Literature assignment

Write a page paper on the theme(s), characterization, symbolism, OR other literary element

Your paper should include the following elements of source documentation:

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A minimum of two (2) secondary sources. A secondary source is an outside source other than the work itself. If I am writing a paper on Huckleberry Finn, then Huckleberry Finn is my primary source and other sources are secondary sources. Appropriate secondary sources are academic in nature, most ideally from a peer-reviewed journal. Sources that are NOT acceptable include Wikipedia,, Shmoop, etc. To access databases with acadmic sources, go to Resources (located at the top of the page) and then to Virtual Library. Another way to find some decent sources is to use Google Scholar or perhaps you have access to your home institution’s library. Just be aware that a regular Google search will not return acceptable sources.
Appropriate in-text citations in MLA format. Refer to the Purdue Online Writing Lab MLA Formatting and Style Guide or an English handbook for assistance with this.
An appropriate works cited page. Refer to the Purdue Online Writing Lab MLA Formatting and Style Guide or an English handbook for assistance with this. This works cited page will have a minimum of three citations – the two required secondary sources and your primary source.
Double-spaced throughout, including the title, header, text, and works cited page.
12-point Times New Roman font.
MLA four-line header in the top left corner of the first page that includes your name, the professor’s name, the course, and the date.
All papers you write for any class should have a title. Please see Writing An Effective Title for detailed instructions.

Here are a few general rules that are specific to writing about literature:

Always use the present tense when discussing literature. In other words, we would write, “Tartuffe dupes Orgon, but the rest of the family is aware of his hypocrisy,” rather than writing, “Tartuffe duped Orgon, but the rest of the family was aware of his hypocrisy.”
Do not re-tell the story. It is extremely tempting to re-tell the story or at least parts of the story. When analyzing literature, we assume the essay reader has read the primary source. There is no reason to read an analysis of a story if we haven’t already read the story. This is one of the biggest mistakes students make. You may, however, make reference to a particular point in the story in order to provide context. One of the secrets to avoiding this trap is to make references to the literature that are not in chronological order according to how events appeared in the story. You are interested in supporting a thesis, not in working your way through the story as the author told it.
Fully introduce the work and author you are discussing. The first mention should include the author’s full name and the full title of the work. This should come very early in your paper. Many times, in a literary analysis, this first mention is in the first sentence. From then on in your paper, refer to the author by last name only. This is not a suggestion; it is the only correct way to do it. If the first mention includes the full name of Virginia Woolf, every mention of the author after that is simply Woolf. Not Ms. Woolf. Not Virginia Woolf. And, for heaven’s sake, not Virginia.
Your job is to analyze an aspect of the work (theme, imagery, symbolism, characterization, etc.). Be sure that you have a specific thesis statement that helps to drive your paper. This is a thesis statement: Herman Melville’s Moby Dick uses an albino whale to symbolize the fragility of human existence and the undefeatable quality of nature. (See how I have something specific to prove there? And I’m going to be fully exploring the symbolism of the whale to prove my point.) This is NOT a thesis statement (well, not a good one, anyway): Herman Melville uses a whale as symbolism in Moby Dick. (This thesis statement does not make a specific claim about the work.)
ConsultLiterary Terms (new window), Writing About Poetry – Purdue OWL (new window), or the Purdue OWL information on writing about literature (new window).

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