Writing It Up
Episode #9 of the course Studying English literature: Excel in the study of novels, poems, plays, and more by K.C. Finn
Now that you know how to spot all the essential elements that make great literature, we’ll learn some fantastic tips for composing your thoughts whether it’s for a casual book club, or conversation, or a more formal explanation for an essay, presentation or review, the underlying principles are much the same, and fortunately very easy to learn.
Point, Evidence, Explanation
Some of you might remember this technique from your schooldays, or know it by a different name, but here we’ll call it PEE because it makes it more striking and easier to remember! When writing about any idea that you’ve had regarding a literary work, it’s important to make sure you have these three key elements working in harmony:
• Make your Point about what you think the author is trying to say. Name the technique they’re using.
• Provide Evidence of that technique by quoting one or more sections directly from the text using quotation marks “ and ”.
• Be sure to provide an Explanation of how this contributes to a wider element of the text, such as themes, atmosphere/mood, character development, or plot.
Grouping Your Ideas
There are several schools of thought on how we can group our ideas to create a structured way of talking about literature, but in this lesson, I will introduce you to the two main formats, which are, happily, also the easiest to use. When organizing your thoughts about the work you’ve studied, you could choose to structure your ideas either by technique or by theme.
Technical analysis may best suit those times when you are specifically being asked to look at the finer details of the piece you’re working on. As the title suggests, in this format you organize each paragraph by one area of analysis (e.g. dialogue, body language, point of view) and then use PEE to evidence all the usages of this technique which you have found and talked about their effects.
Thematic analysis is more useful for talking about the overall ideas of the book, but this doesn’t mean that we throw technique out of the window! In this format, you can choose the major themes which you want to talk about from Lesson 2’s activity, and base each paragraph on one such theme. Then, you pull together all of the technical evidence you have found to support the presence of the theme and use the PEE technique to explain it.
Today’s activity follows a simple format, but it’s one which will teach you the building blocks of writing about literature, and making what you say count. We’re going to utilize some of the notes and shorter analytical activities that you’ve done during other lessons of the course, so make sure you have those to hand now.
Take a note from the previous activity and examine it for PEE. Does it contain all three of these elements? If not, flesh the note out in full sentences until you feel that it covers Point, Evidence, and Explanation fully. Do this for as many notes as possible to see how much stronger your ideas become when you expand on them.
It’s always prudent to remember that this kind of work takes practice, but you should find that your skills for spotting techniques and linking them to themes, ideas, and meanings have vastly improved since the first time we looked at a text together. Be proud of your achievements so far, and keep training your brain to recognize and evidence whatever you’re reading.
The final lesson of the course will provide you with a quick reference rundown of everything we’ve learned, as well as a fool-proof checklist that you can use every time you have a new piece of literature to explore.
If you need a kickstart in this area, Essay Dragon offers a short and very rewarding post which can guide you into the ideal structure for writing literary essays.
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