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Writing About Literature | A Brief Guide How To Use Stories And Poems To Their Maximum Potential In Essays.

Writing About Literature A Brief Guide How To Use Stories And Poems To Their Maximum Potential In Essays.

Writing a literary analysis involves more than simply summarizing a piece of literature. While this approach is useful for book reports, when writing about literature, you will be expected to develop an argument, which will be supported by a series of claims (or mini-arguments) in order to persuade readers to agree with your overall take. You may notice, the techniques used in writing about literature are similar to those used in argumentation and persuasive writing.

This time of year – the winter season – is synonymous with three things:

  • Holidays: looming on the horizon like a storm is the gradual feeling of how much debt will be accrued by buying gifts for anyone and everyone.
  • Shifts in attitude: temperatures are changing, therefore clothing and mental processes about keeping comfortable must as well.
  • Papers: students around the globe have collectively packed up their moans and sighs and started scrambling to write papers about subjects learned long ago.

However, the third one doesn’t have to be as time-consuming or as difficult as it seems. There are many tips and hints to follow when crafting essays being an essaywriter, especially at the last minute.

NOTE: While it is not a good idea to start a day before the assignment is due, and it is recommended that at least a week be given ahead of time, it is an unavoidable fact that many students fall victim to procrastination.



Poetry is oftentimes the most difficult to analyze because modern poetry is currently reflected in the way people think. Stanzas and lyrics are more about situations than images, more about concrete than abstract. So, the first step in analyzing a poem is to understand its context.

  • When was it written?
  • Why would the author have written it (in historical context)?
  • Who would this poem have been written to?

Answering those questions will easily place some markers in the paper on what subjects could be discussed. Similarly, the opposites of those answers mark areas to avoid.

Secondly, look at the words being used. Prosody is a fine concept; it can be used to explain so much about a poem that any student could fill hundreds of pages, provided they know what to look for. Prosody studies the words themselves in the poem, and how they are used. It is only natural that this concept could fuel an entire paper.

Here is an example of how to approach this information: take a look at Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven. Ask yourself the questions above and you should come up with three points. It was written in 1845; Poe could have written it to satisfy an urge to use scholarly ideas against the supernatural, creating a clash between the two; and the poem’s audience would have reflected that very same scholarly audience or at least a reader who has lost somebody. Now, look at the words: Nevermore, Curious volumes, Plutonian shore… what kinds of words are these? Hint: The Oxford English Dictionary can elaborate on these ideas as a secondary source. And in the end, the words themselves tell more about the story itself than the actual lines.


Plays and Literature

The same concept above can be associated with plays. Ask those same questions and discern the meaning behind the words. It can be easily discovered that in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet that the entire quarrel between the families could have been avoided had Juliet revealed her love for Romeo in the beginning as Father Capulet offers kind words that incite respect.

Or, as it is with Hamlet, the nature of his “To Be or Not To Be” speech can be called into question regarding Hamlet’s previous promise to put on an act whenever he thinks he is being spied upon.

For literary stories, this method is harder to follow. In that regard, Prosody becomes a point that cannot be used. However, the concept of prosody, of studying the words used, can be made to serve literature. Instead of focusing on the words used, focus on the dialogue.

When writing about literature, your readers want to understand what you think about the story and not a retelling of the plot. So, a good place to start is to ask yourself:

  • How does a character speak?
  • Why does he or she have an importance to the story, and how?
  • What words define that person and how would they describe themselves in the context of the story?


Write the Paper

In summation, the words are the most important part of the essay. Without analysis of the words, even the concepts and images presented can be called into question. Saying “the sun rises” is a simple subject with its verb. However, “the rising sun” can imply an actual sun, or, as it does in Richard III, it can imply the “son rising to the throne.”

But none of this can happen until the student sits down and begins to write the paper. One there, asking these kinds of questions and focusing on words will make sure the assignment can not only be finished but stand a chance against other essays of its caliber.

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