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Ron Cooley, English Faculty

Original Analysis

How do I write an original analysis?

Yeah, that's a hard one. It's telling somebody how to have a better idea. It's a very difficult thing to do, but we sit around and talk about movies with our friends and our families, or we talk about politics with our friends and our families, we talk about issues that we care about, and we have debates about those issues. So it ought to be clear enough in subject areas that we're comfortable with that not everybody thinks the same way about a given topic and the challenge for writing an essay is to some extent to get your head into the perceptions of other people as well, to think about kinds of answers that they might have to the question that might not be persuasive to you, but are plausible, and then to explain why your answer is better than another possible answer, or another possible way of reading or understanding a text. First year students seem to always want to know, "Can I express my own ideas in this paper?", and the answer is "yes, but they are your own ideas about the assigned material, about the text that we're studying." So the text isn't a window on some abstract question; it is the focus of your attention. That's why we are literature students: because you know we care about the texts we write about, and we want to write about them rather than about some sort of abstract questions. We'd be philosophers if we were concerned with abstract questions rather than the texts that raised them.