How to Pick a Topic for Literary Criticism

To get started on your literary criticism
assignment, choose a text to analyze. You are going to be spending lots of time
with it, so pick something you like. For this example, I’ll use James Joyce’s
Ulysses. From the Pellissippi homepage, click on College
Services and then Library. On the libraries’ homepage, we want to go
to databases. We’ll use the databases directly, because
OneSearch does not contain much of our literary source content, and the databases are much
easier to search than OneSearch or Google! To see just our literature databases, use
the “All Subjects” pull-down and choose literature. We’re going to start with Literary Sources
database. First, we will want to find a work overview
of the text to get some ideas on which topic to choose. To find a work overview, start typing in the
title, and it will start auto-filling for me. Always take its suggestion, because it will
limit the results to just that work. In this example, there are many works called
“Ulysses,” but I only want the results talking about James Joyce’s novel. So, I’ll take its suggestion and hit search. To the right of the results, there are content
types. We want a Topic & Work Overview to get started. There are 83 results, but I would recommend
using the one from the “For Students” series; it includes Novels for Students, Short
Stories for Students, Poetry for Students, Drama for Students, and Shakespeare for Students. So, in the small search box to the right of
the results, we’ll type in “for students” in quotes. There are two, but we’ll want the one with
the long header. Click on the title. An overview will give me context for the work,
an author biography, a basic plot summary, character overviews, themes, style, and historical
context. It also includes an overview of the literary
criticism that has been given over the years, which saves you from having to read hundreds
or thousands of pages! You’ll want to read this overview and pick
out a topic that interests you. I’ll choose to analyze the common allusions
in the work. For future reference, I’m going to email
this overview to myself. I’ll go to tools at the top on the right
and click Email. If it offers a PDF version, send that to yourself,
so you’ll have the page numbers if you need to cite it. It will also give you the MLA citation, but
please check that it’s 100% correct.

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