Essay 2: Writing about a text
Submission requirements on due date:
- First draft
- Second draft
- Final draft
- Workshopped copies (with peer and professor feedback)
- Copy of text (if it is a picture, shorter poem or lyric, or short story)
- Bibliographical information (a works cited page)
Note: ANY MISSING MATERIALS WILL RESULT IN A DEDUCTION OF POINTS—major points will be taken off more missing drafts, in particular.
This assignment asks you to analyze a text. You may choose the text, but it should be something you can think and write critically about, something with enough meaning and material so that you can spend time reflecting and analyzing it.
What is a text? The origins of the word come from texte, tixte, or tiste, the Old French for the Scriptures, and the Latin textus, for Gospel, the written word—but also textus as in style, or the tissue of a literary work, literally that which is woven, web, texture. It shares its roots with textile (woven fabric). When we think about a text, we might examine both the content (meaning) of the words or message, as well as the physical object itself (the size of a book, the thickness of paper, the font style and size, etc.). Pictures can be texts; so can television shows or films. Text is most often used to refer to a book, but it might include many other things.
How do you choose a text? Choose something you care about. It can be a poem, short story, novel, play, nonfiction essay; it could be a song lyric, a picture, an advertisement. Choose wisely—choose something you have lots to say about! Choose a text that has layers of meaning. Literary texts would provide such depths of meaning that would be helpful for this kind of assignment, but some magazine ads, songs or song/video combinations, films, etc. might also work.
Warning: If you have never written about film before, this may not be an appropriate time to start. Film analysis requires its own lexicon, without which your analysis would suffer. Stick to a written text if you are uncertain.
Your paper should:
- Describe the text—give a summary of its content and describe aesthetic details (physical and stylistic characteristics)
- Analyze the text (what does it mean? What are the messages? What is the author’s purpose? How are these messages conveyed? How does the author use language? What are elements of the author’s style that stand out? In what context—time and place, historical situation—was the text written and what do you know about the author? Do you feel you need to know something about the author in order to understand the meaning, or does the content of the text stand on its own—does it transcend the specifics of the time and place in which it was produced? After reflecting on the text’s meaning, what meanings do you notice that may not be immediately apparent?)
- Offer your response as a reader. This is different than analysis. This is providing your reaction—how the text makes you feel, what it makes you think about, etc.—and then analyzing yourself as a reader. Try to understand your response. If it speaks to you, why and how? What choices has the author made—choices of language, style, form—that make you react strongly to this text? Obviously, this is why you will want to write about something you care about—not something you are bored with or indifferent towards.
In addition, you must provide
- Quotations to illustrate your points.
- A clear statement of topic (or thesis or governing statement of purpose).
- Clearly connected paragraphs describing and explaining your topics.
- Vivid supporting details.
- Clear and well-worded sentences.
- An effective introduction and conclusion.
- Evidence of serious reflection on your topics.
- Development of your essay through the drafting and revision process; obvious improvement between the first and last drafts and attention to peer and professor feedback.
Here are some things to remember as you write:
- Be specific, not vague. Use clear examples, descriptive details, and concrete language to convey your ideas.
- Think about your audience. Use appropriate language. In this case, a more formal tone will be appropriate; however, you still want to maintain your reader’s interest.
- Try to vary your sentence structure, but make sure your sentences make grammatical sense.
- Display reflection and critical thinking. Think about the implications of your statements. Try to explore layers of meaning and get beyond the surface of a text. Keep asking yourself, “Why?” If you think something is the case, inquire further. Look deeply into your topic, and into your own thoughts and reactions as a reader.