Why I Introduce Literary Analysis

As college instructors we want our students to be able to read and understand literature. But when we ask them to write a literary analysis, they are often confounded. The analyses come back poorly developed or full of plot summary.

I don’t think our students are trying to do a poor job with the paper. I don’t think they want low grades. I even think that most of them tried hard. But they didn’t succeed. And one possible reason for that is that our students may not understand what we are asking for when we ask them to analyze literature.

No experience
This might be because they have never been asked to do a literary analysis before. A good high school near me does not require any.

samson-agonistes-open-bkOr our students may have been told what a literary analysis is and not understood it.

Can’t assume
I decided that I shouldn’t assume my freshman college students have had an introduction to literary analysis. The problem then became how I was going to teach them literature analysis without the students having to read a new work.

Find a common text
When my students don’t have the same reading experiences, what is a common text?

I decided I would use fairy tales.

This is part of the introduction to a paper given at College Conference of Teachers of English: Texas in March.

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