ENG111: Introduction to Literature

ENG111: Introduction to Literature

For your first critical essay, choose ONE of the works we have viewed/read from Romeo + Juliet through Character, and write a paper exploring and defending what you see as the work’s major theme (or themes).


Essentially, you are being asked to defend your understanding (or, interpretation) of a literary work. This is a standard expository/argumentative essay, in which you need to announce a thesis (your statement of the work’s abstract implications or “meaning”/”themes”), and then you defend that thesis using logical argumentation and evidence–in this case, quotation from the text and/or reference to specific actions/events within the plot.

NEVER provide plot summary; assume that your audience is a group of your peers who have read/viewed the same material you have, but have not necessarily thought about or analyzed it as completely as you have. NEVER provide biographical information about the author unless it’s directly relevant to your interpretation of the work. Do NOTincorporate any outside research into your paper, which should only reflect YOUR ideas.

Finally, keep in mind that when you do a close reading of a literary text in order to interpret its possible messages, that you do not read to magically discover the ONE correct meaning the author has supposedly hidden between the lines. The “meaning” or “theme” of a literary work is created by the interaction between a text and its readers, and therefore, most works of literature can convey many different meanings to different readers. Do not assume, however that a work can mean whatever you want it to mean; ultimately, your interpretation must be consistent with the stylistic signals, thematic suggestions, and patterns of imagery in the text. Therefore, in a close reading, whatever observation you want to to make about what you think the author/text is doing/saying, be sure to ALWAYS support your interpretation with direct reference to the text itself.


The final paper should be 4-5 pages long, typed on a word processor, double-spaced with 1″-margins, and stapled. A cover sheet is not necessary, nor do I want papers in binders. The paper must follow MLA-style citation and documentation and should have a creative title. For an example of what the final paper should look like, format-wise, consult pages 2136-140 in Kennedy’s and Gioia’s Literature.

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