EL3221: Literary Stylistics
Your Take-Home Essays:
Guidelines for Writing & Criteria for Assessment

  1. Reading and understanding of the question.  This is a major requirement. You won't get points, of course, if your essay does not answer the question or misinterprets it. If you have doubts about the question or your preferred approach to the question, please do not hesitate to ask me. Discussions with other students doing the module may also be helpful.

  2. Technical knowledge. Your understanding of the technical terms used should be good. Frequent or persistent technical mistakes should be avoided

  3. Opening paragraph. The opening paragraph should concisely introduce the reader to the aim of the essay and its content as a whole. It may be wise to revise your opening paragraph all over again after you have finished your essay, as there may be important features in your analysis that have not been indicated in your draft first paragraph. Indeed, it may sometimes be sensible to begin by writing only a sketchy opening paragraph with the intention of revising it at the end of the writing process, or indeed, to write the opening paragraph only after you have finished the rest of your essay, as you may then be very clear as to what your entire essay is about and how to introduce it.

  4. Body paragraphs. The direct analysis of the text, with examples, should be done in the body paragraphs, and not the opening or closing paragraphs. The paragraphs subsequent to the opening paragraph should illustrate what is indicated in the opening paragraph. For the sequencing of paragraphs, see 'line of development' below.

  5. Line of development. There should be a clear and logical line of development from paragraph to paragraph in your essay. Conveniently, you may engage with the text in relation to the sequential arrangement of its paragraphs, stanzas, sentences or lines. This is a popular approach, but it may not always be the best approach. You must look at the question and text to see if it is appropriate for you to analyse the text in such a linear manner.

  6. Closing paragraph. The closing paragraph should concisely arrive at some concluding observations about your analysis. For example, what insights does your technical or linguistic analysis contribute to the interpretation of the selected text? Are such insights possible without engaging in the technical or linguistic analysis of the text? Is your method of analysis replicable in the analysis of other texts, and will it lead to similar observations or conclusions?

  7. Command of English. Needless to say, your command of the language should be very good. Persistent errors in grammar, usage, sentence construction, appropriate vocabulary, and typography may have a serious effect on the marks that you obtain.

  8. Comprehensiveness or selectivity. It is not always the case that your essay should be thoroughgoing and comprehensive, unless you are analysing a short poem, or there are only a few examples of the technical feature that you are required to analyse. In some other cases, selectivity is of paramount importance. The features or examples that you select however, should be significant, striking or representative.

  9. Interpretation. Analysis in stylistics should of course involve interpretation. Bare technical analysis without an attempt to construe the meaning of the text or part of the text, or your emotional response to it, is not acceptable. You should also provide evidence and examples to support your interpretation.

  10. Critical thinking. Critical thinking involves the ability to judge without knowledge of prior examples or clear precedence, and to provide evidence or examples to support one's judgment. This is related to interpretation and originality (the points above and below). Critical thinking is inherent in the discipline of stylistics. In stylistic analysis, your ability to arrive at judgments and interpretations that, to your knowledge, have not been made before, and to provide evidence and examples for your judgments and interpretations, is of crucial importance.

  11. Originality. Originality is related to critical thinking above, except that it is occasionally interpreted in terms of a more demanding sub-category of critical thinking, which involves the ability to arrive at judgments or evaluations that have not actually been made before, and not just those that you have no knowledge of. However, for student work, originality can be more modestly understood in terms of the outcome of critical and independent thinking.