Sea Oak

Sea Oak;

Topic: For this essay, you will analyze one of the texts we’ve read using one of the critical approaches outlined below. You can write about anything we’ve read this semester as long as it isn’t the same one you chose for Essay 1. The choice of text and approach are yours, and I’m open to ones not listed here (though you must consult with me if you choose to take this route). I want to encourage you to choose an approach that not only fits the text, but that interests you and perhaps even relates to your field of study. You are not required to bring outside sources to the text for this assignment, but feel free to consult them during the writing process. Your goal for this assignment is to use the approach you’ve chosen to answer important questions about the text or otherwise illuminate the issues or complexities contained within it.

Structure: While you are not required to use it, the following structure works well for this assignment. Whether or not your paper is organized as below, these elements should all be present.
•    Introduction: Within the first few sentences of the essay, provide a summary of the reading selection to establish a foundation for your understanding of the text. What is the text about? Be as accurate and thorough, yet concise as possible. You might also provide relevant background or contextual information here. At the end of your introduction, you should state your point (thesis), containing a clear critical approach from the list below.
•    Body paragraphs: Provide specific textual evidence for each supporting point (i.e., direct quotations supported grammatically within your writing and documented accurately). Explain the relevance of the quotation in terms of your overall claims to reinforce the thesis.
•    Conclusion: Here you should discuss large-scale, big-picture conclusions about the text. What, as a whole, do we understand as a result of the approach you’ve taken and analysis you’ve provided? What image of the text emerges as a result of the various points that you’ve made? In short, what have we learned/what have you shown us?

Critical Approaches

Social Analysis: Determine the social structure of the setting by identifying various classes or groups and their relationships to other groups. Questions to consider: How do the characters fit into this hierarchy? How do the characters behave in order to maintain their place in society? Are there any outsiders? How do they disrupt the social structure? How do the ones in control of the social structure view the outsiders? Are there any symbols in the text that indicate the relationship between social classes? Finally, in what ways does a social analysis contribute to an overall meaning of the text? Your answer should provide the thesis statement of the essay.

Gender Analysis: Find significant references to gender within the text, either in explicit statements or through implicit suggestions. You can analyze femininity or masculinity through women’s and men’s behavior that illustrates their gendered identity, or you can look at how a text contains interactions that seem homosexual (marked by sexual desire) or homosocial (seeking non-sexual closeness in single-sex group situations). Questions to consider: What do these parts of the text show about the society’s view of gender? Which gender is in control of this society? What does it mean to be a woman or to be a man in the society described in the text? Is there a woman or man in the text who is different from others of the same gender in the text? If so, how do others react to her or his behavior? Are there any symbols in the text that indicate the gender relationships within the text? Finally, in what ways does a gender analysis effect an overall meaning of the text? Your answer should provide the thesis statement of the essay.

Philosophical Analysis: Literature often contains a theme involving the quest for knowledge, origin, and/or purpose. To explore these philosophical issues in literature, find the places in the text where a character might be on one of the following quests:
1)    Epistemological quests involve the study of knowledge. To what length will the narrator or a character go to gain knowledge? What is the price of this knowledge? Does a character benefit and/or suffer from the knowledge?
2)    Ontological quests deal with the study of origins. In an exploration of a text’s ontological themes, ask yourself how a character comes to know his or her origin. What is the purpose of finding one’s origin, and why does the character want to return and/or escape from the point of origin?
3)    In an existential quest, a character may contemplate his or her reason for living after his or her sense of stability has been ripped away by some tragic event. According to your selected piece of literature, what is the purpose of human life? What benefit does it provide? Do characters search for proof of a god?
Additionally, how does one (or more) of these philosophical questions contribute to an overall meaning of the text? Your answer should provide the thesis statement of the essay. For greater focus, choose only one of the philosophical issues. Be sure to use the particular names of each quest to clarify your points.

Psychological Analysis: Literature often provides an up close view of unique or complex psychological issues and states of mind. Examine the psychology at play within the text. Do you find any actions or behaviors that show a character’s unconscious desires or urges breaking beyond the person’s control? Does that character unconsciously struggle with the morality of his decisions? How is the person’s outward, conscious behavior affected by the competing unconscious urges? Does the text illustrate a state of mind shaped by a particular occupation, ethnicity, experience, or way of life? Questions to consider: Are there any symbols in the text that indicate the psychological motivations of any of the characters? Are there any significant passages with repetitions or rhythmic structure that indicate a character’s state of mind? How do these structural elements of the text contribute to the content? Finally, in what ways does a psychological interpretation contribute to an overall meaning of the text? Your answer should provide the thesis statement of the essay.

Theological and Mythological Analysis: To analyze a piece of literature from a theological perspective, find the textual allusions to specific principles from a particular world religion or mythological tradition and explain their significance or examine the ways that a text relates to a particular religious story or myth. To prove your point, you will need to cite a text from that religion’s sacred text that provides insight into the literary text. Questions to consider: Are there references to Buddha, Christ, Greco-Roman gods, Mohammed, Shiva, the Tao, or other saints and holy figures? Do any characters bear resemblance to these holy figures? Are there any martyrs in the text? If so, what purpose does the martyr’s death achieve? Are there any scenes of mass destruction (e.g., a flood or other natural disaster), and what social purpose does the destruction serve? Does the text follow a structure or pattern that corresponds to a particular religious story or myth? Finally, in what ways does a theological interpretation enlighten an overall understanding of the text? Your answer should provide the thesis statement of the essay.

Historical Analysis: Historical Analysis of contemporary literature seeks primarily to demonstrate the social, cultural, and intellectual/philosophical contexts that shape a text. In other words, the goal is to illuminate and examine the various forces that may have contributed to a text’s construction and composition. Questions to consider: How does a particular historical event or actual person play a role in the literary text? How does the literary text cast this event or person in a different way or from a different viewpoint? What were the social/historical contexts at the time the text was composed? In what ways are these contexts demonstrated in or important to the text’s function? Finally, why is it important to know about these historical elements in order to understand this piece of literature, what do they add to our understanding of its meaning?

Racial/Cultural Analysis: As the title suggests, Racial or Cultural Analysis focuses on the way that a text addresses matters of race and culture. Most often, this kind of criticism analyzes issues of racial or cultural identity within a piece of literature, whether it’s the way that race is treated in the narrative or the problems and questions about race and culture that are addressed directly. Questions to consider: Does race or culture produce a sense of inferiority or insecurity for a character within this story? How does the character respond to that insecurity? What does it take to overcome or subvert that inferiority? Is there pressure for characters from marginalized groups to adopt the views and ways of the dominant culture? Does the text produce a particular view or message about the role that race plays (or should play) in self-identification?

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