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THE LITERARY ESSAY
A LITERARY ESSAY is an analysis of a piece of fiction. The writer INTERPRETS the way the piece of fiction WAS WRITTEN.
STRUCTURE 5 paragraph essay: Intro (Includes brief summary & thesis) 3 body paragraphs (1 per piece of supporting evidence) Conclusion
THE 3 PARTS OF AN INTRODUCTION A) Summary B) Reference to topic of choice C) Thesis
PART A SENTENCE 1 -2: A brief summary of the text, including the author’s name and title of the work. FOCUS ON WHAT IS IMPORTANT, NOT little details that are not memorable.
PART B Sentence #3 -4: Tell us what your topic is. i. e. Reference to your chosen topic.
PART B (Cont’d) EXAMPLE TOPIC: -Discuss theme of dual identities in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. BAD: This essay is about the The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Robert Louis Stevenson’s use of double identity. GOOD: Victorian literature encompasses aspects of secrecy and duality within both the supernatural and sensational genres. Many characters within the novels of this time period secretly lead double lives and struggle with their true identity as a result. In The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson leaves his readers in suspense as to the true nature and identity of Mr. Hyde.
PART C: Thesis Statement LAST SENTENCE of your INTRODUCTION. It must include your 3 pieces of supporting evidence that you will use to PROVE YOUR THESIS IS CORRECT.
THESIS (Cont’d) The strongest thesis statements are original; NOT everyone will agree with your interpretation but it is your job to prove yourself in the 3 body paragraphs that follow. You are interpreting a piece of literature; this means that you may have a different take on the text than someone else.
THESIS (Cont’d) BAD THESIS: The 3 pieces of evidence that will be discussed reflect the dual identity in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. GOOD THESIS: By discussing Dr. Jekyll’s house and laboratory, Mr. Hyde’s appearance and the transformation scene, Stevenson uses theme of dual identities to represent the separation of a character’s primitive side with that of his more evolved state.
THE 3 BODY PARAGRAPHS Each body paragraph will discuss ONE piece of supporting evidence written in your THESIS. YOU MUST FOLLOW THE ORDER OF YOUR ARGUMENTS LISTED IN YOUR THESIS. I. e. Only Dr. Jekyll’s house and laboratory will be discussed in the 1 st paragraph, Mr. Hyde’s appearance in the 2 nd, and the transformation scene in the 3 rd.
REQUIREMENTS FOR EACH BP TOPIC SENTENCES: Introduce what your paragraph is going to be about and how it relates to your thesis. BAD TOPIC SENTENCE: This paragraph will be about the difference between Dr. Jekyll’s house and laboratory. GOOD TOPIC SENTENCE: The difference between Dr. Jekyll’s house and laboratory symbolizes the contrast between public and private self.
REQUIREMENTS FOR EACH BP Each Body Paragraph MUST HAVE AT LEAST 2 QUOTES to support your interpretation. If you are going to say that the difference between Dr. Jekyll’s house and laboratory symbolizes the contrast between public and private self, THEN you must prove it by quoting 2 passages where you can clearly see the difference between these two dwellings and how it affects his personality.
How To Quote YOU MUST INTEGRATE YOUR QUOTE INTO YOUR OWN SENTENCES. YOU MUST LEAD-IN TO YOUR QUOTE. Good Example: For example, when the narrator says, "it was the first time that the lawyer had been received in that part of his friend's quarters; and he eyed the dingy, windowless structure with curiosity, and gazed round with a distasteful sense of strangeness as he crossed theatre, once crowded with eager students and now lying gaunt and silent, the tables laden with chemical apparatus, the floor strewn with crates and littered with packing straw, and the light falling dimly through the foggy cupola”, it is evident that Dr. Jekyll hides the laboratory from his close friends, including Mr. Utterson, because he fears they may not understand the eccentricities of his private self (Stevenson ch. 5).
YOU MUST INTEGRATE YOUR QUOTE INTO YOUR OWN SENTENCES. Bad Example: “It was the first time that the lawyer had been received in that part of his friend's quarters; and he eyed the dingy, windowless structure with curiosity, and gazed round with a distasteful sense of strangeness as he crossed theatre, once crowded with eager students and now lying gaunt and silent, the tables laden with chemical apparatus, the floor strewn with crates and littered with packing straw, and the light falling dimly through the foggy cupola” (Stevenson ch. 5). This quote shows the description of the laboratory.
TIP To see if your quote is well integrated, read it out loud; it SHOULD sound like a natural part of your sentence. It shouldn’t stick out!
REQUIREMENTS FOR EACH BP WRAP-UP SENTENCES: -wrap up what your paragraph is about and how it relates to your thesis. Good Example: Therefore, by throwing elaborate dinner parties for his friends, yet avoiding to ever show them the laboratory, he segregates his private self from that of his public one.
Conclusion Sentence #1: Restate your thesis in a new and refreshing way. Sentence #2 -4: Summarize your 3 main points that prove your thesis. Last Sentence: Meaningful closing that relates to your topic. (e. g. Scientific and psychological studies that were done during the nineteenth century greatly affected ideas relating to the split personality. It was the “temptation of a discovery” that draws out Dr. Jekyll’s need to create a drug that would separate his primitive self from that of his developed one. )
GENERAL TIPS NEVER write “This essay is about…” or “This quote is about…”. Writing must be formal; “I”, “me”, “we”, “you” is NOT allowed. Stay away from phrases such as “it seems”, “maybe”, “possibly”, “I guess”…You have to write your essay as though you are 100% SURE YOU ARE RIGHT. Use transitional words as you go from paragraph to paragraph. These include words, such as first, second, similarly, in addition, in contrast…
GENERAL TIPS(Cont’d) Write in the present tense. Good Example: When Mr. Utterson and Mr. Enfield walk through the courtyard, they see Dr. Jekyll at the window. Bad Example: When Mr. Utterson and Mr. Enfield were walking through the courtyard, they saw Dr. Jekyll at the window.