Standard American Literature Essay Response Format

Paragraph 1: Introduction / Thesis statement (as below)

“My reading of [AUTHOR’S NAME] [GENRE] [TITLE] revealed several characteristics indicative of the [LITERARY PERIOD];

(Choose only one of the following to complete your thesis statement.)

Paragraph 2: Summarize the selection. Ask the question “What does it say?” Summaries are supposed to be brief, but be certain to include the major divisions of thought of the selection.

Paragraph 3: Interpret the selection: Ask the question “What does it mean?” Often a writer says and means the same thing, but not always. Sometimes the word choice gives the reader a hint that the author says one thing, but means another. Writers also frequently use symbols in their writing. Consider the author's use of symbolism; tell what those symbols mean and what they contribute to the selection's meaning.

Paragraph 4: Discuss the period characteristics. Correlate to the text of the selection by line number (for all poems), by quotation or by paraphrase (for prose selections). The literary period's characteristics come from the class notes that tell us what a particular group of writers believed or valued. Check your notes for this information.

Paragraph 5 Evaluate the selection: Ask the question “Do the main concepts, ideas, or perceptions of the author reflect the truth about life as I understand it?" Explain your answer. This paragraph of the essay will not be scored as "right" or "wrong." It is here to give you an opportunity to think about what the author has said and to see if you agree or not.

Paragraph 6: Apply your evaluation. Ask the question “What will I do with this understanding?” or “How has this understanding changed my perceptions of life?” This paragraph of the essay will not be scored as "right" or "wrong." It is here to give you an opportunity to thoughtfully interact with the literature. If there is no application to your life or change in your perceptions, explain why not.

Paragraph 7: Conclusion / summary. Review your main points, then paraphrase your thesis statement.