The basis of all literary analysis is the close reading, but to better understand what place a text has in our world, we need to also analyze the author's intentions and background, what was happening in the world when the text was written, and how the text was received (and is still received and used). In order to do this, writers need to build on what they already know from textual analysis, reading the text with these outside sources of information.
Choosing a Topic
As you read LWW, different themes will emerge. As you read information about C.S. Lewis and criticism of the book, those themes will be challenged, supported, and developed. The important part of choosing a topic in contextual analysis is to keep it focused (even as you explore the potential of that focus). A topic that could be seen as too broad is
Lewis used Christian imagery in this story to promote his own Christianity.
A better focus would be to look at something within that obvious idea, like While Lewis intended the Christian lessons in this story, he also wanted to make it appealing to the desires and dreams of children.
Developing Your Thesis
While your thesis is still one of discovery that leaves room for exploration, you do want to indicate where your essay will take your readers. In Writing Analytically, they say to make sure to use active verbs and versatile sentence structure to create a dynamic thesis which will propel your thinking forward. Your thesis should take into account information you've discovered in your reading about CS Lewis and about the criticism of LWW. This is important; otherwise, you're just doing another close reading. Realize that your thesis will probably be one similar in structure to the thesis you used in your close reading; however, you will be utilizing outside sources IN ADDITION to the text to support your ideas.
Using Outside Sources
I will put a packet of information from a variety of outside sources on reserve in the library. If you choose to do outside research on your own, make sure that the source the information is from is a valid source (e.g., from an online database of scholarly articles, not a personal website). You will need to use at least two sources, in addition to LWW. Note that two is a minimum; if your claims require more substantiation, you should use more than that.
All of your use of sources should be documented with in-text citation MLA style. We'll review this in class.
Be sure that when you use an outside source, you are retaining the original meaning and intention of the author. In other words, make sure you don't twist someone's words to suit your own intentions.
Take your time, and start early. Develop your ideas as you're reading LWW. When you start reading information about Lewis and the book, make reference back to the text so that making those connections is easier when you sit down to draft. Try to stay away from "putting in quotes"-you are using source material, and it should be incorporated as smoothly as your hand transitions to your wrist. If you drop in a quote, it will look like it's been dropped in. Work it into the idea you're exploring by explaining it after you present it, and by setting it up beforehand.
Don't worry about organizing your draft the first time through. Leave that task for the revised draft. What's most important on the first draft is getting your ideas out on paper in complete sentences and paragraphs.
I suggest you complete your Works Cited page with your first draft, so you always have your source information handy. Don't forget about it in the revised draft, either!
When you sit down to revise, make an outline of what is already there. As you read your outline, ask yourself: Have I provided enough context for the reader to better understand this text? Where am I missing information? Have I challenged my own claims about Lewis and about the text? Have I explored criticism of the text from its time period? What personal connection have I made to the text? All of these questions can move your essay forward with more information.
Re-organize. Look again at the order of information. Does one idea lead into the next, either by contrast or comparison or some other means? How have you transitioned between ideas?
Look at wherever you've used evidence from the text or from your sources. Is the evidenced introduced with your thoughts/claims? Is it followed up by an explanation of it and connection back to the main idea? Is it properly cited?
Whenever you use outside sources, it's imperative to make sure you've punctuated correctly. Check your citations, too, and make sure you've used the correct MLA style citation. This is where you check your works cited page for errors, too.
This essay should be at least 4 pages in length (not counting the Works Cited page), use at least two sources other than LWW, include all the bibliographical information on all sources (including LWW) on the Works Cited page, and use MLA format.
Deadlines are detailed on the course calendar and the handout in class. Grading Criteria
Has the author developed his/her own ideas about the text?
Does the author stay focused on one main idea or set of images throughout the essay?
Has the author used outside sources to support or contrast his/her own ideas?
Does the essay follow MLA format?
Does the author analyze the text in connection with the outside criticism about it?
Has the author avoided making assumptions that aren't founded in research?
Does the essay include an accurate works cited page?
Is the essay proofread, and clear of word choice, spelling, and punctuation errors?
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