English

The argument of an essay in English Literature need not necessarily make or rehearse an argument for or against a particular position or interpretation, though it might do this - it might attempt to make a case for a new reading, or demolish an existing piece of criticism. Very good literary-critical essays can be primarily analytical and descriptive, demonstrating how a particular piece of writing works, or how a writer thinks or feels; but an essay of this type would still need a coherent structure, a clear connection of its materials and a consequentiality (one thing following another) in the remarks made about them. This discursive movement might be called an argument, although it would not necessarily be argumentative; so that 'argument' is perhaps just the word conventionally used about a critical essay where one would use 'form' about a literary work. From another angle, and on the analogy of the prose 'Arguments' prefixed to each book of Paradise Lost, one might say that the argument of an essay is a statement of its paraphrasable content, a summary or abstract, a narrative reduction. To answer the question 'What is your argument?' would thus entail telling a little story about the material you proposed to discuss and the position you took towards it.

This English student points to his belief that writing about literature is quite different from other disciplinary writing. Yet, the need to make a case is still strongly present. The idea of argument as 'story' makes an appearance here too.

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