Achieving an A for Literary Studies

Achieving an A for Literary Studies 

My Goal: Achieving an A for Literary Studies

How to go about it?

The first step is to get to know yourself and your habits as a student of literature thoroughly because you need to play to your strengths while, simultaneously, working to turn weaknesses into something a lot more productive.

This process of observing yourself in action is essential because you will get to know your own style of work well, lumps and all. And, as you make discoveries about yourself, you will begin to understand where and how to direct your energy to bring about vital changes to your style, mode of analysis and essay writing. Each improvement that you make will accumulate incrementally and soon enough many of the aspects of literary studies that you found challenging will seem a lot less so. It’s making small changes consistently that will be the greatest help to you.

To sum up: try to assess as clearly as possible where you are now and where you need to be by the time you write your finals, so that you know which aspects of your way of working need urgent attention. Do this exercise regularly and then work consistently to make good those areas which you see need improvement. In this way, you will begin to shift yourself closer to writing critical essays that merit an A or A* in the examinations.

Begin the process by asking yourself:

Where I am at right this minute?

  • What are my strengths as a student of literature?
  • And where lie my weaknesses?

Be as concrete as possible, e.g. “mostly I pick up well on a writer’s use of metaphor and simile and understand their implications, but I seem to have a blind spot for both tone and contrast in a text.”

Your task would then be to focus on finding and exploring contrast and tone in the next few texts that you encounter until you are more skilled at identifying and interpreting them.

Keep questioning yourself in this way; find weaknesses and work to improve them while working on your texts and literary essays. As you strengthen more of your skills, you may notice that your focus shifts to those areas which you once regarded as strengths. You may see the need for specific improvements there. You may find yourself wanting to do more with the way a writer handles the syntax in a particular text, but your knowledge of grammar may be too basic to make this possible. Your next step would be to find a good book on those aspects of syntax that are of interest to you, and learn what you need to learn to help you with your syntactical analyses. Once you have manged to achieve that level of competence and you find yourself being able to make sense of the way writers manipulate syntax to achieve particular effects, you will be in a different league altogether. But it takes work.

Here are a few practical steps that you can take to find your strengths and weaknesses and some suggestions about what to do about them to help you on your way towards achieving an A for literary studies:

  1. Think carefully about how you usually go about the analysis of a text and how you structure your response to the text in an essay. Constantly call up your experience with analysis and essay writing and try to remember what you have found stimulating and what has given you particular trouble. Jot down all the points no matter how insignificant some of them may seem.
  2. Then turn to the essays that you have written over the past year or two and examine them carefully with an analytical eye. But please don’t be judgemental. This exercise is only about assessing strengths and weaknesses in order to work with them. Re-read your essays and your teacher’s comments carefully. See what you have handled well, what has been rather mediocre and what has clearly been below par. Look at specifics. Identify each aspect because you need to know exactly what to begin to work on.
  3. The next step is to make an appointment with your English teacher, so that you can sit down in a one-to-one meeting. Your teacher will realise that you are serious about your work. Ask him or her for some honest feedback. Bring into the discussion your own findings about your strengths and weaknesses and ask his or her opinion. You need someone to corroborate, contradict or give another view of the way that you work, Your teacher will also begin to give you more directed attention and feedback when marking your essays because s/he now knows what your intentions are.
  4. Once you have as clear a picture as possible of your strengths and weaknesses and understand where you stand at this juncture, you can begin to do the basic work to sophisticate your strengths and overcome areas of weakness in a concrete way. This will, of course, be an ongoing process, and it would be good to go through this exercise at regular intervals to see how you’re faring. Hopefully, your areas of weakness are shrinking and your ability to handle a literary analysis and write it up in an essay has improved dramatically. Expect to discover more strengths and unexpected weaknesses as you move forward.

Remember not to be judgemental. With an objective eye and a warm heart accept that this is where you are at now; that this is only the starting point of a journey that will be immensely rewarding – if you put in the necessary work.

Another reason why it is really important to know your strengths is that it will guide you in your choice of essay question in the examinations. If there is a question that plays to your strengths, then that is the one you must choose, because it will allow you to demonstrate your literary abilities at their best. Be strategic when choosing which questions to choose to answer.

NOTE: There are very many articles on this website that I have written with the needs of literary students in mind. Please search the site archives to see what else may be of interest to you. There are articles and bits and pieces of news about literature, writers, plays and playwrights and poetry.

I hope you have found this article on achieving an A in literary studies helpful. Please share if you have.

Analysing a Literary Text the A* Way may prove very helpful to you as you strive to improve. Buy it by tapping on the book (below):