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Degree: English and Related Literature (Bachelors) - York University
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In order to keep an essay clear, concise and thorough, it is important to structure each individual paragraph as well as the essay overall. Using this method (see the step-by-step process below), a paragraph should seem like a small essay in itself.
iii. Critical Perspective
iv. Contextual / 2nd link
v. Link back to point/question
Example question: In what ways is King Lear a study in brutality?
i. Point – explain in ideally one sentence what you want to argue.
Example: There are various comparisons between humans and beasts of the natural world in the play.
ii. Quote/Expansion – expand your point using IMAGERY, COMMENT AND ANALYSIS.
Example: Lear refers to Goneril’s (a.)“wolfish visage”, also calling her a (b.) “serpent” with (c.) “sharp-toothed unkindness”, all negative, potentially malicious creatures yet belonging to the natural world, therefore reflecting its brutality.
(note: analysis largely depends on the connotations of the words, the sounds of the words and the way in which they’re structured (e.g. the use of commas), so there is an opportunity for increased creative freedom here)
iii. Critical Perspective – link your point to a critic’s / literary figure’s comment on the text, or a dramatic production.
Example: Similarly, the Romantic Charles Lamb calls Regan “the most hideous female character Shakespeare has ever created,” and is thus complemented by her allegorical references to beasts.
(note: again, there is a lot of creative freedom available here – if there is a critic who has commented on the text, it can be used in the essay. For drama, include comments on specific productions of the play)
iv. Contextual / 2nd Link – link the previous evidence in your point to a contextual event/belief/philosophy/fact.
Example: The image of her person as a similar “gilded serpent,” a possible biblical allusion to Satan (link), is symptomatic of Lamb’s statement (link to earlier evidence) determining her ugliness and brutality.
Other contextual references include the author’s comments on their own work, events that influenced the writing of the text, attitudes of the time, and so on.
v. Link back to point/question – tie everything together and present the conclusion of the paragraph.
Example: The evidence here presents a connection between Regan’s cruelty and the utmost brutality of the natural world, therefore making King Lear a study of both.
In using this process as a SKELETON to structure and build your points around will ensure a sophisticated and full response to a question/argument. You may wish to be flexible and mix steps ii-iv. around as their order is not fixed. Writing a paragraph expressing your ideas for the essay is difficult without an initial frame to construct those ideas around, which is what makes a structure so vital. With enough practice, this can be planned and achieved within a minimal amount of time in a written exam.