Literary Response & Analysis Skills: Types & Examples

Instructor: Amanda Wiesner-Groff

Amanda has created and taught English/ESL curricula worldwide, has an M.Ed, and is the current ESOL Coordinator for the Saint Louis Public School District.

This lesson is all about understanding literary response and analysis skills. We will define important terms, as well as go over strategies used for analyzing literary and narrative texts. Read on, to learn more.

Introduction to Analyzing Literature

When it comes to analyzing literature, there are numerous different response and analytical skills that come into play. In this lesson, we will be focusing on: using textual evidence, analyzing elements of story grammar, and recognizing diverse cultural perspectives. Gaining a better understanding of these three skills will help get you on the path to mastering your literary responses. Grab your pen and paper, and let's get started!

What is a Literary Response?

First things first, let's make sure we are on the same page and that you understand the terms that will be thrown around in this lesson. We are discussing literary response skills, which are the skills you use to react to a piece of literature you have read or heard. You can respond to literature in numerous ways; for example, you can retell, summarize, or even evaluate. Another way you can respond to literature is by analyzing it. This is where literary analysis comes into play.

What is Literary Analysis?

Literary analysis is the act of looking at how the parts of a text affect the whole: for example, how the characters, plot, and setting are used to create meaning in a piece of literature. Literary analysis skills are the actual strategies you use to analyze the parts (characters, plots, setting) that bring meaning to literature. These skills allow you to understand the meaning of the text and then form your own perceptions of it.

Literary Response and Analysis Skills

We will now go over three of these skills in more depth. Hopefully, this will prepare you for using the skills on your own the next time a literary response assignment pops up.

Using Textual Evidence

Using textual evidence means finding examples, details, and support from the literature being studied in order to back up the analysis you are making. Just as a lawyer needs evidence to prove their case, you need textual evidence to prove your analysis. For you to explain, assess, or discuss an author's work, you need to be able to give examples to not only support what you are saying, but to show you have a thorough understanding of the literature you are talking about.

Suggestions:

  • Highlight important quotes/details; then write them on index cards with citation information for easy retrieval later on.
  • Make sure the textual evidence you are using is relevant; it must actually relate to, or support, your analysis.
  • Always cite your work properly when paraphrasing, using quotes, or using references from outside sources.
  • Pretend you are a lawyer that has to prove everything you are saying. For every analysis you make, have evidence to back it up!

Story Grammar

Story Grammar is a strategy used to analyze the elements of literature, and then establish the relationship between them.

You will analyze:

  • Character- A person in a play, novel, or similar work. There are different types of characters, so they can all be compared and contrasted with one another.
  • Plot- The main events of a play, novel, or similar work, created and presented by the writer as an organized sequence. This is the conflict, the action, the whole story line.
  • Setting- The time and place in which the story takes place. This can create the mood and help give clues as to what is to come.
  • Theme- The main idea or underlying meaning of a literary work. This is what brings it all together, as it is the central meaning of the work. The other elements are organized around this one important element.
  • Style- The tone the author chooses to use. The author's word choice, sentence structure, figurative language, and sentence arrangement all work together to establish mood, images, and meaning in the text. There are many elements of style, so analyze this section closely to determine what the author was trying to achieve with their work.

Analyzing story grammar means taking a close look at the elements above to see how they come together to contribute to the main idea or purpose of the literary work. Assessing the individual parts, and how they relate to one another, allows for better understanding of the work, and thus, a more thorough assessment of the text.

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