WAR 2:



+ scholarly, peer-reviewed articles

+ academic journals

+ subject (look for criticism or literary criticism)

An example of a scholarly, literary criticism:

Mazurek, Raymond A. "Rebecca Harding Davis, Tillie Olsen, and Working-Class Representation." College Literature, no. 3, 2017, p. 436. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edsglr&AN=edsgcl.503309838&site=eds-live.

" "

quotes around a search term keeps terms together; search engine won't search for each term separately (ex. "tillie olsen")


tilda's before search terms search for like terms (ex. ~working class will search for working class, working classes, working people, laboring class, laboring workers, etc.)



Lyons, Bonnie. "Tillie Olsen: The Writer as a Jewish Woman." Contemporary Literary Criticism, edited by Jeffrey W. Hunter and Deborah A. Schmitt, vol. 114, Gale, 1999. Literature Resource Center, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/H1100004315/LitRC?u=mlin_m_cambsch&sid=LitRC&xid=111e57e8. Accessed 4 May 2018. Originally published in Studies in American Jewish Literature, no. 5, 1986, pp. 89-102.

Reid, Panthea. Tillie Olsen : One Woman, Many Riddles. Rutgers University Press, 2010. EBSCOhost, https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=311960&site=eds-live.

Rosenfelt, Deborah. “From the Thirties: Tillie Olsen and the Radical Tradition.” Feminist Studies, vol. 7, no. 3, 1981, pp. 371–406. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/3177756.

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As you will see below, the following approaches actually share many questions that students can use to analyze literary texts. As a student of literature, you want to explore the text in ways that interest YOU. Further, these questions are just a start: their purpose is to get you thinking about ways that you can begin to analyze the text and to begin building a research paper based on your questions.

Historical Criticism (Analysis): This approach “seeks to understand a literary work by investigating the social, cultural, and intellectual context that produced it….” One goal for historical analysis is to understand the effect of a literary work upon its original readers.

Overarching Questions to consider in the text:

  • What language/characters/events present in the work reflect the current events of the author’s day?
  • How are such events interpreted and presented?
  • In what ways are the interpretation and presentation of the events a product of the culture of the author?
  • Does the work's presentation support or condemn the event? Can it be seen to do both?
  • Are there words in the text that have changed their meaning from the time of the writing?
  • How does the work consider traditionally marginalized populations?

Gender Criticism (Analysis): This approach “examines how sexual identity influences the creation and reception of literary works.” Originally an offshoot of feminist movements, gender criticism today includes a number of approaches…. The bulk of gender criticism, however, is feminist and takes as a central precept that the patriarchal attitudes that have dominated western thought have resulted, consciously or unconsciously, in literature “full of unexamined ‘male-produced’ assumptions.” Other goals of feminist critics include … “examin[ing] how the images of men and women in … literature reflect or reject the social forces that have historically kept the sexes from achieving total equality.”

Overarching Questions to consider in the text:

  • How is the relationship between men and women portrayed?
  • What are the power relationships between men and women (or characters assuming male/female roles)?
  • How are male and female roles defined?
  • What constitutes masculinity and femininity and how do characters embody these traits?
  • Do characters take on traits from opposite genders? How so? How does this change others’ reactions to them?
  • What does the work reveal about the operations (economically, politically, socially, or psychologically) of patriarchy?
  • What does the work imply about the possibilities of sisterhood as a mode of resisting patriarchy?
  • What elements of the text can be perceived as being masculine (active, powerful) and feminine (passive, marginalized) and how do the characters support these traditional roles?
  • How does the author present the text? Is it a traditional narrative? Is it secure and forceful? Or is it more hesitant or even collaborative?

Biographical Criticism (Analysis): This approach “begins with the simple but central insight that literature is written by actual people and that understanding an author’s life can help readers more thoroughly comprehend the work.” However, a biographical critic must be careful not to take the biographical facts of a writer’s life too far in analyzing the works of that writer: the biographical critic “focuses on explicating the literary work by using the insight provided by knowledge of the author’s life.... [B]iographical data should amplify the meaning of the text, not drown it out with irrelevant material.”

Overarching Question to consider in the text:

  • How does the life of the author reflect the issues or concerns developed in the work?

Sociological Criticism (Analysis): This approach “examines literature in the cultural, economic and political context in which it is written or received,” exploring the relationships between the writer and society. Sometimes it examines the society in which the writer lived to better understand the writer’s literary works; other times, it may examine the representation of societal elements within the literature itself, such as race or class.

Overarching Questions to consider in the text:

  • What is the social class of the author?
  • Which class does the work claim to represent?
  • What values does it reinforce?
  • What values does it subvert or undermine?
  • What conflict can be seen between the values the work champions and those it portrays?
  • What social classes do the characters represent? How do characters from different classes interact or conflict?
  • To what extent is race central to the text and how does the author address race relations in society?
  • Does the text reflect the dominant culture’s perception of race?
  • Does the text seem to reinforce or subvert the dominant perceptions of race? Or both?


Purdue OWL (https://owl.english.purdue.edu/)

University of Mississippi/ Quotations are from X.J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia’s Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama, Sixth Edition (New York: HarperCollins, 1995), pp. 1790-1818.