How should I go about analysing an unseen text?

The most important factors to analyse in any text are form, language, and structure. Form refers to the medium through which the text is presented - is it a poem? A chapter from a novel? An autobiography? A play? All these contexts will effect the way we percieve a text - a play for example, is intended to incite certain reactions in an audience, whereas an autobiography will want to impart certain truths (or fictions) in its individual readers. Form also refers to the genre of the text - Romantic; Renaissance; comedy; tragedy, etc. Form is important for thinking about authorial intent.

Structure refers to the technical construction of the text. This can mean the length of the text, the way it is laid out (particularly in poetry, which may use varying stanza lengths or techiques such as enjambment), the chronological order of the text (is a plot interrupted with lots of flashbacks?), and the narrative perspective.

Language, of course refers to the words used. One should consider here whether the author uses formal or colloquial language, what techniques he uses to get his words to have a certain effect (for example assonance and alliteration), whether the language reflects a certain time period, and how far metaphor and metonymy are employed to create double meanings.

Also key when looking at a brand new text, is to highlight the themes raised in the text. Explore how these themes are expressed, how they move the action along, and how far they relate to the genre of the text. Always bring in any contextual knowledge you have about the author, time period or genre. Be sure to analyse how far the author's work is in keeping with the genre within which it is categorised, or how far it represents an innovation in that genre. Above all be sure to read both the text and the question carefully and fully, to avoid making any mistakes in the wording.

Olivia B. GCSE English Literature tutor, A Level English Literature t...

3 weeks ago

Answered by Olivia, an A Level English Literature tutor with MyTutor

Still stuck? Get one-to-one help from a personally interviewed subject specialist


Ryan M. GCSE Biology tutor, A Level Biology tutor, GCSE Chemistry tut...
View profile
£20 /hr

Ryan M.

Degree: Medicine (Bachelors) - Birmingham University

Subjects offered: English Literature, Science+ 4 more

English Literature
-Medical School Preparation-

“Hi! Thank you for visiting my profile. My name is Ryan and I am a third year Medical student at the University of Birmingham. My devotion to learning motivates me to provide the most positive, enjoyable and useful tuition I possibly c...”

MyTutor guarantee

Jean S. 13 Plus  English tutor, GCSE English tutor, A Level English t...
View profile
£20 /hr

Jean S.

Degree: English (Bachelors) - Nottingham University

Subjects offered: English Literature, Maths+ 2 more

English Literature
English Language

“I am passionate about education and hope to become a secondary school teacher in later life. I love working with children and feel that I am skilled in building up good working relationships with both students and parents. I do this b...”

MyTutor guarantee

PremiumGiulia A. GCSE English tutor, A Level English tutor, IB English tutor...
View profile
£20 /hr

Giulia A.

Degree: MSt Modern Languages (Italian) (Masters) - Oxford, St Edmund Hall University

Subjects offered: English Literature, Italian+ 2 more

English Literature
History of Art

“I'm Giulia, I'm 22 years old and I am currently at the University of Oxford to do my MSt Modern Modern Languages (Italian), after completing a BA in Comparative Literature at Queen Mary University of London. I am currently studying po...”

MyTutor guarantee

About the author

Olivia B. GCSE English Literature tutor, A Level English Literature t...
View profile
£20 /hr

Olivia B.

Degree: English Literature (Masters) - Bristol University

Subjects offered: English Literature, Classical Civilisation

English Literature
Classical Civilisation

“My name is Olivia Bailey, and I am currently an MA student studying History of Art at the University of Bristol. Earlier this year I completed my BA degree in Ancient History, also at Bristol. I have always been heavily interested in ...”

MyTutor guarantee

You may also like...

Other A Level English Literature questions

How (on earth) am I supposed to analyse a poem? (GCSE/ A LEVEL)

What are some of the key motifs explored in Shakespeare's Macbeth?

How do you achieve a higher mark for an A-level essay?

How do I chose my texts for a comparative essay?

View A Level English Literature tutors


We use cookies to improve our service. By continuing to use this website, we'll assume that you're OK with this. Dismiss