Researching and writing about authors and their works
Literary analysis essays
Check the criteria given by your instructor and read over any assignment prompts first. Always defer to the directions from your instructor if they conflict with this guide.
Generally, literary analysis essays express an idea about the author and the text. This is usually the answer to a "what" or why" question. For example, why does the author chose certain symbols, language or topics? What Is the author trying to convey? Students can use those questions to form a defensible topic sentence.
Remember that the text (short story, poem, etc.) is your main source material.
Create a topic sentence that is defensible from your source material.
Use databases and other resources to find articles and other sources to support and supplement your argument. (Don't attempt to find an article that makes your argument for you.)
Be prepared to draw comparisons to different authors and works.
Be prepared to adjust your position if new material causes you to see the text differently.
See the related guide for Multicultural American Literature (left column).
For guidance on setting up a database search strategy, see the strategy page of the Research Basics guide
Included in Multi-Search. The MLA International Bibliography indexes are critical to literary and language scholarship. They index literature, languages, linguistics, literary theory and criticism, dramatic arts, film, and folklore from over 4,400 journals and serials, as well as books, essay collections, working papers, proceedings, dissertations, and bibliographies. Approximately 45,000 records are added annually. Classical Greek and Latin literature are not covered. This database is produced by the Modern Language Association. The print edition counterpart to this database began in 1921.
Information about the periodicals indexed in the MLA International Bibliography can be found under Browse Periodicals. You can browse or search by title or browse multiple keyword(s) and choose 'relevancy ranked' to find periodicals containing those keywords. Then click on the periodical title in the results list to see information about the periodical. This information comes from the MLA Directory of Periodicals and is updated annually. Note: Detailed information may not be available for every title covered.
Project Muse is a full-text journal database for over 100 journals in the fields of literature and criticism, history, the visual and performing arts, cultural studies, education, political science, and gender studies.
Database provider: Johns Hopkins University Press, in collaboration with the Milton S. Eisenhower Library at Johns Hopkins University.
Arte Publico Hispanic Historical Collections Series 1 presents a digital collection of historical content pertaining to U.S. Hispanic history, literature and culture. This collection accurately conveys the creative life of U.S. Hispanics and sheds new light on the intellectual vigor and traditional values that have characterized Hispanics from the earliest moments of American history through 1960. Arte Publico Hispanic Historical Collection draws its content from Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage Project, including the complete texts of over 1,100 books, 60,000 articles, newspapers, reviews, religious and political pamphlets, poems, and short stories. About 80% of the content is in Spanish.
JSTOR provides electronic access to back issues (from the date of first publication) of selected, core journals. JSTOR also provides some ebooks. The goal of the project is to build a reliable and comprehensive archive of important scholarly journal literature. The journals are organized into the Arts and Sciences Collections I & II, the General Sciences Collection, the Ecology and Botany Collection, the Business Collection, the Language and Literature Collection, the Mathematics and Statistics Collection, and the Music Collection.
Reference sources can help you better understand cultures, and the symbols and motifs related to cultures.They can also help you to understand the author, and their relationship to a time period or a location.
Using an interdisciplinary approach, Healing Memories analyzes the ways that Puerto Rican women authors use their literary works to challenge historical methodologies that have silenced the historical experiences of Puerto Rican women in the United States. Following Aurora Levins Morales's alternative historical methodology she calls "curandera history," this work analyzes the literary work of authors, including Aurora Levins Morales, Nicholasa Mohr, Esmeralda Santiago, and Judith Ortiz Cofer, and the ways they create medicinal histories that not only document the experiences of migrant women but also heal the trauma of their erasure from mainstream national history. Each analytical chapter focuses on the various methods used by each author including using the literary space as an archive, reclaiming memory, and (re)writing cultural history, all through a feminist lens that centers the voices and experiences of Puerto Rican women.
Kissing the Mango Tree is the first and only book to examine the works of the most popular Puerto Rican women writers from the perspective of feminist literary criticism. Rivera reconstructs the ethno-feminist aesthetic of Judith Ortiz Cofer, Sandra Maria Esteves. Nicholasa Mohr, Aurora Levins Morales. Rosario Morales, Esmeralda Santiago, and Luz Maria Umpierre-Herrera. In separate chapters dedicated to each of the writers, the author locates their works within a framework of feminist thoery and literature, seeing them as "women with macho asserting their creative powers to record their own versions of their memories, to own their own bodies...They transform the way we look at the process of growing up and becoming a woman, at the relationship with our mothers and our daughters, at the fluidity of our lives, at our notions of nationhood..." This groundbreaking study is accompanied by a complete bibliography of the six writers' works and secondary sources of feminist, Latino and ethno-poetic criticism and theory.
Rituals of Movement in the Writing of Judith Ortiz Cofer is the first book-length collection of scholarship on her writing and establishes Ortiz Cofer as an important contemporary American author. Ten analytical essays and four interviews explore the complexity and originality of her work and her central themes of Puerto Rican identity, cross-cultural experience, and the female perspective in a shifting multicultural world. - publisher description
The sixteen essays in Writing Off the Hyphen approach the literature of the Puerto Rican diaspora from current theoretical positions, with provocative and insightful results. The authors analyze how the diasporic experience of Puerto Ricans is played out in the context of class, race, gender, and sexuality and how other themes emerging from postcolonialism and postmodernism come into play. Their critical work also demonstrates an understanding of how the process of migration and the relations between Puerto Rico and the United States complicate notions of cultural and national identity as writers confront their bilingual, bicultural, and transnational realities. The collection has considerable breadth and depth. It covers earlier, undertheorized writers such as Luisa Capetillo, Pedro Juan Labarthe, Bernardo Vega, Pura Belpré, Arturo Schomburg, and Graciany Miranda Archilla. Prominent writers such as Rosario Ferré and Judith Ortiz Cofer are discussed alongside often-neglected writers such as Honolulu-based Rodney Morales and gay writer Manuel Ramos Otero. The essays cover all the genres and demonstrate that current theoretical ideas and approaches create exciting opportunities and possibilities for the study of Puerto Rican diasporic literature.