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“To leap over the wall of self to look through another’s eyes—this is valuable experience which literature offers.” –X.J. Kennedy

GENRE: The genre for this first essay is literary analysis. The term literary traditionally refers to the study of literature (fictional texts such as novels, short stories, poems, plays). Analysis refers to breaking down a larger work using specific analytical techniques to understand how it works and what it means.

PURPOSE: The purpose of literary analysis is to examine literary texts closely in order to understand their messages and interpret their meanings. Arguments for what a text means are not always made explicitly; they are often hidden in the fiction we consume. Our interpretations of these texts have value. They help us better see and understand ourselves, how we relate to others, and how we relate to the world around us through universal human emotions and experiences.

TOPIC: For this assignment, you will closely read and analyze a short story, formulate a thesis that communicates YOUR interpretation of the text, and develop an argument that defends your thesis with ample textual evidence. Here are some questions you will need to answer about your chosen story:

  1. What universal human emotions/experiences can you identify in the story?
  2. What point do you think the story’s author is trying to make about these universal emotions/experiences?
  3. How does this story help us understand ourselves, others, and our world?

Please choose ONE of the following short stories for your analysis:

“A & P” “The Passing of Grandison”

“A Good Man is Hard to Find” “The Open Window”

“Everyday Use”

Please read ALL of these selections before you make your final decision. We are on a timeline for completion of this essay, so there will not be time to change your mind once we get started writing. Once you have made your decision, you will complete and submit a topic proposal in a separate assignment (see Due Dates on the next page).

AUDIENCE: Your essay should be written with a general academic audience* in mind and therefore written in the style of academic discourse. This means that each point should be explained thoroughly and in precise literary terms. We will go over literary terms so you will understand what is expected. *This general academic audience naturally refers to your ENG 102 peers and instructor.

ORGANIZATION: Use standard essay organization:

  • Introductory paragraph which introduces your topic and thesis
  • Body paragraphs (as many as you need) that develop and support your thesis with textual evidence
  • Concluding paragraph that reinforces your thesis and brings your discussion to a close

SOURCES & DOCUMENTATION: The only source you need is the short story itself. You are expected to use specific textual evidence from the story (quotes, summaries, and/or paraphrases) to support your argument. Using the words and/or ideas of others requires that you document this material to avoid plagiarism. You are expected to use proper MLA 8 style documentation (parenthetical citations AND a Works Cited page) to document any quotes and/or borrowed material. I will go over this with you.

FORMATTING: Your final draft should be a minimum of 750 words (2-3 pages) NOT including the Works Cited page. Use the Standards for Written Work to format your essay. We will discuss specific guidelines to follow when writing about literature, but keep in mind that literary analysis is NOT simply a plot summary (a retelling of what happens in the story).

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