Literary Analysis is Not Just for Future English Majors

Oct 3, 2018

Every academic discipline has the inevitable, “Why do I need this?” topic.  For English classes, that topic is literary analysis.  It’s easy to dismiss the importance of literary analysis if you think you will never use it again outside of high school, but assuming such a thing is faulty at best.

Literary analysis sets students up for success in real life– in college (regardless of major) and beyond.  Read on for 5 reasons why literary analysis is beneficial to absolutely everyone:

 Critical Thinking:

At its foundation, literary analysis encourages critical thinking.  While in a literature class students may be asked to analyze a specific piece of literature or to look for specific elements/connections within a piece of literature, doing such establishes a framework for critical thinking outside of literature.  Critical thinking is important because it encourages students to connect ideas, examine for inconsistencies in reasoning, solve problems, and reflect on their own beliefs. Particularly in today’s culture, all of these qualities are integral outside of high school whether a student attends college or not– whether a student becomes an English major or not. Literary analysis demands that students strengthen their critical thinking muscles.

Forming Claims and Support:

Literary AnalysisWhile this point could be easily cased within critical thinking, it is important enough to stand alone.  Literary analysis asks students to form claims and offer relevant and rooted support in defense of the claim.  While it’s true that students likely won’t need to read a book and form a 3-prong thesis on it in “the real world,” they will need, at times, to offer defense of their own idea(s), and because literary analysis establishes the framework for claim and support, doing so will be easier for them when that time comes.

Focus:

Studies continue to emerge proving that close reading of literature increases the ability to focus.  A multi-disciplinary study out of Stanford shows the relation between analyzing literature and the ability to focus. Natalie Phillips, lead scholar of the study, said, “Teaching close reading (i.e., attention to literary form) could serve – quite literally – as a kind of cognitive training, teaching us to modulate our concentration and use new brain regions as we move flexibly between modes of focus.”

Empathy:

Literary analysis encourages students to branch beyond their own experiences and beliefs, and in doing so it allows students to build empathy.  Empathy is the ability to consider someone else’s feelings and thoughts in a situation.  As you can imagine, empathy is important in relationships, job settings, and beyond.  Because we are naturally inclined to look inward and tie truth to our own experiences, it is incredibly important to be exposed to other perspectives.  This helps solidify (or change when necessary) our own beliefs as well as helps build healthy relationships.

Understanding of the Bible:

Literary analysis offers us a richer and more meaningful understanding of the Bible (or other religious texts depending upon your religion).  It only takes a quick glance at Psalm to see that literary devices are present, that sentences and phrases are being formed intentionally, and that context is relevant.  It is impossible to read the Bible entirely at leisure with little to no thought; in order to deepen our understanding of Biblical texts and our relationship with God, a closer, more intentional reading is necessary.

Helpful Links:

Check out this article from Stanford on the benefits of literary analysis.

Check out this article that offers five experiments regarding literary analysis and its effect.

Check out this website that details the value of critical thinking.

About the Author

Jess Woods graduated from Indiana University with a degree in English Education. Upon graduating she taught in a public high school for three years before deciding to stay home with her children.  Since 2013, she has been teaching middle school and high school English courses online.  Jess is a life-long reader and writer.  She comes alive in the company of words and music, and she has a passion for literature that reaches through every part of her being.  She believes wholeheartedly that each person has a relevant voice and perspective, and she eagerly teaches her students to embrace their individual voices by exploring their own thoughts and learning to confidently articulate them.  It is her desire to encourage growth in all students (regardless of their love for English courses…or lack thereof).  She considers it a tremendous success if she can awaken a love of literature and/or composition in her students. Jess currently resides in Alabama with her pastor-husband, Josh.  The couple has three children, two dogs, and two cats.  While reading and writing are clearly on the top of her hobby list, Jess also enjoys all things musical, cooking competition shows, hiking, running, and traveling.