A literary essay explains the contextual meaning behind a piece of literature while paying attention to specific details, such as structure and style. This essay form also gives its author a chance to argue complex points in the text by comparing his viewpoint to critical analysis of the piece. The structure of a literary essay is a series of paragraphs stating, building upon, and proving, then reiterating your points in a conclusion.
Organizing a Literary Essay
- Read the piece of literature you will be writing about. Reread any sections that are confusing. Take notes on notecards about major elements of the text, including structure, style, point of view, plot and subplot.
- Read books and articles that discuss various aspects and opinions of the piece of literature you are writing about. Arrange notecards in front of your work area while you study these critical texts. Write down and even highlight any points in the critical texts that you want to incorporate into your essay.
- Arrange notecards in front of your after you are finished reading the text and any critical analysis of the text from other sources. Include the name of the author an title of the text you are citing on your notecards. Choose a point of view that you would like to expand on about the piece of literature.
- Write a topic, or thesis sentence, that makes it clear to your audience the text you are studying and the viewpoint you will be discussing. The scope and argument of your viewpoint, and whether it supports the critical analysis or refutes it, will determine the length and structure of your literary essay. Refer to your notecards about the text and the analysis as you write.
- Arrange your essay in a paragraph structure. Though similar to the more elementary five-paragraph essay form, the literary essay takes longer to explain and develop its point. Write two to three opening paragraphs about your viewpoint and to alert readers on what specific aspects of the text you will discuss in the body of the essay.
- Write multiple paragraphs, depending on the scope of your theme, to argue your viewpoint about the text. Analyze the analysis, deepen the reader’s understanding of the text, highlight specific plot points, argue for or against other analysis.
- Write concluding paragraphs to end the essay, making sure to reiterate your viewpoint and add an additional fact or two about the literary text. Include a works cited page at the back of your essay to list all the source materials researched for your essay.
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