Essay topic: Formalist criticism



One useful feature of formalist criticism is that it gives you a clear list of things to think about as you start to analyze a work of literature. Indeed, since analysis is the process of breaking up something complex into its simpler parts, formalism, by defining the elements of various types of literature and art, is perfectly suited to help us with this aspect of thinking critically about literature.


  • write an analysis of plot in a short story
  • write an analysis of characterization in a short story
  • use literary terms from the reading appropriately


For this week you will read 4 different short stories (as clearly listed in the syllabus). Choose one of the stories you read and do the following:

  1. Choose the moment in the plot that you would label as the climax. Explain in as much detail as you can why you chose that point in the plot as the climax.
  2. Choose one character in the story and profile them. In what ways do they change, or stay the same as the story progresses? How does the narrator feel about the character? Do you feel that you are being asked to feel one way or another about them as the reader? Again, be as detailed as you can in your explanations. Use examples from the text to build your case.
  3. Congratulate yourself for having just completed a formalist critical reading of a work of fiction!
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