CompFAQ/Writing about Literature

From Gerald R. Lucas
📝 English Composition Writing FAQ 11011102📖

As a college student—perhaps in your first year, you may be wondering why writing about literature is important. Most students in their first years at the university are not English majors, nor do they plan on pursuing a career in the arts or humanities, so why should they care about Dickinson or Hemingway? Literary analysis is an essential skill that can benefit you in many ways, both personally and professionally. Below, I will briefly outline why analyzing and interpreting literature is valuable and how it can help you develop critical thinking skills, improve your writing abilities, prepare you for success in all your college work, assist you in acknowledging and accepting difference, and help you empathize with others. In short, reading and writing about literature helps you become a better person.


Literary analysis teaches you how to read closely and critically, which is a fundamental skill in all academic fields. By analyzing literary texts, you learn how to identify and interpret literary devices such as metaphor, symbolism, and theme. You learn how to pay attention to language, tone, and style, and how these elements contribute to the meaning of a text. This close reading practice trains your brain to look for patterns and connections, and to think deeply about the meaning and significance of what you are reading. These critical thinking skills are invaluable in fields such as science, business, and law, where attention to detail and the ability to analyze complex information are essential.

The ability to write persuasively is critical in college and most professional fields, so writing about literary texts helps to hone these skills. In literary analysis, you are not simply summarizing a text, but making an argument about its meaning and significance. You need to support your argument with evidence from the text and other sources, and persuade your reader that your interpretation is valid. This kind of persuasive writing is important in all academic fields, as well as in professional communication, where the ability to make a clear and compelling arguments is essential.

Additionally, literary analysis prepares you for success in all your college work. The skills you learn in analyzing and interpreting literature—close reading, critical thinking, and persuasive writing—are fundamental to success in all academic disciplines. No matter your major, you will be required to read and analyze texts, write persuasive essays, and present your ideas to others. The ability to do this effectively is essential for success in college and beyond.

Literary studies helps you acknowledge and accept those who think, act, and look different from you, which is an essential skill for life in a diverse society. Literature exposes us to different cultures, perspectives, and ways of thinking, and helps us understand the experiences of people who are different from ourselves. By analyzing and interpreting a variety of literary texts, we learn to empathize with characters who are unlike us and to appreciate the complexity and diversity of human experience. This skill is especially important in a globalized world, where cross-cultural understanding is essential for success in many professions and even in the aisles of Kroger as our communities diversify.

By acknowledging difference, we learn to empathize with others, which is a crucial skill for personal and professional relationships. By reading literature, we learn to see the world through other people’s eyes, and to understand their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. This kind of empathy is essential for building meaningful relationships and working effectively with others, whether in our personal or professional lives. Empathy and difference lets us see and revel in life’s variety, and, perhaps most critically of all, gives us the tools to examine our own values and beliefs and the affect they have on our own lives and how we interact with others. Many of our most important beliefs are instilled in us as we grow up, and we often accept them uncritically and as integral parts of who we are. The study of literature allows us to step back and examine our most deeply held beliefs to see if they are truly beneficial to a significant and happy life.

Some people may argue that writing about literature is subjective, not relevant to many majors, or not valuable for certain fields or careers. For example, do nursing majors really need to study Homer’s Odyssey or business majors Shakespeare’s Hamlet? The skills you learn in analyzing and interpreting literature are fundamental to success in all college work and life beyond the university. In any field, you will need to read and analyze complex information, make persuasive arguments, and work effectively with others. The ability to do this well is essential for success, no matter what your career goals may be. And besides, you want to be more than your career, right? Or, once you’re professionally successful, what then? Literature develops the imagination and fosters a life-long curiosity about the world. Art provides the color—the beauty—in our lives.

Writing about literature, or art in general, is an essential skill for all college students. By analyzing and interpreting literary texts, you simply become a better person with a larger capacity for taking in the nuances of the world. The skills and perspectives you glean from literary studies are fundamental to success in any academic or professional field, and are essential for personal growth and building meaningful relationships. Whether you are planning on pursuing a career in the humanities or in another field, the ability to read closely, think critically, and write persuasively will serve you well throughout your college years and beyond. So, embrace this opportunity to study literature and engage with the rich diversity of human experience that it offers. Your future self will thank you for it.

Written: 2002, 2022; Revised: 04-10-2023; Version: Beta 0.7 💬