might even consider memes literature!

Generative question: do you think memes can be literary?

chihuahua makes a dramatic face with superimposed text: "me, a writing professor: *assigns 500 word essay*; students: *dramatic chihuahua face*"

A meme is an image or video containing cultural values or ideas, often represented through allusion (implied reference to another work, without naming that work or its author). Memes can spread rapidly spreads through social media. Why? Because the best ones are #relatable; that is, they speak to a common human experience.

Usually memes take the form of text superimposed on an image. For example, the meme above conveys the dramatic reaction students sometimes give when I assign an essay. This is done primarily through a literary device called hyperbole , or exaggeration for rhetorical effect. It conveys its message comically through certain conventions that come along with the meme genre, such as the syntactic structure "me, a [insert noun]" and asterisks, which convey action. Just like in the Shakespearean drama, the colon indicates what each character (me and the students, in this case) is saying or doing. My chihuahua's face looks silly and very dramatic. Through this use of image, text, format, and convention, the meaning I intended to convey was that I was making fun of my students for being over-dramatic about what to me seems like a fairly simple assignment. While some might dismiss memes as shallow, when you start to unravel the layers of meaning, they can actually be very complex and even, dare I say, literary!

Think about a recent meme you have seen, or your favorite meme of all time. Imagine explaining this meme to someone who has no idea what it means. What is the message or idea behind the meme? What cultural reference points does it use to convey its message? In what ways might this meme be considered literature? How might this compare to a short poem, like a haiku?

Not Literature

Let's say you come to the conclusion that a meme, a gossip magazine, or the Twilight Series is not literary. Does that mean you have to feel guilty and give up reading it forever? Or that it is not "good"?

Just because a work is not literary does not mean it is "bad," that it does not have value, or that one cannot enjoy it. Indeed, there are plenty of examples of written works that are on the less literary side of the spectrum but are still fun and enriching to read. Joe Dirt i s not on the same artistic level of cinema as Schindler's List , but my husband still loves watching it. Nothing Taylor Swift has produced is as deep as Tupac Shakur's "Changes" (1992) or Mitski's "Last Words of a Shooting Star" (2014), but listening to Taylor Swift is my guilty pleasure. This is all to say that whether a text is literary or not is not as important as the methods of analyzing texts. In fact, texts which were excluded from literature are often argued into the literary canon through such analysis. Part of what makes analyzing literature so fun is that it means the definition of literature is always up for debate! This is especially important given the history of the canon.

The Problem with the Canon

In an ideal world, literature would be celebrated purely based on its artistic merit. Well-written works would last, poorly-written works would wither from public memory. However, that is not always the case. Works often achieve public prominence or survive based on qualities unrelated to skill or aesthetics, such as an author's fame, wealth, connections, or acceptance by the dominant culture. William Wordsworth, for example, was named Poet Laureate of England and has been taught as one of the "Big Six" major Romantic-era authors ever since. Indeed, he is accepted as part of the Romanticism literary canon. One would be hard-pressed to find a Literature anthology that does not feature William Wordsworth . However, how many people have read or heard of Dorothy Wordsworth , William Wordsworth's sister, who arguably depicted Romantic themes with equal skill and beauty? Or James Hogg, a Scottish contemporary of Wordsworth who was a lower-class shepherd? Similarly, while most readers have encountered F. Scott Fitzgerald or Edgar Allen Poe in their high school literature classes, how many have read Frederick Douglass in these same classes? In short, all artistic skill (arguably) considered equal, why do some authors predominantly feature in the Canon while others do not?

Let’s perform an experimental activity.

  • Find a piece of paper or a whiteboard. On this piece of paper or whiteboard, write down as many works of literature that you feel constitute “Big L Literature.” Perhaps they are works you read in high school, works which have been made into films, or works you have been taught or told are literary masterworks. Don’t turn the page until you have written them down. Try to think of at least 10, but a larger sample size is better. Once you are finished, continue to the next paragraph.
  • Alright, now look at your list. If you know the author of the literary texts you named, write their name next to the work. If you do not know the author, Google the information and write it down. Continue doing this until you have named the author of each work. Once you are finished, read on to the next paragraph.
  • Now, as uncomfortable as it seems, label the gender/race/age/presumed sexual orientation of the authors you listed. After you have categorized them to the best of your ability, consider the following questions:
  • What percentage of the authors are male?
  • What percentage of the authors are white?
  • What percentage of the authors are old/dead?
  • What patterns do you notice? Why do you think this is?

I have replicated this experiment dozens of times in the classroom, and, in most classes, the vast majority of what students have been taught are “Literary Masterworks” are written by (pardon my colloquialism) dead white males. Although, as time progresses, it seems there is increasing but not proportionate representation on average. For example, while women make up about half of the population, over 80% of the most popular novels were written by men ("Battle"). While there are many possible reasons for this discrepancy in representation (which could be the focus of an entire textbook), what does this mean for scholars of literature? For students? For instructors? For society?

As a cultural relic, similar to art, many scholars suggest literature is a reflection of the society which produces it. This includes positive aspects of society (championing values such as love, justice, and good triumphing over evil), but it can also reflect negative aspects of society (such as discrimination, racism, sexism, homophobia, historical lack of opportunity for marginalized authors).

For example, enslaved Africans were often prevented from learning to read and write as a form of control. When Phillis Wheatley published her book of poetry, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (1773) she had to defend the fact that she wrote it, due to popularly held racist views that slaves were incapable of writing poetry. Later, Frederick Douglass wrote about how his enslavers banned him from reading and writing, as they realized "education and slavery were incompatible with each other" (Douglass). He later championed his learning to read and write as the means which conveyed him to freedom. However, even when trying to publish The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass ( 1845) his publishers were forced to prove that it was, in fact, an enslaved person who wrote the story and not a white man who wrote it for him. Slave owners actively attempted to keep this book from circulation as it threatened the institution of slavery upon which they depended. Indeed, to this day, Douglass' book continues to be banned in some prisons for its potential to incite revolution (Darby, Gilroy).

How could Black writers enter the canon en masse if they were not allowed to read or write? Or if they were forced to spend all of their waking hours working? And if those who had the means to read and write had to jump through absurd hoops just to have their works published? And if even those texts which were published were banned?

Similarly, throughout much of Western history, women have been discouraged from pursuing reading and writing, as it distracted from society's expectations for women to focus on motherly and household duties. Until the 1700s, women were not allowed to go to college. Even then, very few went: only the extremely wealthy. It was not until the 19th century that women attended college in representative numbers. Virginia Woolf wrote in A Room of One's Own that if there are fewer works of literature written by women, it is only because society, historically, has not given women the time, education, funding, or space to do so. In this extended essay, she describes an imaginary sister of William Shakespeare who could have been just as great of a writer had she the same opportunities as her brother.

I told you in the course of this paper that Shakespeare had a sister; but do not look for her in Sir Sidney Lee's life of the poet. She died young—alas, she never wrote a word. She lies buried where the omnibuses now stop, opposite the Elephant and Castle. Now my belief is that this poet who never wrote a word and was buried at the cross-roads still lives. She lives in you and in me, and in many other women who are not here tonight, for they are washing up the dishes and putting the children to bed. But she lives; for great poets do not die; they are continuing presences; they need only the opportunity to walk among us in the flesh. This opportunity, as I think, it is now coming within your power to give her.

Woolf argues that in our time those who have been excluded from literature can now join the canon by adding their voices. The inequity of representation in literature -- which has arguably improved, but in many ways persists today -- can be remedied if more people from a wide array of backgrounds and walks of life are empowered to study and create Literature. That is one reason why the current study of literature is so exciting. As a student and budding literary scholar, you have the power to influence culture through your reading and analysis of literature! For one author and scholar's perspective on this topic, please watch this the following TED Talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie to see the ways in which such misrepresentations are harmful, and why it is important to veer away from the historically parochial Canon into what Chinua Achebe calls "a balance of stories" (qtd. Bacon).

screen capture of a TED Talk video of "The Danger of a Single Story" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Link to transcript and video.

  • Original video available on TED Talk website
  • Transcript of video

What "single stories" do you know? What are the "single stories" people have told about you? What story would you tell if you could? What kinds of stories do you want to read? Throughout this class, you will get the opportunity to encounter many different voices and stories from all over the world. While we faced hurdles of copyright permissions, the authors of this textbook attempted to embody the values espoused in this TED Talk & Chinua Achebe's conception of the "balance of stories." As you read the textbook, consider the stories which were omitted, why they were omitted, and what works of Literature you would include in this class if you could.

Works Cited

Bacon, Katie. "An African Voice." The Atlantic , 2000.

"Battle of the Authors: Are The Most Popular Rated Fiction Books Written by Men or Women?" Wordery , 1 Mar. 2019.

Darby, Luke. "Illinois Prison Bans Frederick Douglass's Memoir and Other "Racial" Books." GQ , 20 August 2019.

Douglass, Frederick. The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. 1845.

Friedrich, Caspar David. "Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog." Hamburger Kunsthalle Museum , 1818.

Gilroy, Paul. "Banned Books of Guantánamo: 'An American Slave' by Frederick Douglass." Vice , 14 Nov. 2014.

"literature, n.; 3b & 5" OED Online , Oxford University Press, September 2019, www.oed.com/view/Entry/109080. Accessed 6 September 2019.

Rollison, David. "Big L vs Little L Literature." Survey of World Literature I. College of Marin, 2008. Lecture.

Wheatley, Phillis. Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral . 1773.

Woolf, Virginia. A Room of One's Own. 1929.

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Literature Essay Writing Help

Get online help from our masters and phd qualified experts, literature essay.

If you are a literature student or not, your professor might ask you to write a review on different aspects of a book, poem, novel, or any other things. A literature essay is different from summarizing or paraphrasing anything. In this, you critically analyze the literature work.  

What is a Literature essay?  

A literature essay is a type of academic writing, in which you critically analyze different aspects of a literary piece of work.  

If you are a literature student, your professor more often gives you the assignment to write a literature essay. But the problem starts when he did not tell you how to write. Don’t worry; Assignment Studio provides you the best writer to help you.  

Steps for writing a literature essay  

You can write a literature essay by following the different steps.  

what is literature essay

Step 1: Understand the purpose of literary analysis  

When you write a literary essay, different questions arise to the mind. Why should we write it? What is the purpose of writing it? The main purpose of writing is to evaluate any piece of literary work.  It is to analyze how an author portrays characters, builds a plot, and manifests themes through characters.  

Step 2 Understand the format  

After finding the purpose behind your essay, read the piece of literature and observed the format of an essay.  

Content of a literature Essay  

In a literature essay, there is no specific paragraph to write it. If you write a literature essay about a poem, the format is different from writing about novels or dramas. But there are few aspects, which are common in all of these.  

  • Literary genre
  • Character Analysis
  • Plot structure
  • Analysis theme  
  • Use of symbols
  • Analysis of structure and writing style.

If you have a problem with understanding the content of the literature essay and you need an expert guide, then feel free to contact Assignment Studio.  

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Step 3 Outlines.  

After understanding the format of an essay, outline the main points. Like another academic essay, a literature essay also has three parts; an introduction, body, and conclusion. You should write on all aspects of writing and never miss any point related to your topic.  

Step 4: Write  

Now, start elaborated on the outline that you make of the literature essay.  

  • Introduction  

Start with a sentence that grabs the reader’s attention.  Start with a quote related to your topic. Then write a few sentences related to this quote. Add a few points related to the background and genre of the literature piece. End the introduction with thesis statements.  

If you write a good introduction, it is easy for you to write a whole essay.  

Start body paragraph with a topic sentence. Then briefly introduce your topic. Develop different arguments to support your thesis sentence. Develop your idea coherently and present it in a virtuous way. Also, use different transition words, to link all the paragraphs.  

what is literature essay

  • Conclusion  

Start conclusion with a topic sentence. In place of summarizing, the whole work, synthases the arguments. Do not introduce new ideas in the conclusion. In the introduction, you write with the importance of your work, also end it with related pieces of information. Describe the whole work in a few sentences that represent an overview of the essay.  

Excel in literary critique with Assignmentstudio. Our expert guidance on How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay  sharpens your analytical skills, enabling you to dissect texts with finesse and produce insightful, impactful analyses.

You should give a new idea to the related piece of literature, but avoid adding irrelevant information.  

Step 5 Edit  

When you have completed your essay, then revise it for proofreading. Carefully read the whole essay and check that if there is any mistake in the essay. Also, cross-check all aspects of your writing. Check that your arguments are valid and support your thesis statement. Furthermore, examine all the content related to the literature essay is added in an essay.  

Three Challenges to literature essay writing  

These three challenges that you faced during writing a literature essay.  

Reading and Analyzing Processes  

You often read books as a hobby. But, read the book to analyze it is a different one. During this type of reading, you have to focus on different aspects of writing and observed and write on every aspect of writing.  

Gathering of require information  

The next challenge is to gather all related information. Underline the related information or use different colors to separate different aspects.  

Write literary analysis by yourself.  

After reading, analyzing, and gathering information, the last challenge is to write it. Use proper words, support with related argument, and end it providing evidence, to complete your task.  

Here, only three challenges are discussed. You may also find certain obstacles while writing it. Just keep confidence in yourself and find the related issues.  

You can write a literature essay by learning about it. But still, if you have some misperception in your mind, you can contact our writer. We have expert writers at Assignment studio that help you to create an outstanding essay.  

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1 What Is Literature and Why Do We Study It?

what is literature essay

In this book created for my English 211 Literary Analysis introductory course for English literature and creative writing majors at the College of Western Idaho, I’ll introduce several different critical approaches that literary scholars may use to answer these questions.  The critical method we apply to a text can provide us with different perspectives as we learn to interpret a text and appreciate its meaning and beauty.

The existence of literature, however we define it, implies that we study literature. While people have been “studying” literature as long as literature has existed, the formal study of literature as we know it in college English literature courses began in the 1940s with the advent of New Criticism. The New Critics were formalists with a vested interest in defining literature–they were, after all, both creating and teaching about literary works. For them, literary criticism was, in fact, as John Crowe Ransom wrote in his 1942 essay “ Criticism, Inc., ” nothing less than “the business of literature.”

Responding to the concern that the study of literature at the university level was often more concerned with the history and life of the author than with the text itself, Ransom responded, “the students of the future must be permitted to study literature, and not merely about literature. But I think this is what the good students have always wanted to do. The wonder is that they have allowed themselves so long to be denied.”

We’ll learn more about New Criticism in Section Three. For now, let’s return to the two questions I posed earlier.

What is literature?

First, what is literature ? I know your high school teacher told you never to look up things on Wikipedia, but for the purposes of literary studies, Wikipedia can actually be an effective resource. You’ll notice that I link to Wikipedia articles occasionally in this book. Here’s how Wikipedia defines literature :

“ Literature  is any collection of  written  work, but it is also used more narrowly for writings specifically considered to be an  art  form, especially  prose   fiction ,  drama , and  poetry . [1]  In recent centuries, the definition has expanded to include  oral literature , much of which has been transcribed. [2] Literature is a method of recording, preserving, and transmitting knowledge and entertainment, and can also have a social, psychological, spiritual, or political role.”

This definition is well-suited for our purposes here because throughout this course, we will be considering several types of literary texts in a variety of contexts.

I’m a Classicist—a student of Greece and Rome and everything they touched—so I am always interested in words with Latin roots. The Latin root of our modern word literature  is  litera , or “letter.” Literature, then, is inextricably intertwined with the act of writing. But what kind of writing?

Who decides which texts are “literature”?

The second question is at least as important as the first one. If we agree that literature is somehow special and different from ordinary writing, then who decides which writings count as literature? Are English professors the only people who get to decide? What qualifications and training does someone need to determine whether or not a text is literature? What role do you as the reader play in this decision about a text?

Let’s consider a few examples of things that we would all probably classify as literature. I think we can all (probably) agree that the works of William Shakespeare are literature. We can look at Toni Morrison’s outstanding ouvre of work and conclude, along with the Nobel Prize Committee, that books such as Beloved   and  Song of Solomon   are literature. And if you’re taking a creative writing course and have been assigned the short stories of Raymond Carver or the poems of Joy Harjo , you’re probably convinced that these texts are literature too.

In each of these three cases, a different “deciding” mechanism is at play. First, with Shakespeare, there’s history and tradition. These plays that were written 500 years ago are still performed around the world and taught in high school and college English classes today. It seems we have consensus about the tragedies, histories, comedies, and sonnets of the Bard of Avon (or whoever wrote the plays).

In the second case, if you haven’t heard of Toni Morrison (and I am very sorry if you haven’t), you probably have heard of the Nobel Prize. This is one of the most prestigious awards given in literature, and since she’s a winner, we can safely assume that Toni Morrison’s works are literature.

Finally, your creative writing professor is an expert in their field. You know they have an MFA (and worked hard for it), so when they share their favorite short stories or poems with you, you trust that they are sharing works considered to be literature, even if you haven’t heard of Raymond Carver or Joy Harjo before taking their class.

(Aside: What about fanfiction? Is fanfiction literature?)

We may have to save the debate about fan fiction for another day, though I introduced it because there’s some fascinating and even literary award-winning fan fiction out there.

Returning to our question, what role do we as readers play in deciding whether something is literature? Like John Crowe Ransom quoted above, I think that the definition of literature should depend on more than the opinions of literary critics and literature professors.

I also want to note that contrary to some opinions, plenty of so-called genre fiction can also be classified as literature. The Nobel Prize winning author Kazuo Ishiguro has written both science fiction and historical fiction. Iain Banks , the British author of the critically acclaimed novel The Wasp Factory , published popular science fiction novels under the name Iain M. Banks. In other words, genre alone can’t tell us whether something is literature or not.

In this book, I want to give you the tools to decide for yourself. We’ll do this by exploring several different critical approaches that we can take to determine how a text functions and whether it is literature. These lenses can reveal different truths about the text, about our culture, and about ourselves as readers and scholars.

“Turf Wars”: Literary criticism vs. authors

It’s important to keep in mind that literature and literary theory have existed in conversation with each other since Aristotle used Sophocles’s play Oedipus Rex to define tragedy. We’ll look at how critical theory and literature complement and disagree with each other throughout this book. For most of literary history, the conversation was largely a friendly one.

But in the twenty-first century, there’s a rising tension between literature and criticism. In his 2016 book Literature Against Criticism: University English and Contemporary Fiction in Conflict, literary scholar Martin Paul Eve argues that twenty-first century authors have developed

a series of novelistic techniques that, whether deliberate or not on the part of the author, function to outmanoeuvre, contain, and determine academic reading practices. This desire to discipline university English through the manipulation and restriction of possible hermeneutic paths is, I contend, a result firstly of the fact that the metafictional paradigm of the high-postmodern era has pitched critical and creative discourses into a type of productive competition with one another. Such tensions and overlaps (or ‘turf wars’) have only increased in light of the ongoing breakdown of coherent theoretical definitions of ‘literature’ as distinct from ‘criticism’ (15).

One of Eve’s points is that by narrowly and rigidly defining the boundaries of literature, university English professors have inadvertently created a situation where the market increasingly defines what “literature” is, despite the protestations of the academy. In other words, the gatekeeper role that literary criticism once played is no longer as important to authors. For example, (almost) no one would call 50 Shades of Grey literature—but the salacious E.L James novel was the bestselling book of the decade from 2010-2019, with more than 35 million copies sold worldwide.

If anyone with a blog can get a six-figure publishing deal , does it still matter that students know how to recognize and analyze literature? I think so, for a few reasons.

  • First, the practice of reading critically helps you to become a better reader and writer, which will help you to succeed not only in college English courses but throughout your academic and professional career.
  • Second, analysis is a highly sought after and transferable skill. By learning to analyze literature, you’ll practice the same skills you would use to analyze anything important. “Data analyst” is one of the most sought after job positions in the New Economy—and if you can analyze Shakespeare, you can analyze data. Indeed.com’s list of top 10 transferable skills includes analytical skills , which they define as “the traits and abilities that allow you to observe, research and interpret a subject in order to develop complex ideas and solutions.”
  • Finally, and for me personally, most importantly, reading and understanding literature makes life make sense. As we read literature, we expand our sense of what is possible for ourselves and for humanity. In the challenges we collectively face today, understanding the world and our place in it will be important for imagining new futures.

A note about using generative artificial intelligence

As I was working on creating this textbook, ChatGPT exploded into academic consciousness. Excited about the possibilities of this new tool, I immediately began incorporating it into my classroom teaching. In this book, I have used ChatGPT to help me with outlining content in chapters. I also used ChatGPT to create sample essays for each critical lens we will study in the course. These essays are dry and rather soulless, but they do a good job of modeling how to apply a specific theory to a literary text. I chose John Donne’s poem “The Canonization” as the text for these essays so that you can see how the different theories illuminate different aspects of the text.

I encourage students in my courses to use ChatGPT in the following ways:

  • To generate ideas about an approach to a text.
  • To better understand basic concepts.
  • To assist with outlining an essay.
  • To check grammar, punctuation, spelling, paragraphing, and other grammar/syntax issues.

If you choose to use Chat GPT, please include a brief acknowledgment statement as an appendix to your paper after your Works Cited page explaining how you have used the tool in your work. Here is an example of how to do this from Monash University’s “ Acknowledging the Use of Generative Artificial Intelligence .”

I acknowledge the use of [insert AI system(s) and link] to [specific use of generative artificial intelligence]. The prompts used include [list of prompts]. The output from these prompts was used to [explain use].

Here is more information about how to cite the use of generative AI like ChatGPT in your work. The information below was adapted from “Acknowledging and Citing Generative AI in Academic Work” by Liza Long (CC BY 4.0).

The Modern Language Association (MLA) uses a template of core elements to create citations for a Works Cited page. MLA  asks students to apply this approach when citing any type of generative AI in their work. They provide the following guidelines:

Cite a generative AI tool whenever you paraphrase, quote, or incorporate into your own work any content (whether text, image, data, or other) that was created by it. Acknowledge all functional uses of the tool (like editing your prose or translating words) in a note, your text, or another suitable location. Take care to vet the secondary sources it cites. (MLA)

Here are some examples of how to use and cite generative AI with MLA style:

Example One: Paraphrasing Text

Let’s say that I am trying to generate ideas for a paper on Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper.” I ask ChatGPT to provide me with a summary and identify the story’s main themes. Here’s a  link to the chat . I decide that I will explore the problem of identity and self-expression in my paper.

My Paraphrase of ChatGPT with In-Text Citation

The problem of identity and self expression, especially for nineteenth-century women, is a major theme in “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (“Summarize the short story”).

Image of "Yellow Wallpaper Summary" chat with ChatGPT

Works Cited Entry

“Summarize the short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Include a breakdown of the main themes” prompt.  ChatGPT.  24 May Version, OpenAI, 20 Jul. 2023,  https://chat.openai.com/share/d1526b95-920c-48fc-a9be-83cd7dfa4be5 

Example Two: Quoting Text

In the same chat, I continue to ask ChatGPT about the theme of identity and self expression. Here’s an example of how I could quote the response in the body of my paper:

When I asked  ChatGPT  to describe the theme of identity and self expression, it noted that the eponymous yellow wallpaper acts as a symbol of the narrator’s self-repression. However, when prompted to share the scholarly sources that formed the basis of this observation,  ChatGPT  responded, “As an AI language model, I don’t have access to my training data, but I was trained on a mixture of licensed data, data created by human trainers, and publicly available data. OpenAI, the organization behind my development, has not publicly disclosed the specifics of the individual datasets used, including whether scholarly sources were specifically used” (“Summarize the short story”).

It’s worth noting here that ChatGPT can “ hallucinate ” fake sources. As a Microsoft training manual notes, these chatbots are “built to be persuasive, not truthful” (Weiss &Metz, 2023). The May 24, 2023 version will no longer respond to direct requests for references; however, I was able to get around this restriction fairly easily by asking for “resources” instead.

When I ask for resources to learn more about “The Yellow Wallpaper,” here is one source it recommends:

“Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper: A Symptomatic Reading” by Elaine R. Hedges: This scholarly article delves into the psychological and feminist themes of the story, analyzing the narrator’s experience and the implications of the yellow wallpaper on her mental state. It’s available in the journal “Studies in Short Fiction.” (“Summarize the short story”).

Using Google Scholar, I look up this source to see if it’s real. Unsurprisingly, this source is not a real one, but it does lead me to another (real) source: Kasmer, Lisa. “Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s’ The Yellow Wallpaper’: A Symptomatic Reading.”  Literature and Psychology  36.3 (1990): 1.

Note: ALWAYS check any sources that ChatGPT or other generative AI tools recommend.

For more information about integrating and citing generative artificial intelligence tools such as ChatGPT, please see this section of  Write What Matters.

I acknowledge that ChatGPT does not respect the individual rights of authors and artists and ignores concerns over copyright and intellectual property in its training; additionally, I acknowledge that the system was trained in part through the exploitation of precarious workers in the global south. In this work I specifically used ChatGPT to assist with outlining chapters, providing background information about critical lenses, and creating “model” essays for the critical lenses we will learn about together. I have included links to my chats in an appendix to this book.

Critical theories: A targeted approach to writing about literature

Ultimately, there’s not one “right” way to read a text. In this book. we will explore a variety of critical theories that scholars use to analyze literature. The book is organized around different targets that are associated with the approach introduced in each chapter. In the introduction, for example, our target is literature. In future chapters you’ll explore these targeted analysis techniques:

  • Author: Biographical Criticism
  • Text: New Criticism
  • Reader: Reader Response Criticism
  • Gap: Deconstruction (Post-Structuralism)
  • Context: New Historicism and Cultural Studies
  • Power: Marxist and Postcolonial Criticism
  • Mind: Psychological Criticism
  • Gender: Feminist, Post Feminist, and Queer Theory
  • Nature: Ecocriticism

Each chapter will feature the target image with the central approach in the center. You’ll read a brief introduction about the theory, explore some primary texts (both critical and literary), watch a video, and apply the theory to a primary text. Each one of these theories could be the subject of its own entire course, so keep in mind that our goal in this book is to introduce these theories and give you a basic familiarity with these tools for literary analysis. For more information and practice, I recommend Steven Lynn’s excellent Texts and Contexts: Writing about Literature with Critical Theory , which provides a similar introductory framework.

I am so excited to share these tools with you and see you grow as a literary scholar. As we explore each of these critical worlds, you’ll likely find that some critical theories feel more natural or logical to you than others. I find myself much more comfortable with deconstruction than with psychological criticism, for example. Pay attention to how these theories work for you because this will help you to expand your approaches to texts and prepare you for more advanced courses in literature.

P.S. If you want to know what my favorite book is, I usually tell people it’s Herman Melville’s Moby Dick . And I do love that book! But I really have no idea what my “favorite” book of all time is, let alone what my favorite book was last year. Every new book that I read is a window into another world and a template for me to make sense out of my own experience and better empathize with others. That’s why I love literature. I hope you’ll love this experience too.

writings in prose or verse, especially :  writings having excellence of form or expression and expressing ideas of permanent or universal interest (Merriam Webster)

Critical Worlds Copyright © 2024 by Liza Long is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Literary Theory and Criticism

Home › Kannur University › Analysis of Terry Eagleton’s What is Literature

Analysis of Terry Eagleton’s What is Literature

By NASRULLAH MAMBROL on February 4, 2024

Terry Eagleton’s exploration of the definition of literature in his introduction to “What is Literature?” presents a multifaceted inquiry into the nature of literary discourse. Eagleton begins by questioning the very existence of literary theory, suggesting that if such a theory exists, then there must also be something identifiable as literature which it seeks to understand. From this starting point, he delves into various attempts to define literature, dissecting common conceptions and proposing alternative perspectives.

One prevalent notion Eagleton critiques is the simplistic classification of literature as imaginative fiction. While fiction certainly falls within the realm of literature, Eagleton argues that this definition fails to encompass the breadth of texts typically considered literary. He illustrates this point by highlighting the inclusion of diverse genres and forms in literary canons, ranging from Shakespearean plays to philosophical treatises and historical accounts.

Eagleton then challenges the distinction between fact and fiction, suggesting that it is often blurred and context-dependent. He discusses how literary language deviates from ordinary speech, employing techniques that intensify and transform language, thereby drawing attention to its materiality. This perspective aligns with the Russian formalists’ view of literature as an “organized violence committed on ordinary speech,” where literary texts systematically depart from everyday language norms.

what is literature essay

The essay further examines formalist principles, emphasizing the significance of literary devices and the estrangement effect in literary language. Eagleton elucidates how the Formalists analyzed literary form independently of content, viewing literature as a self-contained system governed by specific laws and structures. This approach challenged traditional interpretations of literature as a reflection of reality or the author’s mind, instead focusing on the linguistic aspects of the text itself.

However, Eagleton acknowledges the limitations of formalist theories, particularly their failure to account for the variability of norms and deviations across different social and historical contexts. He underscores the subjective nature of literary valuation, highlighting how literary status can change over time and vary among individuals and communities. Eagleton ultimately rejects the idea of a stable, objective definition of literature, proposing that it is better understood as a socially constructed category shaped by shifting cultural and aesthetic standards.

Terry Eagleton’s essay explores the dynamic relationship between literature, interpretation, and societal values. He argues that literary works are continually reinterpreted by different historical periods and societies, leading to the construction of distinct versions of canonical texts tailored to their own concerns and ideologies. Terry Eagleton challenges the notion of purely objective interpretation, suggesting that all readings are inherently influenced by subjective values and societal contexts.

He emphasizes the intertwined nature of factual statements and value judgments, asserting that even seemingly objective statements are laden with underlying value-categories. Terry Eagleton critiques the idea of “value-free” knowledge, highlighting the inherent connection between interests, beliefs, and knowledge acquisition.

Furthermore, he delves into the concept of ideology, defining it as the ways in which beliefs and expressions connect with societal power structures. Terry Eagleton illustrates this through an analysis of literary criticism, demonstrating how unconscious biases and social backgrounds shape interpretations of literary works.

Overall, Terry Eagleton’s essay challenges traditional notions of literary interpretation and underscores the profound influence of societal values on our understanding of literature. By critically engaging with various theoretical perspectives and historical contexts, he challenges readers to reconsider their assumptions about what constitutes literature and to recognize the fluidity of literary categorization.

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Essays About Literature: Top 6 Examples and 8 Prompts

Society and culture are formed around literature. If you are writing essays about literature, you can use the essay examples and prompts featured in our guide.

It has been said that language holds the key to all human activities, and literature is the expression of language. It teaches new words and phrases, allows us to better our communication skills, and helps us learn more about ourselves.

Whether you are reading poems or novels, we often see parts of ourselves in the characters and themes presented by the authors. Literature gives us ideas and helps us determine what to say, while language gives form and structure to our ideas, helping us convey them.

6 Helpful Essay Examples

1. importance of literature by william anderson, 2. philippine literature by jean hodges, 3. african literature by morris marshall.

  • 4.  Nine Questions From Children’s Literature That Every Person Should Answer by Shaunta Grimes

5. Exploring tyranny and power in Macbeth by Tom Davey

6. guide to the classics: homer’s odyssey by jo adetunji, 1. the importance of literature, 2. comparing and contrasting two works of literature  , 3. the use of literary devices, 4. popular adaptations of literature, 5. gender roles in literature, 6. analysis of your chosen literary work, 7. fiction vs. non-fiction, 8. literature as an art form.

“Life before literature was practical and predictable, but in the present-day, literature has expanded into countless libraries and into the minds of many as the gateway for comprehension and curiosity of the human mind and the world around them. Literature is of great importance and is studied upon as it provides the ability to connect human relationships and define what is right and what is wrong.”

Anderson writes about why an understanding of literature is crucial. It allows us to see different perspectives of people from different periods, countries, and cultures: we are given the ability to see the world from an entirely new lens. As a result, we obtain a better judgment of situations. In a world where anything can happen, literature gives us the key to enacting change for ourselves and others. You might also be interested in these essays about Beowulf .

“So successful were the efforts of colonists to blot out the memory of the country’s largely oral past that present-day Filipino writers, artists and journalists are trying to correct this inequity by recognizing the country’s wealth of ethnic traditions and disseminating them in schools through mass media. The rise of nationalistic pride in the 1960s and 1970s also helped bring about this change of attitude among a new breed of Filipinos concerned about the “Filipino identity.””

In her essay, Hodges writes about the history of Philippine literature. Unfortunately, much of Philippine literary history has been obscured by Spanish colonization, as the written works of the Spanish largely replaced the oral tradition of the native Filipinos. A heightened sense of nationalism has recently led to a resurgence in Filipino tradition, including ancient Philippine literature. 

“In fact, the common denominator of the cultures of the African continent is undoubtedly the oral tradition. Writing on black Africa started in the middle Ages with the introduction of the Arabic language and later, in the nineteenth century with introduction of the Latin alphabet. Since 1934, with the birth of the “Negritude.” African authors began to write in French or in English.”

Marshall explores the history of African literature, particularly the languages it was written over time. It was initially written in Arabic and native languages; however, with the “Negritude” movement, writers began composing their works in French or English. This movement allowed African writers to spread their work and gain notoriety. Marshall gives examples of African literature, shedding light on their lyrical content. 

4.   Nine Questions From Children’s Literature That Every Person Should Answer by Shaunta Grimes

“ They asked me questions — questions about who I am, what I value, and where I’m headed — and pushed me to think about the answers. At some point in our lives, we decide we know everything we need to know. We stop asking questions. To remember what’s important, it sometimes helps to return to that place of childlike curiosity and wonder.”

Grimes’ essay is a testament to how much we can learn from literature, even as simple as children’s stories. She explains how different works of children’s literature, such as Charlotte’s Web and Little Women, can inspire us, help us maximize our imagination, and remind us of the fleeting nature of life. Most importantly, however, they remind us that the future is uncertain, and maximizing it is up to us. 

“This is a world where the moral bar has been lowered; a world which ‘sinks beneath the yoke’. In the Macbeths, we see just how terribly the human soul can be corrupted. However, this struggle is played out within other characters too. Perhaps we’re left wondering: in such a dog-eat-dog world, how would we fare?”

The corruption that power can lead to is genuine; Davey explains how this theme is present in Shakespeare’s Macbeth . Even after being honored, Macbeth still wishes to be king and commits heinous acts of violence to achieve his goals. Violence is prevalent throughout the play, but Macbeth and Lady Macbeth exemplify the vicious cycle of bloodshed through their ambition and power. 

“Polyphemus is blinded but survives the attack and curses the voyage home of the Ithacans. All of Odysseus’s men are eventually killed, and he alone survives his return home, mostly because of his versatility and cleverness. There is a strong element of the trickster figure about Homer’s Odysseus.”

Adetunji also exposes a notable work of literature, in this case, Homer’s Odyssey . She goes over the epic poem and its historical context and discusses Odysseus’ most important traits: cleverness and courage. As the story progresses, he displays great courage and bravery in his exploits, using his cunning and wit to outsmart his foes. Finally, Adetunji references modern interpretations of the Odyssey in film, literature, and other media.

8 Prompts for Essays About Literature

In your essay, write about the importance of literature; explain why we need to study literature and how it can help us in the future. Then, give examples of literary works that teach important moral lessons as evidence. 

For your essay, choose two works of literature with similar themes. Then, discuss their similarities and differences in plot, theme, and characters. For example, these themes could include death, grief, love and hate, or relationships. You can also discuss which of the two pieces of literature presents your chosen theme better. 

Essays about literature: The use of literary devices

Writers use literary devices to enhance their literary works and emphasize important points. Literary devices include personification, similes, metaphors, and more. You can write about the effectiveness of literary devices and the reasoning behind their usage. Research and give examples of instances where authors use literary devices effectively to enhance their message.  

Literature has been adapted into cinema, television, and other media time and again, with series such as Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter turning into blockbuster franchises. Explore how these adaptations diverge from their source material yet retain the key themes the writer composed the work with in mind. If this seems confusing, research first and read some essay examples. 

Literature reflects the ideas of the period it is from; for example, ancient Greek literature, such as Antigone, depicts the ideal woman as largely obedient and subservient, to an extent. For your essay, you can write about how gender roles have evolved in literature throughout the years, specifically about women. Be sure to give examples to support your points. 

Choose a work of literature that interests you and analyze it in your essay. You can use your favorite novel, book, or screenplay, explain the key themes and characters and summarize the plot. Analyze the key messages in your chosen piece of literature, and discuss how the themes are enhanced through the author’s writing techniques.

Essays about literature: Fiction Vs. Non-Fiction

Literature can be divided into two categories: fiction, from the writer’s imagination, and non-fiction, written about actual events. Explore their similarities and differences, and give your opinion on which is better. For a strong argument, provide ample supporting details and cite credible sources.  

Literature is an art form that uses language, so do you believe it is more effective in conveying its message? Write about how literature compares to other art forms such as painting and sculpture; state your argument and defend it adequately. 

Tip: If writing an essay sounds like a lot of work, simplify it. Write a simple 5 paragraph essay instead.

For help picking your next essay topic, check out the best essay topics about social media .

what is literature essay

Martin is an avid writer specializing in editing and proofreading. He also enjoys literary analysis and writing about food and travel.

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  • Importance of Literature: Essay

Literature is the foundation of life . It places an emphasis on many topics from human tragedies to tales of the ever-popular search for love. While it is physically written in words, these words come alive in the imagination of the mind, and its ability to comprehend the complexity or simplicity of the text.

Literature enables people to see through the lenses of others, and sometimes even inanimate objects; therefore, it becomes a looking glass into the world as others view it. It is a journey that is inscribed in pages and powered by the imagination of the reader.

Ultimately, literature has provided a gateway to teach the reader about life experiences from even the saddest stories to the most joyful ones that will touch their hearts.

From a very young age, many are exposed to literature in the most stripped-down form: picture books and simple texts that are mainly for the sole purpose of teaching the alphabet etc. Although these are not nearly as complex as an 800-page sci-fi novel, it is the first step that many take towards the literary world.

Progressively, as people grow older, they explore other genres of books, ones that propel them towards curiosity of the subject, and the overall book.

Reading and being given the keys to the literature world prepares individuals from an early age to discover the true importance of literature: being able to comprehend and understand situations from many perspectives.

Physically speaking, it is impossible to be someone else. It is impossible to switch bodies with another human being, and it is impossible to completely understand the complexity of their world. Literature, as an alternative, is the closest thing the world has to being able to understand another person whole-heartedly.

For stance, a novel about a treacherous war, written from the perspective of a soldier, allows the reader to envision their memories, their pain, and their emotions without actually being that person. Consequently, literature can act as a time machine, enabling individuals to go into a specific time period of the story, into the mind and soul of the protagonist.

With the ability to see the world with a pair of fresh eyes, it triggers the reader to reflect upon their own lives. Reading material that is relatable to the reader may teach them morals and encourage them to practice good judgment.

This can be proven through public school systems, where the books that are emphasized the most tend to have a moral-teaching purpose behind the story.

An example would be William Shakespeare’s stories, where each one is meant to be reflective of human nature – both the good and bad.

Consequently, this can promote better judgment of situations , so the reader does not find themselves in the same circumstances as perhaps those in the fiction world. Henceforth, literature is proven to not only be reflective of life, but it can also be used as a guide for the reader to follow and practice good judgment.

The world today is ever-changing. Never before has life been so chaotic and challenging for all. Life before literature was practical and predictable, but in the present-day, literature has expanded into countless libraries and into the minds of many as the gateway for comprehension and curiosity of the human mind and the world around them.

Literature is of great importance and is studied upon as it provides the ability to connect human relationships and define what is right and what is wrong. Therefore, words are alive more than ever before.

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Tutor and Freelance Writer. Science Teacher and Lover of Essays. Article last reviewed: 2022 | St. Rosemary Institution © 2010-2024 | Creative Commons 4.0

17 Comments

Indeed literature is the foundation of life, people should know and appreciate these kind of things

its very useful info thanks

very helpful…..tnx

Hi, thanks!

First year student who wants to know about literature and how I can develop interest in reading novels.

Fantastic piece!

wonderful work

Literature is anything that is artistically presented through writtings or orally.

you may have tangible wealth untold, caskets of jewels and coffers of gold, richer than i you could never be, i know someone who told stories to me.

there’s a great saying that “the universe isn’t made up of at atoms, its made of stories” i hope none will argue this point, because this is the truest thing i have ever heard and its beautiful…….

I have learnt alot thanks to the topic literature.Literature is everything.It answers the questions why?,how? and what?.To me its my best and I will always treasure and embress literature to death.

I agree with the writer when says that Literature is the foundation of life. For me, reading is the most wonderful experience in life. It allows me to travel to other places and other times. I think that also has learnt me to emphathize with others, and see the world with other´s eyes and from their perspectives. I really like to read.

This is the first time i am presenting on a literature and i am surprised by the amount of people who are interested on the same subject. I regret my absence because i have missed much marvelous thing in that field.In fact literature is what is needed by the whole world,it brings the people of different culture together and by doing so it breaks the imposed barriers that divided people.My address now goes to the people of nowadays who prefer other source of entertainment like TV,i am not saying that TV is bad but reading is better of.COME BACK TO IT THEN.

literature is a mirror; a true reflection of our nature. it helps us see ourselves in a third persons point of view of first persons point of view. it instills virtues and condones vices. literature forms a great portion of fun and entertainment through plays, comedies and novels. it also educates individuals on life’s basic but delicate and sacred issues like love and death. it informs us of the many happenings and events that we would never have otherwise known about. literature also forms a source of livelihood to thousands of people, starting from writers,characters in plays, editors, printers,distributors and business people who deal with printed materials. literature is us and without it, we are void.

I believe that life without Literature would be unacceptable , with it i respect myself and loved human life . Next week i am going to make presentation about Literature, so i benefited from this essay.

Thanks a lot

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  1. Analytical Essay: Essay in english literature

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  2. Steps in writing a literature review by Literary Devices

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  3. Student Essay Example 2 (Literary Analysis) in MLA

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  4. Literary Essay

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  6. How to Write a Literature Review in 5 Simple Steps

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COMMENTS

  1. How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay

    Learn how to analyze a text, interpret its meanings, and explore why the author made certain choices. Follow the steps to read the text, identify literary devices, write a thesis, and structure your essay.

  2. Essay in Literature: Definition & Examples

    An essay (ES-ey) is a nonfiction composition that explores a concept, argument, idea, or opinion from the personal perspective of the writer. Essays are usually a few pages, but they can also be book-length. Unlike other forms of nonfiction writing, like textbooks or biographies, an essay doesn't inherently require research. Literary essayists are conveying ideas in a more informal way.

  3. How to Write Literary Analysis

    Literary analysis involves examining all the parts of a novel, play, short story, or poem—elements such as character, setting, tone, and imagery—and thinking about how the author uses those elements to create certain effects. A literary essay isn't a book review: you're not being asked whether or not you liked a book or whether you'd ...

  4. Essay

    An essay is a short, personal, and flexible literary composition that explores a topic from various perspectives. Learn about the history, types, and examples of essays, from Montaigne to the present day.

  5. Beginner's Guide to Literary Analysis

    How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay. When conducting literary analysis while reading a text or discussing it in class, you can pivot easily from one argument to another (or even switch sides if a classmate or teacher makes a compelling enough argument). But when writing literary analysis, your objective is to propose a specific, arguable ...

  6. 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. A debatable thesis statement

  7. How to Write a Good English Literature Essay

    We might even say that when it comes to knowing how to write a good English Literature essay, practising is more important than planning. 2. Make room for close analysis of the text, or texts. Whilst it's true that some first-class or A-grade essays will be impressive without containing any close reading as such, most of the highest-scoring ...

  8. PDF HOW TO WRITE A LITERARY ANALYSIS ESSAY

    The term regularly used for the development of the central idea of a literary analysis essay is the body. In this section you present the paragraphs (at least 3 paragraphs for a 500-750 word essay) that support your thesis statement. Good literary analysis essays contain an explanation of your ideas and evidence from the text (short story,

  9. What is a literary essay

    The literary essay is counted as one of the major genres in literature. It is found alongside dramaturgy, narrative and poetry —although with a more didactic nuance—. It is a short text written in prose where the author analyzes, examines or interprets a topic in a subjective but documented way. Its purpose is to argue about a specific topic.

  10. PDF English Literature Writing Guide

    Literature essay at University level, including: 1. information on the criteria in relation to which your essay will be judged 2. how to plan and organise an essay ... Essays should be typed or word-processed, double-spaced. Pages should be numbered consecutively in Arabic numerals, including the final page

  11. 4.2: The Writing Process for Literary Essays

    The preceding categories suggest that writing is a linear process — that is, that you will follow these steps in the following order: prewriting→researching→outlining→drafting→revising→feedback→re-revising→publishing. The reality of the writing process, however, is that as you write you shuttle back and forth in these stages.

  12. How to Write a Literature Review

    Examples of literature reviews. Step 1 - Search for relevant literature. Step 2 - Evaluate and select sources. Step 3 - Identify themes, debates, and gaps. Step 4 - Outline your literature review's structure. Step 5 - Write your literature review.

  13. How to Write a Literary Analysis: 6 Tips for the Perfect Essay

    How to Write a Literary Analysis. These 4 steps will help prepare you to write an in-depth literary analysis that offers new insight to both old and modern classics. 1. Read the text and identify literary devices. As you conduct your literary analysis, you should first read through the text, keeping an eye on key elements that could serve as ...

  14. 1.1: What is Literature?

    A literary critic is a person who studies and analyzes literature. A literary critic produces scholarship called literary criticism. ... For example, the meme above conveys the dramatic reaction students sometimes give when I assign an essay. This is done primarily through a literary device called hyperbole, or exaggeration for rhetorical ...

  15. 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. Literature may be classified according to a variety of systems, including language, national origin, historical ...

  16. What is a Literature essay? Steps to writing a literature essay

    Like another academic essay, a literature essay also has three parts; an introduction, body, and conclusion. You should write on all aspects of writing and never miss any point related to your topic. Step 4: Write. Now, start elaborated on the outline that you make of the literature essay. Introduction.

  17. What Is Literature and Why Do We Study It?

    Literature is a method of recording, preserving, and transmitting knowledge and entertainment, and can also have a social, psychological, spiritual, or political role.". This definition is well-suited for our purposes here because throughout this course, we will be considering several types of literary texts in a variety of contexts.

  18. What Is Literature: Essay

    1. This essay sample was donated by a student to help the academic community. Papers provided by EduBirdie writers usually outdo students' samples. Cite this essay. Download. To begin with, my insight paper let me first define the word Literature; According to JOSHUA J. MARK, Literature comes (from the Latin word Littera meaning letters and ...

  19. "What is Literature?" and Other Essays

    The essays presenting Sartre's monthly, Les Temps modernes, and on the peculiarly French manner of nationalizing literature do much to create a context for Sartre's treatise. "Black Orpheus" has been for many years a key text for the study of black and third-world literatures.

  20. Analysis of Terry Eagleton's What is Literature

    The essay further examines formalist principles, emphasizing the significance of literary devices and the estrangement effect in literary language. Eagleton elucidates how the Formalists analyzed literary form independently of content, viewing literature as a self-contained system governed by specific laws and structures.

  21. Essays About Literature: Top 6 Examples And 8 Prompts

    8 Prompts for Essays About Literature. 1. The Importance of Literature. In your essay, write about the importance of literature; explain why we need to study literature and how it can help us in the future. Then, give examples of literary works that teach important moral lessons as evidence. 2.

  22. Importance of Literature: Essay

    Literature is the foundation of life that enables people to see through the lenses of others and learn from their experiences. This essay explores how literature can teach morals, reflect human nature, and transport readers to different times and places.

  23. What Is Literature Essay

    Literature is defined as written works published on a particular subject. Literature can also be viewed as witness, because it can be a source of proof based on the events it was written on. Literature as witness allows readers to get a deeper understanding of the issues that have happened based off of what the books are about.

  24. Founder of Literary Magazine Guernica Defends Retracting ...

    Founder of Literary Magazine Guernica Defends Retracting Israeli Translator's Essay. The founder wrote that he believed from the start that the essay by Joanna Chen was a departure from the journal's values. More than a dozen members of Guernica's volunteer staff resigned to protest it, while the editor-in-chief, who advocated for the essay ...