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Literary Criticism: What is It? How do I Use it? (Video Transcript)

Finding Literary Criticism at the SCC Library

Hello and welcome! The SCC Library presents an introductory video on...Finding Literary Criticism at the SCC library.

Before we talk about where, let's talk about what literary criticism is and is not. Literary criticism is the art or practice of judging and commenting on the qualities and character of literary works. Here are your two key concepts - judging and commenting. Literary criticism is not a summary of what happened in the story, so stay away from plot summaries. For example: "In the first act of Shakespeare's Hamlet, Hamlet is visited by his father's ghost." No. That's a plot summary. Instead, literary criticism is an analysis of the work, an examination, a critique. For example: "The appearance of the ghost in the first act of Hamlet introduces the theme of revenge." Much better. See the Difference?

Anyone can write literary criticism, even you [Student writes "Hamlet is awesome because..."], but instructors and other academics tend to value literary criticism written by subject experts [Subject expert professor stands at chalkboard lecturing; message on chalkboard reads "Shakespeare is my life!"]. Those are people who have studied literature in-depth [Professor stands over book with a magnify glass] and can use that knowledge to help inform your reading of the work [Professor gives gift wrapped present to student, who accepts it and says "For me?"]. Think of the authors of literary criticism like tour guides in a museum, using his or her vast knowledge of a subject to help make the work more meaningful to you, clueing you into things you may not have otherwise known [Guide addresses a crowd of people and says "I bet you didn't know..."].

So how do you use literary criticism from the experts in your paper? When you write your paper you'll be trying to prove your thesis. Your thesis is your interpretation of the work. [Cartoon student types "Hamlet is crazy."] In order to do this, you'll need evidence to support your point. [Cartoon student asks "What evidence do I have that Hamlet is crazy?"] You will use evidence from the work itself, but you will also use the literary critics ideas to support your point - think of them like your expert witnesses at a trial. [Literary critic cartoon man sits on witness stand and says "In my opinion..."] You will pull their thoughts into your paper to help you prove your thesis [Student types "In Mr. Jones' opinion, Shakespeare..."] (citing them correctly, of course) [Student continues typing "blah blah blah (Jones 13).]. Also, reading literary criticism before you develop your thesis, can help inform your own understanding of the work [Light bulb comes on over student's head, and student shouts "Eureka! I've got it!].

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