Building an interpretation and argument on an early American text
Simply put, a tightly written literary analysis uses textual evidence to advocate for an original and nuanced interpretation of a work or works of literature. The paper’s centerpiece is a controlling idea based on a close reading of the text(s). The argument and the evidence showcases the writer’s analytical ability and makes a compelling observation that pushes beyond obvious claims. Before beginning this paper, it would be helpful to read the chapter excerpt from Writing Analytically on why college professors prefer analytical writing to avoid many common mistakes student writer/scholars make in these types of papers (the link is in the first week module). In grading these papers, I assume that you have read this resource and are applying your understanding of analytical thinking to your work on this assignment.
Writing Prompt: Write about Rowlandson’s captivity narrative, or a particular idea that occurs in at least 2 texts. Focus on a complex idea or claim that your commonplace book analytical practice has revealed to you. Because this type of analytical paper is argument-driven, your claim should be based on clear use of the analytical strategies we’ve studied. This instruction bears repeating: The mark of originality in this type of paper comes from the writer pushing past easy and obvious conclusions to consider interpretative possibilities that draw from your complex interpretations of textual evidence. Often, the paper’s argument highlights what a common interpretation would be and pivots from there to make a stronger and more complex claim for the reader to consider instead. (Sample thesis: Although X’s text may suggest Y, it is Z that is most important to consider because ________).
This paper will also show the writer’s use of analytical strategies covered in the 5 key moves of Writing Analytically. Page 33 of the 5th Analytical Move handout (available in the Week 6 module) offers a potential outline for how to write into your ideas.
Although you may choose to work towards an argument that focuses on what the author’s text might suggest about a larger current issue or idea, this paper should primarily focus on how the textual evidence you have gathered that supports your complex claim about the work(s). That is, this paper should primarily offer an argument of how to read and understand the text(s) you have chosen to focus on while possibly broadening out at the end in justifying your interpretation. To do this work, you must quote, interpret, analyze and connect the ideas in the original text to your argument and claim.
Not only do literary analysis papers work to make an argument, they also answer the important question of why that particular reading or line of inquiry matters. This is what is meant by the so what? question. Your work should offer an answer to what’s at stake in your claims. Re-read Wendy Warren’s article in the Week 6 module for a clear example of how to articulate what is at stake. One way to think about an answer to this question is to point out what readers might miss by not understanding your claims about the work.
The A paper is also mindful of formatting, the writer should carefully treat the MLA requirements as part of the analytical process, where attention to detail is valued.
• Your literary analysis paper should be a minimum of 3 full pages (a full page is double-spaced text all the way to the bottom of the page). Papers less than 3 full pages will only be eligible for the D grade. Ideally, this is really a 4-6-page paper.
• A works cited page should be included that follows the publication information of the anthology or web page that contains the reading.
• The paper should follow MLA formatting guidelines. This link describes how to format an MLA paper: https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/mla_style/mla_formatting_and_style_guide/mla_sample_paper.html. It’s a good idea to download the PDF of the annotated MLA paper to refresh your memory about formatting.
• Check the Canvas assignment for the due date. Be sure to upload the paper before the deadline to qualify for the full grade. Late work without prior approval is not accepted—this policy applies to any paper uploaded anytime after 11:59 PM deadline. Plan accordingly.
• See the rubric on the next page for grading details.
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