ENGLISH 226 – PAPER TWO
LITERARY ANALYSIS

Due: Wednesday, March 26, 2008; mandatory draft workshop on Monday, March 24, 2008

Length: Five to seven typed pages

For this essay you must craft an analysis of a theme or critical problem that you find in one or more literary works on our syllabus. By analyzing these works in terms of theme, symbols, form, or setting, you can reveal features that may otherwise have remained inaccessible. You should begin, therefore, by looking through the works we have read to find works that seem strikingly similar or different to you in some way—for example, two or three pieces that explore ideas of nation, violence, religion, gender, and so on; a group of works that share important structural or formal characteristics (i.e., two or more sonnets); or any other grouping that seems interesting to you for an identifiable reason. You may choose to compare works by the same author or by different authors; you might wish to choose an earlier work and a later work by the same author.
Begin by trying to find common denominators between the works you have selected—characterizations, settings, plots, etc.—that will give you topics to focus on as you compare. As always, you should avoid simply paraphrasing or summarizing the literature you are analyzing. After you've decided which elements you will focus on and compare, you must gather evidence (quotations and analyses of specific elements in each work) to support your thesis and then decide how you want to organize your analysis.

Work on crafting a coherent essay that begins with a clear introduction, followed by a thesis statement or "promise to the reader" that lets the reader know what the point of this analysis will be. If you work with two or more works, strive to give equal attention to each of the works in the body of your paper; avoid focusing on one to the exclusion of the other(s). Conclude your paper gracefully by tying your analysis together for the reader.

Please do not write on the same author(s) you wrote about in Paper One.


You should avoid simply summarizing the work you decide to write about. While your essay may begin with a short summary in order to set context, you should be certain to analyze rather than to summarize. One way to avoid summary is crafting an argumentative thesis that takes an arguable point of view on the novel, a point of view that will require support from the text itself. For example, a paper that begins, "James Joyce’s 'Araby' is about a young boy who goes to a bazaar," does not promise to develop into an argument about the meaning of the story, while the sentence, " James Joyce’s 'Araby' uses pervasive imagery of seeing and blindness to show us a young Dubliner's inability to face the poverty of his environment ," suggests that the writer will focus her attention on one particular aspect of the text, analyzing how this feature (in this case, the imagery of Joyce’s story) "works" to create the story's meaning.

ADVICE:

—When you write about literature, write in the present tense when discussing the text: When the narrator arrives at the Araby bazaar, he finds the hall dark and almost empty.

—Follow your direct quotations with the appropriate page number from the text in parentheses (as in the example above). If you have used a text other than those listed on the syllabus, please include a bibliographical reference to this text at the end of your paper.

—Quotations longer than four lines should be presented in single-spaced blocks indented in the text.

SUGGESTED TOPICS:

—Select two or three poems by W. B. Yeats dealing with any theme (aging, death, sexuality, fairies, e.g.) and demonstrate how Yeats treats the subject in terms of imagery, tone, voice, etc.  You may find it easier to select poems that differ from each other in their approaches to this theme. Do they differ formally in any significant ways?  If so, do you find significance in such formal differences?

—Select two or more of Yeats "political" poems to discuss.  In what way do these poems fit your "definition" of a "political poem"?  How do these poems compare in their handling of themes such as patriotism, dying for one's country, and so on?  You might consider "September 1913," "Easter 1916," "An Irish Airman Foresees his Death," "Sixteen Dead Men," "The Rose Tree," "Meditations in Time of Civil War," "Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen," and "Politics," among others.

—Find a recurrent element or image in any of the writers we've read and discuss its significance in the writers' work in general (e.g., the role of money in any of Joyce's Dubliners stories or the role of food in O'Brien's "Sister Imelda").

—Consider Yeats's play Purgatory as a play about Ireland after independence. What critique of post-revolutionary Ireland do you see Yeats developing in this play?

—Discuss the place of female characters and/or gender roles in one or more of James Joyce’s Dubliners stories .

—What conception of “Irishness” does Joyce develop in Dubliners?  How do Joyce’s views on Irishness differ from those of Yeats or Synge?

—Compare one of Joyce's stories in Dubliners with Edna O'Brien's "Sister Imelda." How do the two authors compare in their use of imagery or narrative voice? What portrait of Catholicism do they draw (you could compare "Eveline" with "Sister Imelda" here)?

—Consider "The Dead" in relation to the other Dubliners stories you've read. Is it a more "generous" story in terms of its depiction of Irish life? Are the characters more developed and perhaps less "paralyzed" than those of the earlier stories?

—In 1906, James Joyce wrote to a potential publisher about Dubliners, "I have tried to present [Dublin] to the indifferent public under four of its aspects: childhood, adolescence, maturity and public life." Pick one story from two or more of these aspects of Dublin life and compare Joyce's manner of presenting them: for example, how does his portrayal of childhood differ from his way of depicting adolescence?