Survey of British Literature
Critical Analysis Essay
Write an analytical essay, exploring some aspect of a literary work or literary works we have read this semester, written in support of a central thesis statement. Remember, this is not a report; this is analysis. Merely summarizing the content of several works will not be enough to achieve a passing grade. You must have your own insight into the work or works’ meaning, derivation, etc. Please make sure that you choose a work or works from the period we have studied (700-1775 C.E.). You may do a comparative analysis of a work from this period with a more modern one, but essays must treat at least one work from the period we have studied in depth.
Choosing a Topic:
For many students, choosing a suitable topic proves to be the most difficult part of the assignment. In order to help you choose a topic, it’s helpful to focus on a text or texts you enjoy. Ask yourself which literary works or authors you have enjoyed reading thus far. Why did you enjoy this particular work (or works) or this author? What stands out about his or her writing? What makes the author or the work unique? Does the author’s work remind you of a more modern one? Often such questions can lead you to interesting topics. You may also want to review the essay questions from previous midterms. Many of them can easily be worked into longer critical essays. The following topics have yielded interesting thesis statements and papers in the past, but they by no means represent a complete list of what is possible:
- Heroism as depicted in the literature we’ve read
- Chivalry as it is depicted in the literature we’ve read
- The depiction of women in the writing of a specific period or a comparison of their depiction in different periods
- The (absent) female author
- A study of how the life a particular author may have impacted his or her work
- A study of how a work reflects the time in which it was written
- Adaptation studies: You might compare a Shakespearean play to its source material, or you might want to examine how and/or why a piece from our period has been adapted in modern times
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