Children’s Literature Assignments
For the short critical responses you will write 1-2 pages (typed, double-spaced, about 225 – 500 words), about a specific passage, image, or character from one of the readings in that section.
Definition of Analysis:
“A method by which a thing is separated into
parts, and those parts are given rigorous, logical, detailed scrutiny, resulting
in a consistent and relatively complete account of the elements of the thing and
the principles of their organization.” (from
A Handbook to Literature, 5th edition. By C. Hugh Holman &
William Harmon. New York, Macmillan Publishing Co, 1986, p. 20)
TIPS TO KEEP IN MIND WHEN
WRITING YOUR ANALYSIS (see also web links below)
v First choose one passage that you find key to a specific meaning or message of the overall text, or choose several short passages that are significant for understanding a key symbol, image, character or theme from the text.
v For this first assignment you should select your passage[s] from a fairy tale, a trickster tale, or Alice in Wonderland.
v Be sure to choose a passage (or a symbol, a theme, an image or a character that might be mentioned in a few passages) that you think is rich in meaning, important to the overall story, and that you understand and can discuss clearly.
v While you want your passage or image to be “thick” (complex, symbolic, significant), you don’t want to choose something TOO long, too complex, or too overwhelming, because you only have a page or two in which to unfold and discuss all possible or important associations and meanings of it. A rule of thumb is to try to focus in on just one significant passage (a paragraph or even part of a paragraph, say), or two or three short, key references to the image or character you will discuss. For each sentence of text that you quote, you should be able to discuss it for at least a paragraph of your own writing.
v DO NOT SUMMARIZE, repeat, or paraphrase what the passage or the tale is about.
v DO NOT jump too quickly to your own personal associations and ideas.
v You might start by recording your reactions and “free-writing” everything the passage makes you think and feel. Try to free-write a page or two (for about 10-20 minutes). But don’t confuse this exploratory writing with the final product.
v Let the text be your guide, your marker, to which your discussion should return again and again. When in doubt, go back to the text.
v Your discussion should interpret the text (whether your analysis is focusing on an image, a character, the language, or the meaning). To interpret “you need to jump off the track of chronological sequence—one thing after another—and consider the meaning of particular events” or images, etc. For example if you are discussing a character you should consider: “How does [a character’s] action affect the development of the story? If [another character had been treated differently] would it have significantly” changed the nature or outcome or message of the story? “To answer [such] questions, you must consider the role [the characters] play in the story” thoroughly. [From Writing: A College Handbook, 5th ed., by James Heffernan et al, New York: W.W. Norton & Co, 2001, p. 632]
v Give evidence (actually quote—exactly and word for word—the passage[s] you will analyze).
v In your discussion of those passages, spell out each step in your thinking process that caused you to come up with the interpretation you offer. Many students make a common mistake of jumping too quickly to conclusions without demonstrating what caused them to make such a conclusion. We cannot and will not guess what you are thinking or assume you meant to say something unless you spell it all out. What might seem evident and obvious to you might not seem obvious to your reader. Don’t neglect to write down exactly why the specific words and phrases from the text led you to think about it as you do. Make all the connections in your own thinking clear. Be clear and complete. This might involve some self-reflection.
v Refer back to the specific parts of the passage as you discuss or analyze each element of it (quote that part again) and show how each part (or even specific words) leads you to a new level or insight in your own understanding and discussion of it.
v One way to check if your analysis is on track is to compare it to the overall work and its other themes, images, and overall message. If much other evidence supports your interpretation, and what you propose it means is consistent with many other aspects of the text, then it is most likely a reasonable, persuasive interpretation. You don’t have to come up with the same interpretation as an expert or the teacher, you just have to make sure that you have LOTS of persuasive support for whatever interpretation you offer.
Cite your sources (according to MLA guidelines), giving page
numbers, titles, authors, etc.
About Literary Analysis
Examples of Literary Analysis
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