Tutor profile: Miranda G.
What important considerations should students prioritize when composing an essay for an English course?
Preparing to write an essay for an English class can be absolutely daunting, especially if writing has never been your strong suit. I believe students should always prioritize two key features of their essay before they begin stringing sentences together: (1) what's your main idea/purpose of your essay (i.e., thesis), and (2) how will you prove this main idea (i.e., textual support, outside research, supporting arguments, etc.). Now, these aren't necessarily the only things you should include in your essay, but features you should prioritize.
What does it mean to use a "critical lens" when reading a work of literature?
To use a "critical lens" in literature means to read and analyze the text from a specific thematic perspective. This "lens" comes in many shapes and sizes, and they are usually characterized by different schools of theory. Some popular critical theories to analyze literature would be: feminist criticism, Marxism, New Criticism, psychological (often Freudian) criticism, Reader-Response Criticism, Historical Criticism, and Eco-criticism. This list is not exhaustive, and many of the types of criticisms on this list are used in tandem with one another to represent a more intersectional critical lens. It is not uncommon for a Feminist critique to also touch on a Marxist lens, if perhaps, a character in the text struggles under the oppressive structures of patriarchy and capitalism (which, depending on who you talk to, are one and the same).
What does it mean to critically analyze a work of literature in an English course?
In English courses, we learn to critically analyze a text in many different ways. What does "critically analyze" even mean? Well, it's really that it is not sufficient to read a text and take it at face value (i.e. only read the words, and regurgitating them verbatim for an exam/expression of knowledge acquired). When you read a poem, for example, your interpretation of its meaning may be incredibly different from your peers. Why is that? What can we learn about how you interpreted the text, and what might it reveal about something that has been overlooked in this canonical work? Believe it or not, your specific reading of a piece of literature is important. Readers create meaning almost as much as writers believe they do. All of these questions constitute specific areas of interest within the field of English (literature). Oftentimes, critically analyzing a work of literature means understanding the relationship between "form" and "content," the latter meaning what you think the words in the text are saying, and the former meaning how the words are organized on the page.
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