Writing a Literary Essay

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					Writing a Literary Essay

     Using Secondary Sources
      What is a “literary critic”?
   Someone who critiques a work of literature is
    called a “literary critic.” They spend much of
    their time studying, analyzing, and writing
    about literature. When you write your own
    literary analysis you too become a literary
    critic.
         What is a "primary source"?

   When you are writing about literature, the text
    that you are studying is called the "primary
    source." For example, if you are writing about
    Huckleberry Finn, that novel is your primary
    source of evidence for whatever argument
    (thesis) you are making in your paper. You
    quote from the novel to support your claims.
    You defend your claims with direct references
    to your primary source—that is, with
    quotations from the novel.
     What is a "secondary source"?

   Secondary sources are essays or articles that have
    been written by literary critics about the text you are
    studying. To write with authority about your choice
    of literary text, you should familiarize yourself with
    what has been written about that text in the past.
   You want to be sure that the secondary sources you
    use are reputable ones. Look for sources that have
    been written by established literary critics.
Examples of what secondary sources
         might look like:

   Lynn, Kenneth S. Huckleberry Finn: Text,
    Sources, and Criticism. New York: Harcourt
    Brace Jovanovich, 1961.
   Nadel, Alan. "Invisible Man, Huck, and Jim."
    Invisible Criticism. Iowa City: The University
    of Iowa Press, 1988. 124-146.
 Do you want to make your paper just a
collection of what other people have said?
                   NO!

   You do not read secondary sources to help you
    write your paper. You write your paper on
    your own. Be sure that you have your own
    argument and that you write mainly about
    what is in the novel and support your argument
    with quotations from the novel.
                     But . . .

   you do read secondary sources to help you
    flesh out your ideas. You can use secondary
    sources to support what you say.
   You may not agree with what other people say
    about the story you have read. You can quote
    from those critics to show what you disagree
    with and then explain why you disagree.
      How do I document a secondary
                 source?
   You document a secondary source the same way you
    do a primary source. If you use a direct quotation,
    you must put quotation marks around the exact
    language of the author. If you paraphrase (use your
    own words), you do not have to put quotation marks.
    However, whether you quote or paraphrase, you must
    put the page number and author's name in
    parentheses.
   You must also create a works cited page and list the
    sources (both primary and secondary) in proper MLA
    format.
    To sum up, here are some tips about
         using secondary sources:
   Remember that your primary source is the text itself. Fill your
    paper with quotations and references to the novel to back up
    your claims.
   Use your secondary sources, the references to literary critics,
    sparingly. Do NOT let the other literary critics take over your
    paper. One or two references to a literary critic is plenty.
   Your main purpose in consulting the other literary critics is to
    get a broader, fuller understanding of the novel you are going
    to write about.
   Document secondary sources just as you would primary
    sources, using parenthetical citations in the text and a works
    cited page.
   These pages have been
    taken from the following:
    Sanders, Andrea.
    “American Literature II.”
    Walters State Community
    College. Web.

   For an example of an
    introductory and body
    paragraph using primary and
    secondary sources visit the
    above site.

				
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posted:10/15/2011
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