Writing about Literature

Writing about Literature

by Sylvan Barnet


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Part of Longman's successful Short Guide Series, A Short Guide to Writing about Literature,11/e, emphasizes writing as a process and incorporates new critical approaches to writing about literature.

The eleventh edition continues to offer students sound advice on how to become critical thinkers and enrich their reading response through accessible, step-by-step instruction.   This highly respected text is ideal as a supplement to any course where writing about literature or literary studies is emphasized.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316081597
Publisher: Scott, Foresman & Company
Publication date: 01/01/1979
Pages: 282

Table of Contents

Preface     xv
Letter to Students     xix
Jumping In
What Is Literature, and Why Write About It?     3
"The Vixen and the Lioness"     4
"I'm Nobody! Who are you?"     5
Why We Write about Literature     6
The Writing Process     8
A Checklist of Basic Matters     11
The Writer As Reader: Reading and Responding     12
"Ripe Figs"     12
The Act of Reading     13
Reading with a Pen in Hand     15
Recording Your First Responses     16
Audience and Purpose     17
A Writing Assignment on "Ripe Figs"     18
The Assignment     18
A Sample Essay: "Images of Ripening in Kate Chopin's 'Ripe Figs'"     18
The Student's Analysis Analyzed     20
Critical Thinking and the Study of Literature     21
The Reader as Writer: Drafting and Writing     23
Pre-writing: Getting Ideas     23
Annotating a Text     23
More about Getting Ideas: A Second Story by Kate Chopin, "The Story of an Hour"     24
Kate Chopin: "The Story of an Hour"     24
Brainstorming for Ideas for Writing     26
Focused Free Writing     27
Listing     28
Asking Questions     30
Keeping a Journal     31
Critical Thinking: Arguing with Yourself     32
Arriving at a Thesis and Arguing It     34
Writing a Draft     36
A Sample Draft: "Ironies in an Hour"     36
Revising a Draft     38
A Checklist for Revising for Clarity     39
Two Ways of Outlining a Draft     40
A Checklist for Reviewing a Revised Draft     41
Peer Review     42
The Final Version     44
Sample Essay: "Ironies of Life in Kate Chopin's 'The Story of an Hour'"     44
A Brief Overview of the Final Version     46
Quick Review     47
From First Responses to Final Version: Writing an Essay about a Literary Work     47
Two Forms of Criticism: Explication and Analysis     48
Explication     48
A Sample Explication: Langston Hughes's "Harlem"     48
Working toward an Explication of "Harlem"     50
Some Journal Entries     51
The Final Draft: "Langston Hughes's 'Harlem'"     53
A Brief Overview of the Essay     54
Topics for Discussion     55
A Checklist: Drafting an Explication     56
Analysis: The Judgment of Solomon     56
Thinking about Form     58
Thinking about Character     59
Thoughts about Other Possibilities     59
Comparison: An Analytic Tool     60
A Checklist: Revising a Comparison     63
Finding a Topic     64
Considering the Evidence     65
Organizing the Material     65
Communicating Judgments     66
Review: How to Write an Effective Essay     67
Pre-writing     67
Drafting     67
Revising     68
Editing     70
Editing Checklist: Questions to Ask Yourself When Editing     70
Other Kinds of Writing About Literature     72
A Summary     72
A Paraphrase     74
A Parody     76
A Review     77
A Review of a Dramatic Production     77
A Sample Review: "An Effective Macbeth"     78
Standing Back: Thinking Critically about Literature
Literature, Form, and Meaning     87
Literature and Form     87
Literature and Meaning     89
Arguing about Meaning     90
Form and Meaning      91
"The Span of Life"     91
The Literary Canon     93
Literature, Texts, Discourses, and Cultural Studies     94
Suggestions for Further Reading     95
What is Interpretation?     97
Interpretation and Meaning     97
Is the Author's Intention a Guide to Meaning?     98
Characteristics of a Good Interpretation     99
An Example: Interpreting Pat Mora's "Immigrants"     100
Thinking Critically about Literature     102
A Student Interpretation of Robert Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"     103
Sample Essay: "Stopping by Woods and Going On"     104
Suggestions for Further Reading     108
What Is Evaluation?     109
Criticism and Evaluation     110
Evaluative Language and the Canon     110
Are There Critical Standards?     111
Morality and Truth as Standards     111
Other Ways to Think about Truth and Realism     113
Suggestions for Further Reading     115
Writing about Literature: An Overview     116
The Nature of Critical Writing     117
Some Critical Approaches     117
Formalist Criticism (New Criticism)      118
Deconstruction     120
Reader-Response Criticism     121
Archetypal (or Myth) Criticism     123
Historical Criticism     124
Marxist Criticism     125
The New Historicism     125
Biographical Criticism     126
Psychological (or Psychoanalytic) Criticism     127
Gender (Feminist, and Lesbian and Gay) Criticism     128
Suggestions for Further Reading     131
Up Close: Thinking Critically about Literary Forms
Writing about Fiction: The World of the Story     139
Plot and Character     139
Writing about a Character     141
A Sample Essay on a Character: "Holden's Kid Sister"     144
A Brief Overview of the Essay     146
Foreshadowing     146
Organizing an Essay on Foreshadowing     148
Setting and Atmosphere     149
Symbolism     150
A Sample Essay on Setting as Symbol: "Spring Comes to Mrs. Mallard"     152
"Spring Comes to Mrs. Mallard"     153
Point of View     157
Third-Person Narrators     157
First-Person Narrators     159
Notes and a Sample Essay on Narrative Point of View in James Joyce's "Araby"      161
"The Three First-Person Narrators of Joyce's 'Araby'"     162
A Brief Overview of the Essay     165
Theme: Vision or Argument?     166
Determining and Discussing the Theme     166
Preliminary Notes and a Sample Essay on the Theme of Eudora Welty's "A Worn Path"     167
Preliminary Notes     167
"Rising into Love"     170
A Brief Overview of the Essay     174
Basing the Paper on Your Own Responses     175
A Note on Secondary Sources     175
Suggestions for Further Reading     178
A Checklist: Getting Ideas for Writing about Fiction     179
A Checklist: Getting Ideas for Writing about a Film Based on a Work of Literature     182
Writing about Drama     185
A Sample Essay     186
Preliminary Notes     186
"The Solid Structure of The Glass Menagerie"     187
Types of Plays     192
Tragedy     193
A Checklist: Writing about Tragedy     196
Comedy     196
A Checklist: Writing about Comedy     198
Aspects of Drama     198
Theme     198
Plot     200
A Checklist: Writing about Plot      203
Characterization and Motivation     205
Conventions     206
Costumes, Gestures, and Settings     207
Suggestions for Further Reading     210
A Checklist: Getting Ideas for Writing about Drama     211
A Checklist: Getting Ideas for Writing about a Film Based on a Play     213
Writing about Poetry     214
The Speaker and the Poet     214
"Wild Nights-Wild Nights"     215
The Language of Poetry: Diction and Tone     216
"I, being born a woman and distressed"     217
Writing about the Speaker: Robert Frost's "The Telephone"     219
"The Telephone"     219
Journal Entries     221
Figurative Language     224
"On First Looking into Chapman's Homer"     225
Preparing to Write about Figurative Language     228
"The Sick Rose"     229
Structure     230
"Upon Julia's Clothes"     230
Annotating and Thinking about a Poem     231
The Student's Finished Essay: "Herrick's Julia, Julia's Herrick"     232
Some Kinds of Structure     234
"A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal"     235
"The Flea"     236
Verbal Irony      237
Paradox     237
Explication     238
A Sample Explication of Yeats's "The Balloon of the Mind"     239
"The Balloon of the Mind"     239
Rhythm and Versification: A Glossary for Reference     242
Rhythm     242
Meter     244
Patterns of Sound     247
Stanzaic Patterns     248
Blank Verse and Free Verse     249
"When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer"     250
Preparing to Write about Prosody     251
Sample Essay on Metrics: "Sound and Sense in A. E. Housman's 'Eight O'clock'"     252
"Sound and Sense in A. E. Housman's 'Eight O'clock'"     253
A Brief Overview of the Essay     257
Suggestions for Further Reading     257
A Checklist: Getting Ideas for Writing about Poetry     258
Writing about an Author in Depth     261
A Case Study: Writing about Langston Hughes     262
"The South"     263
"Ruby Brown"     265
"Ballad of the Landlord"     266
"A National Problem: Race and Racism in the Poetry of Langston Hughes"     267
A Brief Overview of the Essay     271
Inside: Style, Format, and Special Assignments
Style and Format     275
Principles of Style     275
Get the Right Word     276
Write Effective Sentences     280
A Checklist for Revising for Conciseness     281
Write Unified and Coherent Paragraphs     284
A Checklist: Revising Paragraphs     289
Write Emphatically     290
Notes on the Dash and the Hyphen     291
Remarks about Manuscript Form     291
Basic Manuscript Form     291
Quotations and Quotation Marks     293
Writing a Research Paper     298
What Research Is Not, and What Research Is     298
Primary and Secondary Materials     299
Locating Material: First Steps     299
Other Bibliographic Aids     302
Taking Notes     302
Two Mechanical Aids: The Photocopier and the Word Processor     303
A Guide to Note Taking     303
Drafting Your Paper     305
Focus on Primary Sources     306
Documentation     307
What to Document: Avoiding Plagiarism     307
A Checklist for Avoiding Plagiarism     309
How to Document: Footnotes, Internal Parenthetical Citations, and a List of Works Cited (MLA Format)      310
Sample Essay with Documentation: "The Women in Death of a Salesman"     322
A Checklist: Reading the Draft of a Research Paper     331
Electronic Sources     332
Encyclopedias: Print and Electronic Versions     332
The Internet/World Wide Web     332
Evaluating Sources on the World Wide Web     333
A Checklist: A Review for Using the World Wide Web     333
Documentation: Citing a Web Source     334
A Checklist: Citing World Wide Web Sources     334
Two Stories     338
"Araby"     338
"A Worn Path"     342
Literary Research: Print and Electronic Resources     349
Glossary of Literary Terms     356
Credits     371
Index of Authors, Titles, and First Lines of Poems     373
Index of Terms     375

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