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Finding Literary Criticism: Literary Criticism

What Is Literary Criticism?

Literary Criticism

What is Literary Criticism?

Before you can find literary criticism, it is important to know what it is.

Literary criticism is an in-depth analysis of a literary work:  novel, short story, play, or poem.These articles usually are published in scholarly journals as opposed to popular magazines and newspapers.

Critical Analysis Papers analyze and explain some important points about a piece of literature. They do not repeat the plot.

Explain the critical disagreement, textual problem, or other problem you are considering.

Solve that problem or analyze a central point.· Analysis of theme · Close textual analysis · Sociological, psychological, or historical context · Survey of other critical opinions · Analysis of images of figurative language · Analysis of structure · Analysis of character · Interpretation of lines 

Support for your argument: Be sure that every paragraph has a unified topic that helps to develop your argument. Here are some ways to provide this support: · Use specific quotes and illustrations from the work you are discussing. · Analyze characters carefully: what they do, what they say, what they saw, how other treat them, what other say about them, what the narrator says about them. · Isolate the main issues, and find words or passages that justify your emphasis. · Provide a close reading or textual analysis. · Use vivid verbs that give a sense of sight, sound, or activity. · Avoid the passive voice unless there is good reason to use it. · Cite important critics who support your thesis, and explain how they support it. · Answer the critics who argue against your thesis. 

Critical Analysis of Literature Last Updated 10/16/2002 by Henri Dongieux

If you are still having trouble locating criticism on your book or author,
please ask a librarian for help. 

Why Use Literary Criticism?

Reading how other people have evaluated a novel, short story, play or poem can help you define your own views.

  • Perhaps they see aspects of the work that you didn't notice.
  • Maybe they give historical background that explains why the work was written the way it was.
  • Maybe you will disagree with them and it will help you focus your opinion.

Criticism doesn't substitute for reading the original work because it won't give a detailed plot summary.  However it can help you understand the main points of a story and identify the significant parts.

Many critical sources discuss an author's overall writing and may not even mention the specific work you have read.  This is especially true for poems and short stories. This sort of criticism can still be useful if you apply the overall interpretation of an author to your particular work.

Subject Guide

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Lynne Cote
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