Humanities Project – Literary Analysis (20%)
Context and Purposes: As we move from the Social Scientific paper model, we venture into the discipline of the humanities. The Humanities discipline is one that focuses on art, culture, and creativity, then asks a writer to connect abstract ideas to concrete issues with real implications. Here, a scholar’s role is to better understand the human condition by extracting meaning from an artistic text (i.e. a film, novel, painting, etc.) For instance, if a novel produces themes about social injustice, a humanist’s job would be to analyze how these themes are portrayed through literary devices before relating them to real-world problems or specific situations. The Humanities offer us a different view of reality by constructing fictitious scenarios, visual representations, or abstract versions of the world around us. Our goal is to find these connections by making logical sense out of creative texts. Art and culture help us to see the world differently and expose us to alternative ways of listening, communicating, and understanding. As such, the purposes of this assignment are to: a) give you the opportunity to engage and interact with artistic texts as an integral part of the human experience; b) learn how to analyze such texts using the methods and language of the humanities; and c) understand how art can communicate in ways different from more science-based disciplines, but to the same ends – to help us make sense of our world, our reality, and ourselves.
Genre and Audience: A Literary Analysis is one of the most familiar writing genres in the Humanities, which calls for a writer to deconstruct an artistic text to search for deeper meanings and larger themes. This is done by picking apart the text in ways common to the discipline – searching for themes through devices such as style, context, conflict, conventions, and – if applicable – character development (terms and methods we will learn in this unit). An essay in this genre is usually organized by discussing each of these devices individually (as separate discussion points) before tying them together as a whole. Use your Insider’s Guide pp. 139-153 as a reference guide. Your audience consists of discipline-based scholars, which in this case means literary experts and academics. They will expect you to use the language of the field and to understand how to think critically about the text you are analyzing (which is to interpret rather than summarize).
Essay Topic/Assignment Description: See short story listed below as your focal piece. The brainstorming stage will require you to fully analyze the story’s overall theme – something very specific, a message-based idea rather than a broad concept – by looking closely at how the story is constructed. This means finding examples of the author’s use of style, conflict, conventions, and character development, along with the context surrounding the piece. As we’ll learn in class, seeking these devices will require a strategic close reading of more specific features such as symbolism, metaphor, tone, or mood. Once your theme is developed, you will construct a clear thesis statement which identifies that theme and what it means beyond the story itself. This will serve as your argument.
Next, you will organize your ideas by individual discussion points, pulling out specific quotes and examples from the story to illustrate your argument. You’ll supplement your own analysis with the interpretations of others (see Research Task below), but be careful to use sources only as support. You are not copying the analysis of someone else; you are entering into an ongoing scholarly conversation.
Finally, your essay will conclude with the larger implications of your analysis. How does this theme relate to something bigger? What does it teach us about a real-world issue or problem? To what concrete situation does it apply and how might we understand it differently through the illustrations of literature? This summation will give your argument relevance – how a theme in an artistic text can expand to the current and very real issues of the day.
*Important to note: This essay is not a plot summary or a mere description of the story. It involves analysis, interpretation, and critical thinking. You are making an argument which will require evidence. If you say that the story reveals certain themes or ideas, you’ll have to justify how those ideas are illustrated even if that means you are assuming or “reading into” a subtlety.
Overall, your essay will be organized by these sections: 1) an introduction to your text followed by a thesis statement; 2) an individual breakdown of each device (discussion points) with examples and research support; and 3) a conclusion which ties it all together and discusses the broader implications.
Research Task: You’ll be citing the story itself quite a bit, so that’s one source. Your 3-4outside sources will be academic articles (not websites!), which means they will come from scholarly journals. In the Humanities, these articles are similar in nature to your essay as they are analytical critiques of literary texts. You may pull quotes or paraphrases which support your interpretation or that helped you arrive at an idea of your own. Such sources may also be used to provide factual background information about your story or the author to discuss context. In whatever case, use of these will be fairly minimal. You do not want outside sources to do the work for you – this is ultimately your interpretation.
“The Story of an Hour”—Kate Chopin
Design and Technical Matters:
Length/Depth: 5 pages (TNR, font size 12, double-spaced, MLA margins)
Sources: 5-6 total; the story you are analyzing + 3-4 academic articles as support
Documentation: MLA format and citation style
Humanities Project – Literary Analysis (20%)