English: Writing about Literature*

Literary studies, most would agree, is the core of the academic discipline of English. At its heart lays the close examination, most often through scholarly writing, of texts written throughout the many literary periods (from the early modern/Renaissance, Victorian, Modern, Postmodern and many others). The goal of such study varies depending on the kinds of questions the scholar is interested in exploring and has come to encompass such diverse (yet connected) issues and themes as colonialism and post-colonialism, race, gender, and identity, and culture. Using these questions, literary scholars work to deepen our understanding of literary texts and the many dimensions to human experience that these texts work to illuminate. The kinds of classes you will have and study you will do with literature are seemingly limitless: early modern identity and the impact of print culture through Renaissance literature, comparative authorial studies, race and ethnicity in contemporary American literature (or historically), exploring the birth of science and “modernity” or feminism through literature, the literature of colonial encounter, the goals and impact of a particular literary movement (the Harlem Renaissance or cyber-punk/sci-fi literature, for instance). Though the sheer breadth of possibilities for study makes it hard to generalize about specific writing assignments you may encounter, we hope this page of tips can help you become familiar with and confident about general strategies and tools for writing about literature, as well as some common types of literary analysis papers, no matter the topic or lens.

*Note: other kinds of writing found in English classes, such as the personal essay, are not the primary focus here. See English: Creative Writing