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Perspectives in Analyzing Literature
CULTURAL AND HISTORICAL
• One way to analyze literature is to think about the
cultural and historical perspectives of the piece.
• When literary work was written several years,
decades (or even centuries) ago it is often easy for
us to forget to place that particular piece of
literature in a specific historical framework.
• When does “Bless Me Ultima” take place?
ANALYZING LITERATURE THROUGH
A FORMALIST PERSPECTIVE
• The text is viewed to be a complete unit that stands on its
own without consideration to external issues, such as history,
economics, an biography.
• When using a formalist perspective, you will focus on the
text itself and its use of literary devices, tone, and language.
• Formalist critics examine how the text works on a whole unit.
• The formalist perspective is often called a “close reading”
because, with this method of analysis, you pay close
attention to what’s in the work, not what’s outside it.
• Let’s think about the character, Ultima.
•Why do you think Mr. Anaya included her
in the story?
DEVELOPING A CLAIM
• A strong literary analysis requires a central, controlling claim – the main
argument you plan to support in your essay.
• Without a clear claim, the essay goes nowhere—it rambles, making
points that seem unrelated.
• The claim may occur in the first paragraph, but this is not a
requirement – it can appear anywhere in the essay.
• Think about Bless Me Ultima for a few minutes.
• Come up with an interesting issue about the novel.
• What idea do you keep thinking about or coming back to?
• If you have your homework assignments from the book, look them over to
get some ideas.
• As you look through your notes, think about something that you think the
reader of the essay will find interesting.
• Write your claim as a complete sentence, keeping in mind that you should
state in in third person.
ARRANGING YOUR MATERIAL
• To build your argument you need to gather effective and appropriate
evidence from the text to support your claim.
• Linking that evidence together as a chain is also important.
• A chain of event often relies on smaller ideas that build upon one another to
create a solid wall of argument.
• For Wednesday, practice building an argument by reading “Prologue for The
Comstock Journals” by Olivia Castellano from Growing Up Chicano.
• Write a claim for the story
• Provide evidence for the claim.