how to write english literature essay

how to write english literature essay

Mastering the Art of Writing English Literature Essays

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1. Introduction to English Literature Essays

Leaving that aside, one of the purposes of this article is to let students know the true English scholarly criticism. In addition, I will attempt to leave holes for students to add the more specifically literary content that their individual courses will require. I have tried to avoid specific reference or discussion of any particular text; while writing the article, I have thought of moments when I might say “the imagery utilized by Kathleen Raine in her ‘I Love the Dark Hours of My Being'”, but I realized that instead of Raine’s poem there might be John Fowles’ “Maggot”. I hope that you will find my comprehensive approach more user friendly – which is one reason why I take as a model L.C. Knights’ lecture “How Many Children Had Lady Macbeth”.

After some years of teaching English literature at an English university, I became very dissatisfied with the traditional way in which students were taught to write their essays. Of course, there is good reason for teaching such a traditional way. The precepts for writing essays are formulaic; once a student has learnt these, their essays will be easier to write than those that leap from an unstructured view of today’s learning and criticism. Perhaps even more important, if a student has to think about the formal elements of their essays, they are less likely to think about the need for originality in their criticism. Let me stress that this article is not, primarily, recommending new English canons, or redefining existing literary ones. Rather, it is designed for those students who wish for good marks in their English essays and also to make some response to innovative approaches to literature.

2. Analyzing the Text: Key Concepts and Techniques

A quite separate set of critical problems emerges for many students in the shape of basics of the text chosen for assessment. Here are some of the questions students often ask about the text and some strategies to consider for getting ongoing understanding of the literary material.

Remember that one critical triangle in writing English literature essays is a plan that is logical, convincing, and rooted in evidence. The key concepts to grasp in the first instance are “Thesis” and “Evidence.” Your thesis is a one-sentence statement of the point – the aspect of the text under discussion – that you intend to prove through reference to evidence in the rest of the essay. The body of the text then argues the case, marshalling evidence from the text that is (a) quoted, (b) interpreted, and (c) related to your thesis. Interpretation is teasing out the significance of the evidence and explaining its relevance to the points being made and to the concerns of the text as a whole. Analysis and comment should emphasize and reflect the importance and prominence of the thesis rather than the other way around. (Clearly, the stronger the thesis, the fewer problems there will be!)

3. Crafting a Strong Thesis Statement

The initial thesis statement sounds the same as the research question, while the final thesis statement is the answer to the research question. A thesis statement helps the writer to remind the reader that specific evidence is currently being discussed in conjunction with argument parts and parts of argument. It also relieves the writer, as it comprises the organization of the key arguments and points with an anticipation of possible difficulties in the argument to manage the thesis statement. In other words, the thesis statement not only serves as a controlling concept of your essay, but also helps you to consider the argument parts. Ensuring that you articulate your thesis statement correctly, categorically, and substantially is vital to crafting good essays. Yet, your thesis statement is essential in that it guides the research process. In short, make sure your thesis statement is a road map of your essay.

A thesis statement is the main claim you are making in a paper. Its key function is to define the research question or problem to be addressed. Specifically, a thesis statement is your answer to the research question. A working thesis is exactly what it means: a thesis statement that is “in process” during the writing process. Normally, a thesis statement is a compressed, formal statement which is comprised of two things: (1) the subject of the paper, (2) the point you are going to prove. The thesis statement is an assertion which presents the conclusions you have drawn that you are planning to present as a result of your research.

4. Structuring Your Essay: The Introduction, Body, and Conclusion

Depending on your writing experience, a great introduction and conclusion are going to be challenging to write. They are the things most difficult to fake and the things you have to be proud of. The trick with the introduction is to grasp your reader’s attention and to entice them in. The trick with the conclusion is to leave a lasting idea on your reader, and the clever thing to do is to ensure that it has a two-days-simmered taste. If you are in a bind and can’t think of a better essay, finish by summing up what you have already written. It is better than doing a half-arsed job that you do not feel so proud of, and if the person marking your essay is also perplexed, they will see that it was no walk in the park for you either. The conclusion is the final destination, closing the loop of a journey by bringing it to an end and must leave a lasting impression.

The introduction should grasp the subject, provide essential context, and indicate your particular focus in the essay. It also needs to engage and generate your readers’ interest. The body is where you will elaborate on your argument and evaluate concepts, points, and literary approaches so that your argument is promoted and your essay validated. Promise to discuss all aspects of the literary text that you will write about in your essay. The organization of your thoughts and the logical linking of your arguments must be evident in your introduction, body, and conclusion. What follows is that the body of the essay must reflect each heading that you announce in your introduction. The four requisites to writing an A+ essay are organization, content, grammatical and editorial checking, and a touch of a finished gloss.

5. Polishing Your Essay: Editing and Proofreading Techniques

Editing involves critically looking at the issues of your text. These are directional signs that indicate to the examiner what each paragraph, indeed what your text as a whole, sets out to achieve. Therefore, clear topic sentences are absolutely crucial. It is very helpful to plot out roughly what these signs are, and when, to ensure clarity for you and the reader. A visual plan (a flow chart, an organizer, or a plan) will give you a good sense of your essay’s structure. Your markers will be able to understand at a glance the contents of your essay, and this clarity will help them to organize, evaluate, and support your points. Make sure that you take the time to get it right. Your ideas will flow more coherently and, just as importantly, will be seen to make sense to the examiner. Once you think you behold the perfected pear, forget it, come back later, and you should see that some of the pears are not quite right after all. Be prepared to make your plan 2, 3, or indeed 20 times! You need to make a solid effort at planning because your thinking becomes clearer during the process. Your writing will then be a good deal quicker and more efficient because you have already done a large part of the thinking.

All essays should be systematically edited and proofread prior to submission. Having written a text that is relevant, coherent, and well structured, you cannot afford to hand in work that includes avoidable errors. Choosing to forego this step risks presenting a far less polished piece of work than you could be proud of. The most successful writers spend a large amount of time on the prewriting and planning stages, and a considerable amount of time on the revising, editing, and proofreading stages. The overall impression created is that the adage “finders keepers” is followed. These students go over and over their work, correcting, laboring over, and crafting for excellence. The least successful writers usually dedicate relatively little time to the prewriting and planning stages and virtually no time to the revising, editing, and proofreading stages. Consequently, the final polished essay is littered with spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors. If this sounds at odds with the notion that you may be a confident writer who is capable of independently producing a quality piece of work, then good. It should be.

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