Comparative Literary Analysis
ENGL 2327: Survey of American Literature I
For this assignment you will write a comparative analysis of three or more works by different authors (from the list below) and develop a narrowly-defined argumentative thesis that reflects an analysis of the literary devices employed in each piece. You will want to build paragraphs around specific points you would like to explore that require a critical synthesis of the works and support a larger thesis related to the prompt. As you develop your analysis, make sure to support your critical assertions with specific evidence from the texts. Avoid unnecessary plot summary; plot summary is not a substitute for critical analysis.
The most important thing about this paper, in addition to having a critical analytical synthesis and an arguable thesis statement for the prompt and literary works you have selected, is to make sure that you ground your analysis in a CLOSE reading of the literary works, including concrete details and explanation to engage the audience. No matter which elements you choose to explore (and you have free reign to develop any critical analysis you like that is appropriate to the literary works; there are no “right” or “wrong” interpretations in this course, only stronger and more weakly developed ones), just be sure to connect your main observations and ideas to each other and support them with textual evidence. Move beyond summary and interpretation and into analysis to critically examine your selected literary texts.
Important Note: One of the pitfalls of the comparative analysis is that students will sometimes write a paper in which the essay simply compares “similar” and “dissimilar” aspects of a work. An example of this might be a paper that compares and contrasts “A Young Housewife” and “Marriage” as examples of a feminine perspective of a relationship (pointing out how they are similar, and how they are also different in certain ways), or that describes all the ways in which mythological allusions are “important” in both “Venus Transiens” and “Leda” in similar and different ways. This is what we call a straight “compare and contrast”-type essay, but it does not necessarily have anything interesting to say beyond listing certain obvious features of both works. The important thing to remember is to have a debatable (and hopefully creative and interesting) point you want to argue (and this requires judgment and analysis on your part–you have to have some sort of critical edge in which you are adopting a particular opinion that requires persuading your reader to understand your point of view, even if they don’t ultimately agree with it). Your thesis should be a point you want to make that could be contested; it should also pass the “why does it matter?” test. In other words, what is ultimately interesting about the point you want to make, and how does it go beyond just a literal reading of the surface details of the poetry itself?
Develop a comprehensive and detailed 5 to 10 typed (double-spaced) comparative analysis of three or more works (see list below) by different authors that interest you, and that you feel would be interesting to a general audience. Because you will be writing about multiple literary works, you will need to include a Works Cited page (after your 5-10 page composition) to complete your assignment. You should focus on how the literary works employ your selected literary devices and the purpose of each, carefully constructing both your thesis statement and analytical comparison (so that your analysis should be very clear and grounded in interesting textual evidence). No additional outside sources are to be used for this paper, which should solely represent your own analytical thinking. When in doubt, contact me for further guidelines about your chosen subject.
· Select a minimum of three different works written by different authors.
Consider the following questions when developing your comparative analysis:
Literary Text Options, select three works from different authors for this essay (please locate these authors and these pieces in your version of our textbook; your reading will include the author biographies and the indicated works):
· Occom: “A Short Narrative of My Life”
· Franklin: “Remarks Concerning the Savages of North America”
· Crèvecoeur: Letters from an American Farmer (Letter IX)
· Knight: The Private Journal
· Foster: The Coquette
· Stockton: poems
· Woolman: The Journal
· Tyler: The Contrast
· Winthrop: The Journal
· Rowlandson: A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration
· de la Cruz: poems
Arrange the parts of your comparative analysis in the order that will prove most effective with the audience. Your essay should be objective and analytical rather than inward and subjective. Keep in mind that a good comparative literary analysis includes a detailed discussion of literary works supported by good reasons and evidence; so you must select your materials carefully and include rich details. Make sure to give plenty of specific examples from your literary texts to support your analysis and argument.
When you write a comparative literary analysis, you look first for significant similarities between your text. For example, two characters may have similar motivation or similar goals or flaws; two stories may have similar settings, two plays may have similar plots; and two poems may have parallels in their use of sound or imagery. Once you have identified the key similarities, you can consider why these similarities are important and what they reveal about the works.
While you do need to begin with significant similarities, once you have established these you can explore contrasting points in the poems. For example, two poems may both explore marriage (significant similarity), but one might use imagery to convey a tone of joy while another might use imagery to convey a tone of dread. Build from a significant similarity before considering the nuances and contrasts.
As you develop your comparative literary analysis, consider the additional pieces of advice:
· Don’t feel you need to spend equal amounts of time on comparing and contrasting. If your chosen works are more similar than different, you naturally will spend more space on comparison, and vice versa.
· Don’t devote the first half of your paper to one work and the second half to the other. This simple structure may weaken your essay if it leads you to keep the two works in total isolation from one another. After all, the point is to see what can be learned by comparison. The recommended strategy is to do a point-by-point comparison of the two works all the way through your paper.
· Emphasize the points that interest you the most. This strategy will help keep you from following your outline in a plodding fashion.
At a minimum, your analysis should include the following elements:
Although this may be an unfamiliar exercise, it is not as complex a task as writing an essay requiring a lot of library research, but is much more similar to a review in The New York Times which is written for the general reader. Your thematic analysis is for a reader who is interested not just in the general plot of the literary work being analyzed, but also in your critical exploration of a thematic statement and your presentation of the thesis and interpretation in your writing. Also, don’t assume that just because your instructor and peers will read your essay that they will automatically be interested in what you have to say. Generate reader interest by making clear what is at stake in your analysis and why it is important.
Style (using appropriate language)
Write in a style that demonstrates knowledge of your subject and a clear and accurate expression of your ideas. Think critically, understanding that the way you organize and express your ideas can be as important as the ideas themselves. Be credible, providing enough detail and evidence to show that you’ve reflected deeply on the subject and that you can support your claims. Be respectful, showing your readers that your ideas are approachable and thoughtful, not arrogant or insensitive (this may also mean that you consider alternate viewpoints and treat opponents with respect so that you aren’t ignoring or demeaning the opinions of others). And last but not least, be careful, ensuring that your writing is clear and accurate (not generalized, disorganized, or ignorant of writing conventions).
Formatting and Writing Conventions
Papers should be typed in a legible (ex: Arial, Times New Roman), 12-point font and double spaced (with space between paragraphs removed). All other formatting should adhere to MLA standards (see resource sin D2L for MLA formatting help). Additionally, you’ll want to make sure you proofread your paper carefully to avoid errors in grammar, punctuation, spelling, and mechanics.
With your essay in hand, go through the checklist below, noting where you have met the assignment criteria (these are the areas that I’ll be evaluating). If needed, re-read the guidelines for clarification.
I have written a comparative literary analysis that is 5-10 pages long (not including images and Works Cited), double-spaced, and in MLA formatting.
I have written a well-developed analysis, and my specific thesis and interpretation are supported by evidence.
I have written a title and introduction that engage my audience, and they identify the titles and authors of the literary works as well as the thesis statement and significance of my discussion.
I have included an objective summary or description of the literary works so that my reader will better understand the literary works.
I have selected appropriate analysis points to demonstrate the development of my analysis and to support my thesis statement. I have clearly stated them in topic sentences within my writing.
I have included textual evidence that helps create a critical and detailed discussion of the literary works and I have added commentary, analysis, and transitions that are specific to the analysis point being explored.
I have effectively synthesized evidence from multiple literary works to support my points of analysis, directly connecting the textual evidence with transitions. I have avoided the pitfall of separating the paragraphs by literary text.
I have integrated my textual evidence effectively, introducing them and explaining their significance (and citing them when appropriate).
I have written a conclusion that provides a sense of completion, reflection, and/or summation, making a point that could not have been made in the introduction, and reminding the reader why it is important to critically consider the thematic statement I have chosen.
I have created a Works Cited page.
I have written sentences that are complete, clear, and relatively error free.
I have proof-read my essay, and it is coherent and well-organized.
Submission of Final Draft
Upload your assignment to the appropriate dropbox in D2L before the assignment deadline. This essay is due on Sunday, June 27, 2021, 11:59 pm, CST.
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Suggested Writing Process
Step 1: Make a Choice. Your first task is to consider a possible prompt and the literary works that you can choose for this assignment. It is important that you choose texts that are significant to you. This will make your task of writing Essay 2 much more engaging. If you care about the texts, that will show in your writing. Ask yourself the following questions: Which works appealed to me? Which did I enjoy reading? Which texts do I feel I understand? Which texts do I have something to say about?
Step 2: Read, Read, Read. Get to know the literary texts you have chosen to analyze.
Step 3: Choose a Focus. Simply ticking off every similarity, poetic device or interesting point in the texts would make for a slack and rambling essay. More compelling writing would result from better focused topics. You can ensure that you do this by carefully constructing your thesis statement. Create a focused and argumentative thesis that responds to the prompt of your choice.
· What significant ideas and key similarities between the texts can you identify?
Step 4: Refine and Outline. Now, on the basis of your overall knowledge of the literary texts and your decision about which literary points you will discuss, read in closer detail the sections which are relevant to these points. Make notes of the evidence and key literary devices. This is the perfect stage to create a rough outline of the main points and evidence you intend to incorporate in your writing.
Step 5: Write your Rough Draft. After completing the initial activities (#1-4), begin organizing and drafting your comparative analysis. Consider the following advice:
· Review your argument.
· Get your thoughts down.
· Write the part you feel most comfortable with first.
· Leave yourself plenty of space.
· Focus on the argument.
· Does your thesis hold up?
· Be open to new ideas.
Step 6: Revise and Edit. Leave time to revise and reflect upon your work as “a writer rarely – if ever – achieves perfection on the first try” (Kennedy and Gioia 1098). Consider the following advice:
Step 7: Be Credible. Make sure you come across to readers as a person of good sense, good character, and good will. In order to accomplish this: