How to Write a Literature Essay
Before starting your paper it is necessary to sketch a rough outline, this can be done by jotting down points you want to bring up in your paper, arguments you want to throw light upon, step by step stages or by making a list of questions you need to get answered.
The next step is to visualise the structure of your paper. As a literature paper does not include headings, it is mandatory for a literature student to provide an eminent introductory and conclusive paragraph at the beginning and end of the paper, respectively. When understanding how to write a literature paper it is necessary to understand that fundamentally the essay should be coherent.
It is mandatory to provide a formal introduction in which you tell your reader about the title of the essay’s topic you will discuss and mention the original author, even if this information is already available in the essay’s title. When writing about poetry, a point to retain in focus is that the sentence contains meaning, not a phrase and thus, when quoting from a poem one should quote a stanza or a sentence rather than an incomplete verse. When writing about fiction, one should remember that providing the summary is not enough. In many essays, one has to argue that one’s perspective is valid, which is usually an evaluative judgment, an interpretation or a critical evaluation. For this, one must always have a specific thesis statement entailing all the necessary details that reveals one’s perspective, which in turn should be debatable as with any good argument. An argument should never be of this sort: Hamlet is a play about a young man seeking revenge. This sentence indicates a gist of the play and is not an argumentative statement. A right thesis for this would be: Hamlet realises he is in love with his mother and struggles through an internal conflict. This statement is controversial and the kind of statement that would require justifications in the upcoming sections of the paper. The rest of the essay will use this thesis statement as an argument to further elaborate and show how Hamlet fell in love with his mother and what the implications were of this play’s reading.
It would be great if you manage to write a complete literature essay without using the first-person singular I, however, in case it does enter your writing, it’s okay – it is not the end of the world! In fact, it might be like an innovative change, a sign that you are taking responsibility for what you are claiming to be true. Usually the humanities professors prefer the “journalistic we” in literature papers, this we is also called the royal plural at times. For instance: in these lines, we hear an echo of Frost’s “Design” can be heard.
Another important point to remember when understanding how to write a literature essay, is to be consistent in your writing. Generally, the objectivity of your paper is reciprocated in the teacher’s approval and it would be advisable to consult your instructor before using a first-person pronoun in your essay, specifically the first-person singular. The author’s biographical information, although interesting, remains irrelevant for most literature essays as the focus is to critically analyse the literature. It is therefore advised that you should altogether omit the remarks on the author’s / poet’s life.
Edit and format:
Literature accounts for one of the oldest academic subjects and thus follows a conventional writing style. Times New Roman Font of size 12 (the standard) with double spacing is the typical format used for writing literature papers, yet it is nonetheless advised that you consult your teacher before starting a paper. All quotes have to be copied in their originality, and must be in inverted commas. Make sure that you reference these correctly using the preferred referencing style of your university.
Re-check your paper before you hand it in:
The last step is to proofread your paper, that’s if it’s ready to be handed in yet! To start checking a literature paper, one has to ensure the presence of the ABC of writing (Accuracy, Brevity and Clarity).
If by the end of the paper, you feel like re-reading your paper, then you may congratulate yourself. It indicates that you have written a paper worth reading. The main elements that need to be double checked are
*Referencing style required.
*Italicised titles of plays, novels, magazines, newspapers, journals, dramas, short stories.
*Make sure the quotes are in inverted commas and separated from the text in the form of a new paragraph and make sure that the quotation marks and parentheses come in pairs.
*Check your punctuation and spellings carefully. Carefully go through the paper and re-check places where you have used semicolons, apostrophes, colons, commas and full stops. Check for incomplete sentences, phrases and clauses.
*Read the paper and question your word choice, see if some words, phrases or sentences can be replaced with any other preferable alternatives?
All these above-mentioned suggestions are applicable to all types of literature essays. These tips shall not only help you write a concise, coherent and overall a remarkably good essay, but should also refrain you from drowning in the ocean of literature, which is extensive when learning how to write a literature essay.
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