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What Is Literary Analysis? – Definition, Function, And More

Definition Literary Analysis

The literary analysis is a critical examination or a written academic work, using techniques to describe and evaluate the text, either from a general point of view or from a current or specific social and humanistic discipline.

There are literary analyzes of various kinds, different approaches to work from multiple disciplines and ideological currents: structuralist, impressionist, Marxist, deconstructionist, psychoanalytic, linguistic, sociological, historicist, philosophical, etc.

But there is also a universally accepted minimal structure of literary analysis for the first approach to a text, which tries to go beyond a pleasant reading, and which is usually is used in educational institutions.

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The literary analysis of a work is an in-depth reading of a

  • Text
  • Contextualizing it
  • Showing its structure
  • Resources
  • And the successes or failures of the author or the work.

It is an academic requirement to address authors and works that make up a literary, national, or universal tradition. It is also a tool to explore a literary work effectively.

Literary, historical, and sociocultural context

Locate the author and the work at the time it was written, what kind of society it arose (economy, politics and also main historical events), biographical information on the author, and the cultural context in which the work appears.

The literary context refers to national literature, artistic current to which it belongs, genre,  impact it had, influences received, and results caused.

Work description

The relevant details of the work are mentioned: theme, plot, characters, structure, stylistic resources, etc.


The subject is what the literary work is about.


Relation of the story: how it begins, development of the plot, and how it ends.


Describe the main and minor characters of the analyzed work and their role in the story.


When talking about structure in a narrative text, although it depends on each work, at least one talks about an external network (arrangement of texts in chapters. For example) and an internal system (spaces, where the story unfolds and developed, raises the plot).

Stylistic resources

They are the formal elements in a text: narrative voice (who narrates), use of dialogues, time and space of the story, language (colloquial, poetic). And those of each genre in which it is registered (poetry, narrative, theater ), etc.

Example of literary analysis of Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare

Romeo and Juliet or the excellent and unfortunate tragedy of Romeo and Juliet (1597), is one of the most relevant and well-known works of the English poet and playwright William Shakespeare (1564-1616). Is been consider the most influential writer in the English language and one of the most remarkable in world literature.

The play and the author are part of the so-called Elizabethan theater, which encompasses the dramaturgical production of authors such as Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson, and Shakespeare himself, during the reign of Elizabeth I (1558-1625), a period in which Anglo-Saxon culture experienced a rise along with the growing British Empire (Historical and Literary Context).


It is where the author of the literary analysis presents his point of view on the text addressed. The conclusion reiterates the points made in the various parts of the research and concludes with a personal comment.

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