Learning to synthesize two or more works[1]

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Learning to synthesize two or more works:

Learning to synthesize two or more works David Venditto, M.A.—purveyor of delicious snacks and inventor of the witty rejoinder

Locating a central theme:

Locating a central theme In order to combine two or more texts, a student must locate connections between these texts. Some connections are obvious; others remain more latent. Obvious connections exist between Wright’s Black Boy and Ellison’s The Invisible Man . However, certain other connections take some thought. You might, for instance, compare and contrast Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” and Hobbes’ Leviathan . These pieces are written in different time periods and different styles; however, both pieces discuss, in one way or another, whether or not humans are innately evil.


Organization In order to be able to discern particular themes and ideas in a text, students will need to look at recurring patterns, symbols, colors, words, etc. Unfortunately, being really effective at literary analysis takes years of training, and a certain knowledge of “stock” metaphors and imagery. However, careful reading, including annotating the text in the margins, helps a great deal. If a student notices the color white being repeated over and over, chances are the author is trying to say something. Possible Structures: 1. Point by point-In this case, students would split each paragraph into two parts, each dealing with one text. 2. Text by text-In this case, students would dedicate one paragraph to each text analyzed.

Avoid the obvious:

Avoid the obvious When arguing a particular connection or theme in a thesis, students should avoid obvious statements that require no analysis. Students must argue something innovative and original. Examples of crappy thesis statements: 1. Both Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Electric Kool-aid Acid Test are about drugs. 2. Middlemarch and Emma are about marriage.

Make an interesting assertion:

Make an interesting assertion Students should spend time trying to carefully analyze a text before coming up with a particular assertion to be used in the thesis. This assertion should be provocative, and should be something that needs to be proven within the body of the paper. Examples of good thesis statements: 1. Don DeLillo’s White Noise deals with the loss of identity associated with American consumer culture, which is further elucidated in Stevenson’s Snowcrash . 2. The arbitrary nature of social hierarchy is illuminated by both Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and Ellis’ American Psycho .

Use of textual evidence:

Use of textual evidence Since the paper itself is an analysis of similar themes between two or more works of fiction, it is imperative that students use quotes, as this is the only form of substantive support. The amount of quotes used is at the discretion of the student. However, a paragraph that is any more than half quotes is problematic, in the sense that the text is given primacy over a student’s own ideas. On the other hand, having only one or two quotes to prove a very esoteric connection is inadequate.

Use of textual evidence:

Use of textual evidence The incorporation of these quotes should be done carefully, and the quotes chosen should be relevant. It is wise to make a claim, support that claim with a quote, and then immediately follow the quote with a brief explanation of the quote. Example: Later in the novel, nature turns against Frankenstein. In the scene directly preceding the murder of Elizabeth, the wind, which had fallen in the south, now rose with great violence in the west. The moon had reached her summit in the heavens and was beginning to descend; the clouds swept across it swifter than the flight of the vulture and dimmed her rays, while the lake reflected the scene of the busy heavens, rendered still busier by the restless waves that were beginning to rise. Suddenly, a heavy storm of rain descended (Shelley 466). A sense of impending doom is poignantly felt in this scene and the sense that powers beyond the control of Frankenstein are at work is seen in such phrases as the “busy heavens.”


Art Certain popular shows and films use references, and most audiences don’t even catch the reference. Realizing the connections makes you an “insider,” sharing a moment with the director or artist. Pai Mei in Tarantino’s “Kill Bill 2,” for instance, is a character from an old kung fu film called “The Fists of the White Lotus.” Another example: Sideshow Bob on The Simpson’s has the words “love” and “hate” tattooed on his fingers. This is a very familiar symbol, though few people know that it’s a reference to the film “The Night of the Hunter,” starring Robert Mitchum and Lillian Gish. In the film, Mitchum plays a psychopathic murderer, much like Sideshow Bob. He has the words “love” and “hate” tattooed on his fingers, holding up the hand that says “hate” when he’s about the kill someone.

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