How to Write a Literary Analysis Step by Step Guide

How to Write
Feb 19, 2019 | 8 Minutes

Read this information to learn how to write a literary analysis. The text is a verbal speech work in which all language units are implemented (from phoneme to sentence); it is a complex language sign; therefore, the text as an object of philological analysis can and should include data from its linguistic analysis.

The text is created to turn over the author’s idea, embody his or her creative intention, transfer knowledge about human beings and the world, go beyond the limits of the author’s consciousness, and give thoughts on the issue to other people. Thus, the text is not autonomous and not self-sufficient; it is the main but not the only component of the text activity. The most important components of its structure are the author (text addresser), the reader (addressee), the displayed reality itself, knowledge of which is transmitted in the work, and the language system. From the latter, the author chooses language tools that allow him or her to adequately embody the creative ideas.

How to Write a Literary Analysis

How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay

Explore the concept of interpretation to learn how to write a literary analysis essay. The process of text interpretation by the reader is simultaneously connected with both conscious or unconscious understanding of the external, verbal side of the text (lexical, grammatical, and stylistic). Thus, textual activity is a complex and multicomponent psychological-intellectual communication. Communication has an aesthetic function, whereas this kind of communication has been considered literary. The generalization of these approaches allows one to find that they are differentiated depending on which aspect of the textual activity is the direct object of study. There are some approaches to the study of the text:

  • linguistic;
  • textual;
  • anthropocentric;
  • cognitive.

The linguistic approach is the most traditional one for text analysis. Its logic is based on studying the functioning of the linguistic units and categories in the text context. The subject of consideration in this approach could be lexical, phonetic, grammatical, stylistic units and categories. For example, many papers have studied the adjective colors, verbs of speech, impersonal sentences, pair-celled constructions, the temporal meanings of verbs, and many other aspects. The advantage of these works lies in the fact that they reveal the functional properties of certain units and describe the features of the style of a particular writer or poet. Consideration of the text as a unique speech work, marked by a set of its textual categories and properties, is found within the framework of the text-centric approach.
The anthropocentric approach is related to the interpretation of the text in terms of its generation (position of the author) and perception (position of the reader), its impact on the reader and its derivational aspect. Such a communicative approach arose and developed due to attempts to overcome the inadequacy of non-traditional text classifications based only on structural features inherent in the text.
The psycholinguistic direction of studying the text can accumulate much reliable information that is extremely useful for linguistic analysis. Psycholinguistics differs from traditional classical linguistics, first, by actively using experimental methods and, second, by considering the functioning of language and its units as a special kind of psychological reality. It is reflected in the study of the nature of the text.

What Is the Purpose of a Literary Analysis Essay

What is the purpose of a literary analysis essay? The psycholinguistic study of the text is based on the idea of it as a dual process of perception, which is the basis of communicative activity: the text is the result of speech activity and its product. The result obtained is that the literature work is procedural and dynamic. The dynamism of the text is determined, first, by the fact that it is created by the speaker in the process of communication with other speakers and, second, by the process of perception for both the listener and the speaker. Thus, the generation of a text and its perception are two aspects of the dynamic nature of a text. The exploration of the literary work by the speaker and listener (the author and the reader) is dynamic since it aims to uncover the psychological mechanisms of text formation. The basis for interpreting the text as a dual process is the general properties of the generation and perception and the underlying universal mechanism of textual activity perceived from opposite positions.
The perception of the text has its characteristics due to the very nature of the text, which is an object in the form of a sequence of meanings that are the direct stimuli that affect the senses. As a result, the perception of the text consists of two stages. The first one is associated with the direct perception of material signs. In the second stage, a transition is made from the image of the linguistic sign as a material object to the image of its content. Both stages are accompanied by comprehension and understanding of the perceived material.


What is the composition? Composition is the construction of the text. In practice, the composition is the development. This is a complex relationship as, on the one hand, composition is the first spiritual realization of that obscure image, and in this sense, the composition is integral – architectural and static. On the other hand, this realization of an artistic-verbal work goes on in time, more precisely, in space-time, although the art of the word is temporary, not spatial; and, thus, this realization manifests itself gradually. It moves, spreads, expands, and ends; that is, it lives in time.

Genre Characteristics

The genre aspect of the analysis helps to identify typological, historically stable factors and features of the work of art. The choice of a writer of a particular genre (novel, story, tragedy, comedy, poem, lyric poem) reflects its attitude to the portrayed events and the orientation to a specific literary tradition. The genre ties all the components of a work of art, such as a composition, a symbolic system, a plotline, language, and style. Each of the components in various genres acquires a new meaning and content. Writers do not accidentally use different genres to express the shades of artistic thought or to identify new aspects of the phenomenon under investigation. Genre determines the originality of the author’s position in the work and his or her attitude to reality. It determines what things are critical to reveal when analyzing a work of art.
In analyzing a work of art in the aspect of the genre, it is necessary to consider that the genre is not a static phenomenon but a dynamic one. Genre originality is revealed not only in following literary traditions, in applying established ways of creating a work but also in the creative manner of each writer and most clearly manifested when correlating the analyzed work with other works of this or another author written in the same genre.
The genre specificity of the work, which reveals many meanings, is determined not only by the combination of stable and individual beginnings but also by the fact that the work belongs to a certain literary movement. The same genre in different literary directions acquires new features. For example, with its agony to the exclusivity of characters and situations, a romantic poem is very different from a realistic one, with its historical and psychological accuracy in the development of characters, even in the creative way of one author. The sentimental novel, with its entertaining plot and the use of features of the epistolary style, is a completely different whole compared to the realistic novel, which is distinguished by broad socio-historical generalizations, the richness and variety of motivations and associations, and the typological depth of generalization.
Selection of some genres as the main ones in one literary direction does not mean the non-existence of others. Naturally, they continue to develop yet in the background. Even a paradoxical phenomenon often occurs. The so-called main genres stabilize, canonize, and, as it was, freeze at some point in their development since the efforts of writing in these genres are spent on achieving the canon and perfecting the finished form, while the minor genres are much more flexible. They change more, move, and prepare another literary trend in their development. Then, they become major in a different literary direction, and the former major ones are secondary. They undergo the greatest change in the new direction.

Methods and Techniques of Literature Analysis

Based on a set of scientific methods of knowledge of literature, adapting them to their goals and objectives, creatively transforming the search for methodologists of the past, modern methods of studying literature have developed their system of techniques for working with a literary work in which there are following steps:

  • reading a literary work;
  • analysis of the text;
  • commenting on a literary work with contextual (extra-textual) materials;
  • implementation of literary works in other types of art;
  • study the work in the context of the writer’s creativity or comparison with the works of other authors.

In modern practice, the following methods of working with the text of a literary work are most widely used:

  1. Problem-thematic involves studying works of art based on their themes and perspectives.
  2. Analytical, based on the use of analysis methods to identify a work of art’s ideological content and artistic originality.
  3. Interpretative, the essence of which is the interpretation of the meaning of a work of art through the prism of multiple variants of perception.
  4. Inter-Textual, revealing the multiple links of this artwork with other texts and cultural phenomena.
  5. Integrated, based on the study of the work using other sciences and arts.
  6. Synthetic, combining various methods and techniques.

The main focus of the literary education process is on working with the word in the context of a literary work that allows students to form ideas:

  • about literature as the art of the word;
  • text in the literary-theoretical aspect;
  • a word as a sociocultural sign, the meaning of which is updated in each specific text.

The work carried out in these areas will also become the basis and method for:

  • improving the knowledge and skills in the field of language;
  • development of oral and written language;
  • development of spelling vigilance.

The work organization with the word can be carried out at all stages of the work-study within the framework of a system of studies using students’ independent activities. Such work can occur in the process of:

  • expressive reading;
  • historical and cultural commentary;
  • preparing students for oral answers to questions;
  • student interpretive activity;
  • project activities of students;
  • essay writing.

A major role in organizing work with the literary texts is played by the independent activity of students, which:

  • contributes to the development of the knowledge and skills, analysis and interpretation of the text;
  • creates additional situations for the application of the knowledge and skills acquired during the studying process
  • contributes to comprehension of the text in an aesthetic way that is in accordance with the reader’s and student’s research interests and needs.

The Structure of the Analysis

  1. Determine the theme, problem, and idea of the work.
  2. Specify the means of creating an artistic image.
  3. Determine the form of the narration, list the characters, noting their status in the structure of the work.
  4. Specify the type of conflict.
  5. РЎharacterize the plot elements (exposure, climax, development of action, denouement).
  6. Highlight the composition tools.

Now, you know how to write a literary analysis essay properly.

Read also: Literature Analysis Ideas for Essay.

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