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What Are Literary Essays and Why Are They Needed?

Quite often college assignments require the writer to base their writing on a work of literature such as a novel, play, poem, or something similar. Professors use these written assignments to assess how well the student is able to analyze and evaluate a literary text. Literary essays mostly apply to students studying humanitarian subjects, but some technical disciplines can involve literature analysis or writing on the history of art. Moreover, students are expected to complete these assignments even if they do not possess very good writing skills or have not previously written essay of this type.

However, what actually are literary essays and what type of analysis do they entail? In its basic form, the definition of a literary essay suggests it is a written piece of approximately 250 words to 300 words (although your tutor or professor may specify a different length so it is best to double-check requirements) and its purpose is to analyze a literary piece. This analysis may cover all or just some aspects of, for instance, a poem or novel in terms of its style and its general contribution to the field of literature. It usually also reflects on the techniques and instruments used by an author e.g. the book’s plot, the language, and other elements. Alternatively, such an essay might focus on just some of the above-mentioned elements. The purpose of this type of essay is quite similar to that of an article or book critique even in the way it is written. But the subject being critically analyzed will be a work of literature rather than an article.

The Best Way to Approach a Literary Essay

Prior to beginning to write, it will be necessary to read the work that needs analyzing. It may be that you read a shorter or condensed version of the work, one that is specially designed to enable students to complete the task in a shorter timeframe. Choose particular characters or sections from the plot that you feel are important and read, say, an overview about the writing style and literary form of the text e.g. whether it is a drama, prose, or poetic piece. These types all have distinct features and it is possible you will need to analyze them from a global perspective if you are to complete your essay in the best way possible. At all times keep in mind that a literary work should be examined and analysed from many different angles and sides. It is also advisable you select suitable quotes from the work as you read it in order to be able to mention or refer to these throughout your essay, and even include direct quotes. In any case, it is likely you will have to return repeatedly to the poem or novel you are analyzing during the writing process since the direction of your writing may alter and/or need adjustment as you go along.

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