28 08 17

Reading, for many, is a visceral response to words on a page. When viewing from the critical lens of reader-response theory, meaning is extracted through reading. Literature becomes a transaction between the reader and the text. The reader’s personal experience is used to evaluate the meaning of the work.

Connection with the text differs the reader-response approach from other literary studies. Reader-response criticism requires the reader to discover the meaning of the text by considering their emotional response and personal experience while reading. This literary theory renders each text or novel open to multiple interpretations.

The Textual Interpretation

Here’s how to outline a literary analysis essay:

  • Intro: The Hook
    Your thesis statement is the heart that beats life into the essay. Make it count. Incorporate the name of the author and the title of the text in your beginning paragraph.
  • Body: Textual Evidence
    Textual evidence involves quoting phrases from the chosen text to justify your arguments. Since it is a form of evidence, citing should be followed with a page number at the end of the quoted phrase or statement. For example, if you are doing a critical reading of Haruki Murakami’s Hear the Wind Sing, you might write:
  • Murakami writes, “At which point I had discovered that I had turned into a person incapable of expressing more than half of what he felt” (72).
  • As you read through the assigned text, there will be phrases or sentences that stir up responses in you. Have a pen and paper handy to record every response.
  • Here are some questions to help you approach the short story or novel and present a paper supporting your thesis.
  • How does the book affect you?
    Every form of literature is written with a reader or listener in mind. Ideally, it employs a tone capable of evoking emotions that may remind you of your past or propels you to the future.
  • Does the text support your worldview?
    Cite a quotation in your essay to support your stance.
  • Are any of your opinions strengthened or challenged?
    Write in detail (with quoted passages from the book to illustrate your point) why it moved you or failed to win you over.
  • Does it tackle significant social issues?
    Give concrete examples from the book. Reflect upon how it portrays or addresses issues in society.


Go back to your thesis statement and summarize your critical analysis in one paragraph. You can also include your overall impression of the text and if you believe others will benefit from reading it.

Remember that although this type of essay is centred on you as the reader, you are still writing a critical paper. Avoid using phrases like “in my opinion” and “I think.” Focus on the overall value of the work and back it up with textual evidence.

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