Writing Essays About Literature
A Brief Guide for University and College Students
  • Publication Date: December 20, 2010
  • ISBN: 9781551119922 / 1551119927
  • 192 pages; 5½" x 8½"

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Writing Essays About Literature

A Brief Guide for University and College Students

  • Publication Date: December 20, 2010
  • ISBN: 9781551119922 / 1551119927
  • 192 pages; 5½" x 8½"

This book gives students an answer to the question, “What does my professor want from this essay?” In lively, direct language, it explains the process of creating “a clearly-written argument, based on evidence, about the meaning, power, or structure of a literary work.” Using a single poem by William Carlos Williams as the basis for the process of writing a paper about a piece of literature, it walks students through the processes of reading, brainstorming, researching secondary sources, gathering evidence, and composing and editing the paper.

Writing Essays About Literature is designed to strengthen argumentation skills and deepen understanding of the relationships between the reader, the author, the text, and critical interpretations. Its lessons about clarity, precision, and the importance of providing evidence will have wide relevance for student writers.

Comments

“I am a student at the University of Kansas studying English and American Studies, and this may be a bit unorthodox, but I wanted to say that your book Writing Essays About Literature was one of the best books I have ever read in the world of academia! I am taking a Critical Theory class, and we were assigned only the first 55 pages, but I really could not put the book down. Your writing is magnificent, and I am constantly referring to the book when writing papers. You have done a brilliant job making essay-writing easy, structured, and actually enjoyable!” — Lauren Gaylor, University of Kansas

“Katherine O. Acheson’s Writing Essays About Literature is a concise, fully portable and very well-priced guide that gets it right. Acheson’s emphasis on inductive reasoning is wonderfully refreshing. It really helps English professors persuade their students to argue from the specific to the general, to found their arguments on the details of evidence and on the careful—and affectively sensitive—analysis of that evidence. And the very best thing about this book is that Acheson’s casual and unassuming prose style makes students want to read it. And they do. And then they bring it to class!” — Glenn Clark, University of Manitoba

“For those of us interested in teaching writing through literature, Katherine O. Acheson’s guide is an indispensable companion, teaching students that writing is more about process and less about imagined giftedness. The book begins by teaching students how to perform a close reading of a text—a craft that every writer should learn to hone. After this groundwork has been laid, Acheson builds upon it with chapters on research, analysis, methodology, argumentation, and revision; all of this from an author whose writing style is clear, witty, and intelligent.” — Jack R. Baker, Spring Arbor University

Writing Essays About Literature is a useful and refreshingly entertaining guide for both students and instructors. The focus on one poem (the eminently teachable ‘This Is Just to Say’) allows for a comprehensive dissection of the process from initial reading and response, to final polish of an argument grounded in current modes of critical analysis. Acheson’s witty, subjective style is consistently engaging, and reminds students that instructors are also readers and writers; that they too constantly revisit and refine these processes.” — Gisèle M. Baxter, University of British Columbia

Section One: Introduction

CHAPTER 1: THE PURPOSE OF AN ESSAY ABOUT LITERATURE

Literature: Instruction, Delight, Imitation
The Literary Essay

  • Evidence
    Communication
    Subjectivity

How to Use This Book
Review Questions

Section Two: Research and Analysis

CHAPTER 2: RESEARCH WITHIN THE TEXT

Taking Notes About Literature
Recording Your Responses to the Text

  • Do I Like the Work?
    What Words Stand Out?
    What Feelings Does It Give Me?
    Do I Identify With Any of the People Represented?
    Is There Anything About How It’s Written That Stands Out?
    What Is the Work About?

Conclusion
Review Questions

CHAPTER 3: USING REFERENCE WORKS

The Oxford English Dictionary

  • Etymology
    Definitions
    Examples of Usage

Scholarly Editions
Encyclopedias
Conclusion
Review Questions

CHAPTER 4: RESEARCH ABOUT SOCIAL AND HISTORICAL CONTEXTS

Topics for Research: Social Phenomena and Literary Movements
Useful Resources
Using Your Findings
Conclusion
Review Questions

CHAPTER 5: RESEARCH ABOUT THE CURRENT CRITICAL ASSESSMENT OF LITERARY WORKS

Finding Critical Works

  • Assessing Publications
    Using Bibliographies

Reading Critical Works
Taking Notes From Critical Readings
Conclusion
Review Questions

CHAPTER 6: INVENTING YOUR ARGUMENT

Arranging Your Evidence

  • Reviewing Your Labelled Evidence
    Categorizing Your Evidence
    Charting Your Evidence

Conclusion
Review Questions

Section Three: Composition

CHAPTER 7: COMPOSING YOUR ARGUMENT

Inductive Reasoning
Composing the Thesis Statement

  • Writing the Subtopic Sentences
    Composing the Body of the Thesis Statement
    Concluding the Thesis Statement

A Variation: An Essay Without Secondary Sources
Conclusion
Review Questions

CHAPTER 8: WRITING THE BODY OF THE ESSAY

The Body Paragraphs
Features of Strong Paragraphs
Writing the Conclusion and Revising the Introduction

  • The Conclusion
    Revising the Introduction

Conclusion
Review Questions

Section Four: Polish and Presentation

CHAPTER NINE: EDITING AND PROOFREADING YOUR ESSAY

Conventions of Essay-Writing Style

  • Diction
    Vocabulary
    Connecting Words

Common Grammatical Errors
Apostrophes

  • Demonstrative Pronouns
    Pronoun Agreement
    Verb Tense

Common Errors in Punctuation and Sentence Structure

  • Semicolons
    Comma Splices
    Sentence Fragments

Subordinating Conjunctions
Conjunctive Adverbs
Conclusion
Review Questions

CHAPTER TEN: DOCUMENTING YOUR SOURCES AND PRESENTING YOUR WORK

Reasons for Documenting Sources

  • Documentation Practices

Presenting Your Work

  • Layout and Order
    Illustrations

Multimedia and the Literary Essay

  • Exemplary Illustrations
    Complementary Illustrations
    Supplementary Illustrations

Last-Minute Checks
Conclusion
Review Questions

Section Five: Conclusion and Review
Collecting Evidence (Chapter 2, 3, 4, and 5)

CHAPTER 11: THE PROCESS OF ESSAY WRITING—A SUMMARY

Categorizing Evidence (Chapter 6)
Writing Your Thesis Statement (Chapter 7)
Troubleshooting the Thesis Statement (Chapter 7)
Writing the Body Paragraphs (Chapter 8)
Concluding Your Essay (Chapter 8)
Proofreading (Chapter 9)
Documentation and Presentation (Chapter 10)
Conclusion

Works Cited
Subject Index

Katherine O. Acheson is Associate Professor of English at the University of Waterloo and the editor of the Broadview Edition of Lady Anne Clifford’s Memoir of 1603 and Diary of 1616–19.

For a sample from chapter 1 of Writing Essays About Literature, click here. (Opens as a PDF.)