Literary Analysis Essay

Remember that your job in this essay is to explain the specific details of one particular Sandburg poem in terms of how they exemplify characteristics of different literary philosophies.  With that in mind, you should remember the characteristics of each of the different philosophies:
Modernism—characterized primarily by its departure from the earlier Victorian way of life, this shows the joining of concepts that Victorian would have struggled to keep separate.  The concept of duality will serve you well here.  Also issues of immigrant life, the difficulties of urbanization, and most significantly, the concept of disillusionment are all important qualities of this movement
Naturalism—suggests that one’s destiny is not under one’s own control; this control is surrendered to outside forces such as the natural world or an economic environment that does not allow individuals free choice.  Additionally, dehumanization is presented through the animalization or mechanization of people in these stories
Populism—characterized by the idea that the strength of any society is found in its common working people.  Presents the poor and downtrodden sympathetically, while expressing contempt and mistrust of the wealthy and powerful people in society.  This is Sandburg’s defining characteristic.

Once you feel pretty comfortable with all of these concepts, you must choose a poem that you feel you will be able to analyze effectively, and then address the following issues.

What major claim do you want to present in your essay?  For example, a major claim might state an argumentative statement such as, “The poem ‘Muckers’ by Carl Sandburg clearly demonstrates his Socialist political beliefs.”  This is a statement that obviously requires proof and support from the poems that you have chosen.

Each body paragraph must include a clear sub-claim.  This sub-claim should support the major claim in a clear way, and each sub-claim must require proof and support of its own.  For example, “The negative industrial imagery Sandburg presents in the second half of the poem suggests his pessimistic attitude about city life and his desire for a classless society.”

Each body paragraph must include evidence from the text of the poems, and the quotations that are included must be put in appropriate context.  State the circumstances in which the quote is given, and provide explanation of what the quote is saying.

Each body paragraph must include a warrant that connects the evidence from the poem to your sub-claim and ultimately t your major claim.  This connection must be made explicit—do not make the reader assume any connections between ideas.

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