english literature


 This is your chance to show off your ability to read a text carefully and apply Formalist Criticism to one of the stories we’ve read for class so far (any story we will discuss before the paper is due). These response papers are not as formal as a research paper, but I want them to show you are thinking and engaging with the text. I want you to prove your premise/thesis with direct quotes and examples from the text (always use MLA citation rules). Don’t satisfy yourself with an obvious premise. You may think as far outside the box as you want as long as you are able to support your premise with the text. Notice and discuss contradictions in the text. Discuss/explain seeming contradictions to your interpretation. The key is to acknowledge and discuss the complexity of a text. As with all your papers, proofread and revise to get the best grade possible.

Context on Formalist Criticism:

Originating in the United States in the 1920’s, Formalist Criticism focuses on the literary text itself: its form, aesthetic, and the relationship between form and content. Formalist Critics stress that a literary work should be read for itself, without additional contextual material such as author biographies or history. Formalist Critics perform a close reading, concentrating on the relationship between major literary elements in the text.

Formalist Critics also assume that literary works express “universal” meanings— meanings that extend beyond a literary work’s own cultural context. Formalist Critics examine the relationships among the elements of a story: its form, elements, content, and modes of expression (what the story says and, more importantly, how it says what it says).

Generally, Formalist Critics look at the form of the text as well as major fictional elements (Plot, Theme, Character, Setting, Narrator, Point of View) as well as other stylistic literary devices (Symbols, Tone, etc.). Therefore a Formalist paper might focus on the connection/disparity of Character and Narrator in “A&P,” or the importance of Setting when regarding the theme of freedom in “Story of an Hour.” As you can see, there are a lot of possible topics for each story.

For more information on Formalist criticism (also known as New Criticism), see Critical Approaches in the back of the Norton text

Remember: The key with this particular criticism is OBJECTIVITY. Your personal preferences, experiences, and biases are not important for this paper so do not include them.


  1. Write the paper in a Word Document, including passages quoted from the story you are -=analyzing (primary text). The paper requirements include:

    -Formalist Criticism (aka New Criticism)1200 words or higher

    -Double Spaced, 1 inch margins, and Times New Roman 12 point font

    -Cite the Primary Text according to MLA Guidelines

    -MLA Style formatting (NO NEED FOR A COVER PAGE!)-Include Works Cited List including the short story you analyze

    (please i want the acadmic works cited) 


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