Crafting your Thesis Statement….
is hard work. It’s hard work to narrow down your thinking into the statement. BUT, I hope you have some of that thinking done. Today before you go on with your Showcase Portfolio, I’d like us to revisit our thesis statements to see if we can take them from being simple, shallow, or bland to complex, deep, or sophisticated.
Successful thesis statements provoke thought and should read beautifully.
Your thesis statement should include two parts:
WHAT and WHY.
WHAT: What claim are you making about the text?
WHY: Why should we care? Why is your claim important?
Your thesis should answer the “so what?” question.
from OWL Purdue
What Makes a Good Literature Paper?
When you write an extended literary essay, often one requiring research, you are essentially making an argument. You are arguing that your perspective-an interpretation, an evaluative judgment, or a critical evaluation-is a valid one.
A debatable thesis statement
Like any argument paper you have ever written for a first-year composition course, you must have a specific, detailed thesis statement that reveals your perspective, and, like any good argument, your perspective must be one which is debatable.
You would not want to make an argument of this sort:
Shakespeare’s Hamlet is a play about a young man who seeks revenge.
That doesn’t say anything-it’s basically just a summary and is hardly debatable.
A better thesis would be this:
Hamlet experiences internal conflict because he is in love with his mother.
That is debatable, controversial even. The rest of a paper with this argument as its thesis will be an attempt to show, using specific examples from the text and evidence from scholars, (1) how Hamlet is in love with his mother, (2) why he’s in love with her, and (3) what implications there are for reading the play in this manner.
You also want to avoid a thesis statement like this:
Spirituality means different things to different people. King Lear, The Book of Romans, and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance each view the spirit differently.
Again, that says nothing that’s not already self-evident. Why bother writing a paper about that? You’re not writing an essay to list works that have nothing in common other than a general topic like “spirituality.” You want to find certain works or authors that, while they may have several differences, do have some specific, unifying point. That point is your thesis.
A better thesis would be this:
Lear, Romans, and Zen each view the soul as the center of human personality.
Then you prove it, using examples from the texts that show that the soul is the center of personality.
One More Example of A Literary Thesis Statement:
“Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn is a great American novel.”
What’s wrong with this thesis statement?
An opinion about the book, not an argument.
“In Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain develops a contrast between life on the river and life on the shore.”
Better? How so? What is still missing?
Doesn’t answer the “so what?” question—what is the point of the contrast? What does the contrast signify?
“Through its contrasting river and shore scenes, Twain’s Huckleberry Finn suggests that to find the true expression of American ideals, one must leave ‘civilized’ society and go back to nature.”
Even better. It presents an interpretation of a literary work based on an analysis of its content and answers the “so what” question.
Showcase Thesis Statement Practice
Next, revise your planning blog post to reflect your new thesis statement.
Carry on with your Showcase Portfolio.