Literary analysis is literary criticism. They are the same.
What is literary criticism? Literary criticism is talking and writing
about literature. Any literature, at any age. In that sense, literary
analysis is a critical discussion of literature. To be “critical” is not
necessarily to be “negative.” It is to be intentional in one’s evaluation
of literature. Indeed, “evaluation” is the highest form of
When children read Margaret’s Wise Brown’s Runaway Bunny
and ask, “Do I like this book?” and “Why?” they are, in effect, analyzing
the literary piece. They are doing literary criticism. As they
get more adept, students ask, “Who are the central characters? What
conflict do they face? Where is the climax? Is there a theme?” But
further sophistication and advanced metacognition in no way diminishes
the intentional, informed opinions of the most unsophisticated,
Literary critics, no matter what their age, use a special “language”
to talk about literature. This book is a reference book about
For example, in The Runaway Bunny the protagonist (the main
character), a little runaway bunny, is pursued by his loving mother,
a mother bunny, an important foil (a character who develops the
main character). The protagonist experiences several layers of internal
conflict as he tries to escape his mother. Along the way, the author,
Margaret Wise Brown, uses several setting changes to develop
her characters. And so forth. Now readers have a way to discuss this
Fundamentally, literary criticism, then, will help readers reclaim
the metaphor in their psyche, language, and writing. This will presage
laudable outcomes in the kingdom of God. My goodness, it will
presage laudable outcomes in the kingdom of man!
Therefore, amid so many competing media options, readers
must learn to analyze, to evaluate, to appreciate great literature. The
propagation of the gospel will not be enhanced by how quickly we
can appreciate and text messages to one another; however, it will be
enhanced by how well we grasp the critical nuances of Bible stories.
We cannot suppose that our unsaved world will grasp concepts like
“love” and “faith” unless we have words, rhetoric, to tell them what
these things are. If we learn how to do literary analysis well, we will
be better able to create and to share vital truths to future generations.
The Handbook for Literary Analysis: How to Evaluate Prose Fiction,
Drama, and Poetry reclaims the metaphor, reclaims rhetoric, reclaims
literary analysis. It has a high view of the reader, the critic, and the
student. All three are invited to think critically, to discuss thoroughly,
the great literary works of all civilizations. Systematically, this
Handbook defines, explains, and illustrates a wide range of significant
literary terms in fiction, drama, and poetry. Along the way,
readers explore copious, inspired examples, including biblical examples.
Finally, readers read real literary analytical essays by American
high school students. Caution: these are real, slightly edited
versions of my students’ essays. They are not perfectly written essays.
But they perfect vehicles for learn how to write literary analysis,
which, after all, is the laudable purpose of this book. Enjoy!
About James P. Stobaugh
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Published December 31, 2012
Education & Reference.