Literature analysis

This is highly important

  • Select and photocopy a short passage from The Arabian Nights or The Pillow Book.For prose, your selection should be no more than two (contiguous) paragraphs long. For poetry, no more than approximately 15-20 lines. ***Attach the passage to your assignment.***
  • Highlight (or underline or circle) two or three SHORT pieces of language (preferably single words, but 3-4 word images are also fine) on the photocopy of the text you’ve chosen that together add up to a constellation of meaning that we may have missed on a casual reading. These short units should form a pattern that convincingly suggests the story’s interest in a particular idea (and doesn’t just summarize the plot).
  • Do a close reading of the passage you’ve chosen, showing how the language of the text that you have identified (step 2 above) shows us something about the themes and structures we have observed.


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Close  reading is not a summary or a run down of the larger themes that appear in the text you’re examining; you will be arguing a theory of your own devising about something that you’ve found interesting (or better, troubling!) in one of the texts we’ve read in class. You want to reveal something beyond the superficial level of the text, something that can’t be contained in a point-by-point summary of what “happens” in the text. Avoid summary. Instead, state your claim and support it with the details that you’ve found; discuss how these details lead us to think about particular ideas in the text that may not be so apparent at first glance. Good readings often amount to saying, “At first glance the text seems to describe a simple plot, but a careful reading reveals certain details that complicate or comment on that simple plot trajectory. Here is a particular pattern of details that seems to suggest that the story is not so simple or straightforward. When we notice the way that this pattern interacts with the general plot outline, we can see that the story contains questions or concerns about X.”


Your argument should be quite focused. Make sure that you’re arguing a specific point, not attempting to handle a large theme or topic. Topics such as “Love in Sappho” or “Storytelling in The Arabian Nights” or “The Feminine Experience in The Pillow Book“are much too general. Again, you want to argue an implicit point, not to catalogue examples. Your argument should give a particular reading of what your author is saying about a major issue through very specific evidence. You will want keep your focus trained on the “small picture” instead of the “big picture.” Because your essay will be focused on the way that ONE pattern of details (steps 2 and 3 above) works in the text, you will want to avoid any topic that creates a need to list a bunch of examples instead of staying rooted in one special case. Your essay should show how the very specific language you’re handling (from the particular passage you’re reading) adds unique nuance to the larger themes; make sure that you’re not simply saying that your passage is just one example of a general tendency in the text.


The student has  toargue an implicit point, not to catalogue examples. Your argument should give a particular reading of what your author is saying about a major issue through very specific evidence.


“Evidence” is in the form of quotation. However, you do not want to pad your paper with huge blocks of quoted text. You should call attention to specific nuances in the text, quoting specific, SHORT (a word, a short phrase, a line) examples of strange or telling language. ALWAYS cite where you’ve found your evidence. If you absolutely need to refer to text outside of the short passage that you’re examining, make sure that your focus is squarely on the passage you’re looking at.













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