Be aware that you will be writing about a novel, which in its broadest sense is any extended fictional narrative almost always in prose, in which the representation of character is often the focus. Good authors use the elements of fiction, such as plot, theme, setting etc. purposefully, with a very clear goal in mind. One of the paths to literary analysis is to discover what the author’s purpose is with each of his choices. Avoid the problem that many students have, which is to hold the erroneous assumption that simply retelling what happened in detail is good enough (no, it is not). Plot summary is necessary, but not the intended goal in a literary essay.
In addition to being written at college level, your essay must meet the following criteria.
- Include an introduction with a clear thesis statement, body paragraphs, and a conclusion.
- Use at least three quotes from the book.
- When citing your sources, use MLA style for literary essays. It is helpful to keep your handbook open to the MLA tab as you write.
- Minimum 850 words (more complex topics might require more)
- Language: This is a composition class — your writing and grammar count.
- Use specific supporting details from the book and at least two from outside sources.Go to the Miami Dade Databases (not Google) for your sources.
The following are not acceptable sources:
- Class Lecture Notes
- Study Guides (SparkNotes, Cliff Notes, BookRags etc.)
- Wikipedia/ Encyclopedias
- Popular Magazines (People, Glamour etc.)
- Popular information websites such as about.com or Ask.com
- Personal Blogs
Why not? Because for one, they are not original sources. Encyclopedias and textbooks are useful to provide an overview or introduction to a topic for complete beginners. These are meant to get you started on a subject. They are not research documents.Wikipedia: Many instructors forbid reference to Wikipedia at all. Some professors do allow its use, and the use of encyclopedias in general, but don’t do it. It’s generally reliable for checking routine facts and extremely specialized topics, but Wikipedia, actually all encyclopedias suffer from the problem that they are not a primary sources. Wikipedia has the added problem that although it is working on correcting errors, it still has weak quality control. It is susceptible to deliberate sabotage, vandalism, even censorship. So don’t use it if you’re not familiar enough with the subject matter to spot biases or errors, and don’t cite it in any academic paper at all.
- Read Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee in its entirety before beginning your paper. Take notes as you read. Mark some interesting passages and save necessary source information (such as page numbers) for your in-text documentation and your Works Cited list.
- Think about the topic and approach you chose located in the Topics and Approaches page. Do not simply repeat or summarize the story.
- Write your well-constructed thesis, topic sentences, supporting details roughly before beginning.
- Do some research. It’s important to know a bit about apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa before you begin the paper. Take notes and save necessary source information for your Works Cited list.
- Use at least two outside sources from scholarly sites or journals.
- Look at sample papers to refresh your memory concerning the format in Rules for Writers, 8th edition.
- Write a minimum 850-word (or more if necessary) for a good literary essay.
- Use formal language and the third person, avoiding personal anecdotes and eliminating all references to yourself at all (I believe, in my opinion, etc).
- Revise, edit, and proofread, proofread, proofread. It’s easy to make mistakes. Correct them before you submit your paper.You may also use any of the writing labs and centers in any MDC campus, where a tutor might help you. There are some sites that help you catch grammar errors, such as GrammarRater, but remember, they’re not human and don’t read for content, so they miss things (often).
Remember: While you assemble your sources, keep your handbook open (or your online source handy). There are too many details to remember everything.