Core Curriculum

Ways of Thinking Literary Analysis


Literary analysis examines the formal properties of prose, poetry or drama in its cultural and historical contexts to demonstrate theme.  Literary analysis may also include description of or rhetorical analysis of a text’s literal meaning.  Effective literary analysis, however, must go beyond exposition (description) of a text to examine how generic conventions, cultural and historical contexts, and the specific language of a text contribute to theme.

Learning Outcomes

Students will:

  1. Apply generic conventions and/or cultural/historical contexts to elucidate meaning in literature.
  2. Identify how language manifests meaning in literature.
  3. Use textual evidence to demonstrate a convincing written claim about meaning in literature.
  4. Derive evidence from a literary text to demonstrate a claim.
  5. Cite textual evidence according to Modern Language Association style.

Alignment with LIVE learning outcomes

Critical Thinking: 1, 2
Communication: 3
Information Fluency: 4, 5


Courses in literary analysis will assign at least two literary-critical, written analyses of a literary text, both assignments totaling a minimum of eight pages.  Each of these assignments should apply all five of the student outcomes listed above.

Possible Texts for Novice Level Courses (not required)

  • Acheson, Katherine O.  Writing Essays about Literature: A Brief Guide for University and College Students. Toronto: Broadview, 2011.  Print.
  • Gardner, Janet.  Writing about Literature with a 2009 MLA Update: A Portable Guide.  2nd ed.  New York: St. Martin’s, 2009.  Print.
  • Griffith, Kelley.  Writing Essays about Literature.  8th ed.  New York: Wadsworth, 2010.  Print.  

Current catalog list of LIVE courses
FileLiterary Analysis Rubric
FileLiterary Analysis Expected Levels
FileSample syllabus showing alignment of outcomes and assignments (ENGL 232)