Literature Review Essay

A literature review is not the same as a critical analysis of a work of literature or a book review. In English, a literature review is a review of the “literature,” or scholarship, about a particular poem, short story, novel, play, autobiography, etc. Literature reviews are written in every discipline, not just English. For example, one might do a literature review on current scholarship regarding early childhood language acquisition, or a literature review on competing theories regarding the best economic policy for preventing or reversing inflation.


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For this literature review, you will choose five sources from your Annotated Bibliography and use them to support an argument about which source offers the most interesting or valuable interpretation of the primary text in question. Your essay should include some “reflection” writing in which you state your initial interest in the primary work, perhaps a narrative of your research in pulling together the five secondary sources you’ll discuss, and even some skepticism about the various critical methodologies in those secondary sources. I encourage you to cite Tyson in your discussion of the methodologies and/or Mays in your discussion of a structural element or literary device.


The purpose of this literature review is not to review the most recent literature (although that is often the purpose of a literature review in other contexts), but to review as broad a range of perspectives as possible. Your five sources must represent at least three different schools of criticism identified in Tyson’s Critical Theory Today. This means that your source material is likely to be drawn from many different decades. It is unlikely you will find a direct statement in your sources that makes a claim like, “I will use a feminist approach.” Instead, you will need to look for key terms, and for passages of “metacommentary” in which the author offers less direct statements about her/his critical methodology. For the purposes of this assignment, if you are writing about critical commentary on The Great Gatsby I do not want you to use any of the critical essays excerpted in Tyson’s book.


For a model for your essay, see this handout from The University of North Carolina’s Writing Center for much more information about writing literature reviews: (Links to an external site.). Follow the suggestions on this linked handout for ways to a) have a thesis about what you have found; b) combine summary and synthesis of your source material; and c) keep audience (fellow students interested in hearing more about some varied perspectives on the story you’ve chosen) firmly in mind.


Your literature review must be no less than 1500 words and all citations must be in correct MLA format.For more information on Literature Review Essay read this:

Literature Review Essay

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