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World Literature

This LibGuide provides tips on researching World Literature, writing papers, and choosing some books to read just for fun.

Compare/Contrast Essay

There are many different kinds of compare/contrast essays that you might be assigned.  Here are some of the most common ones:

  1. Choose one theoretical context and put that theory into conversation with your chosen text.
    • For the this essay, you need to know the different between a theoretical text and a literary work.
    • A theoretical text presents ideas, a system of ideas, or a supposition about how to read, interpret, and/or analyze different kinds of texts.  Research articles in databases are often written based on a theoretical idea (not to be confused with criticism).
    • A literary work is a story, play, poem, etc.  It is a kind of artistic expression.
    • Make sure that your thesis clearly states what theoretical context and what literary work you are comparing.
  2. Choose two texts and compare (find similarities) and contrast (find differences) between them.
    • Sometimes instructors might ask you to find just similarities or just differences, but most of the time, you will be asked to do both.
    • You will want to choose two similarities and two differences.  These should be major details, not minor details, as major details are easier to write about and find evidence for than minor details.
    • Makes sure that your thesis clearly states what specific similarities and differences you will be analyzing in your paper.    It is a good idea to use either the authors' names or the titles of the literary works in the thesis statement just to remind your reader what you will be doing with the essay.
  3. Compare the same thematic elements used in two or more texts.
    • Depending on the requirements, two or three thematic elements should be sufficient.  These should be major thematic elements, not minor ones.  This is so you get more out of your analysis.
    • Make sure that your thesis clearly states what thematic elements you are comparing within the context of the two texts.  It is a good idea to use either the authors' names or the titles of the literary works in the thesis statement just to remind your reader what you will be doing with the essay.

Thematic Essay

For a thematic essay, your instructor may ask you to choose one theme and fully explore it for an entire text.  Similarly, your instructor might ask you to choose two or three theories and explore them fully for an entire text.  Here are some tips:

  1. For one theme that you are fully exploring remember to:
    • Choose a theme that runs through the entire literary work.
    • Find quotes that specifically address that theme. Do NOT use random quotes that you happen to like.  Quotes should back up any claim that you are making.  
    • Remember to analyze why the theme is important, relevant, etc. to the whole literary work.
    • Make sure your thesis clearly states what you intend to prove about the theme.
  2. For two or more themes that you are fully exploring remember to:
    • Choose your themes carefully and make sure that they run through the entire literary work.
    • Set up your essay so that you fully explore one theme before moving onto the next theme.  Do NOT jump back and forth between themes.
    • Make sure that you provide a transition between themes.  Otherwise you will confuse your reader.
    • Find quotes that specifically address the themes for each section. Do NOT use random quotes that you happen to like.  Quotes should back up any claim that you are making. 
    • If you have a quote that works for two themes, use that quote to help you transition between the two themes.  
    • Remember to analyze why the theme is important, relevant, etc. to the whole literary work.
    • Make sure your thesis clearly states what you intend to prove about the themes that you have chosen.

Literary Researched Argument Paper

A researched literary analysis paper is a complex kind of paper that combines literary theory, criticism, and analysis based on research conducted about one or more texts.  When you are a freshman or sophomore in college, you will most likely only be considering one text.  If you take advanced English classes, however, be prepared for considering two or more texts.

First, it is a good idea to understand some terminology.

  • Literary Theory:  presents ideas, a system of ideas, or a supposition about how to read, interpret, and/or analyze different kinds of texts.  
  • Criticism:  an analysis of the merits, faults, strengths, and weaknesses of a specific literary or artistic work
  • Explanation:  clarification; restatement of the main idea; the clearing up of possible misunderstandings
    • Questions Associated with Explanation:  Who?  What?  When?  Where?  How?
  • Analysis:  examination of details in order to seek or form a deeper understanding concerning a text
    • Questions Associated with Analysis:  Why?  So, what? 

Here are some tips for writing this kind of paper:

  1. Do some preliminary research to see what has been written on the work that you have chosen.  A good place to start is JSTOR.
  2. Make sure to search both the author and the literary work.
  3. Researching the author is important, as sometimes you get general articles that can help you formulate an idea for your paper.
  4. Once you have done your preliminary research, decide what theoretical context and/or literary criticism you want to focus on for your paper.
  5. Do more in-depth research on your specific chosen theoretical context and/or literary criticism.
  6. Expand on the ideas that you find with your own ideas.  You can completely disagree with the theoretical context and/or literary criticism.  You can completely agree.  You can even disagree with some of the ideas and agree with others.  How you approach this part is entirely up to you and how you are viewing the work.
  7. Find quotes from the literary work that back up the claims that you are making.
  8. Make sure that your thesis statement is very clear about what you intend to prove in writing your paper.
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