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6.6 Developing literary arguments within a broader context of works

3 min readmarch 15, 2023

Ariella Ramjohn

Ariella Ramjohn


AP English Literature 📚

145 resources
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Introduction

A solid argument is supported with relative evidence and explanations. However, both components can be decomposed into various elements (e.g. thesis statement, line of reasoning, commentary, etc.). In literature, readers can establish and present their interpretations through solid arguments. The idea is not to obtain a non-existent "correct" answer, but to simply strengthen a notion crafted from one's understanding of a writing piece.
By now, you are most likely familiar with crafting a strong thesis statement. A thesis statement generally conveys an interpretation of a literary work, and a strong thesis statement needs to be defensible. To establish a defense, writers may use textual evidence as support in addition to a line of reasoning. Both of these ingredients to a strong and defensible thesis are explained thoroughly through commentary. The thesis statement itself can preview the line of reasoning or development of an interpretation prompted by the writer. Some thesis statements may briefly list the main points of an interpretation. These main points provide structure to the argument and are based on a deep analysis of literary elements from specific evidence.
Once the thesis statement is established, a line of reasoning becomes more clear. A line of reasoning refers to the logical and intentional sequence of claims in which connect to defend or support the overarching thesis. This can be communicated through commentary as it explains how the claims and evidence connects back to the central thesis statement. Solely explaining and repeating the evidence in the commentary does not build a line of reasoning. The best strategy to ensure a line of reasoning is established can be to reread your work, particularly your commentary, and see if you connected the entire analysis back to the thesis statement in a comprehensive manner.

Literary Argument Components

When developing literary arguments, writers will need to intensely focus on the evidence chosen from the text as well as the commentary that follows. Throughout this unit, we have closely studied how to effectively analyze a literary work to develop interpretations. The primary focus of this lesson in particular will be to connect the ideas or concepts, which are from analyzing a literary work, together. In other words, we will explore how potent writers format these interpretations and craft a strong literary argument.

Evidence

Essay writers make purposeful and strategic decisions (to amplify, clarify, qualify, associate, illustrate, or exemplify a point) when using evidence. Effective evidence is only established through meaningful commentary. However, it is still important for the evidence itself to be sufficient and support the line of reasoning.
The entire process of formulating and defending an interpretation of a literary work is lengthy. As explained more in previous lessons, interpretations of a text can emerge from a reader's deep analysis (which includes understanding the impact of the literary elements, such as diction and syntax, that the author used). The revelation can then form a line of reasoning, allowing the writer to locate the most relevant evidence. By identifying the most specific and effective evidence from the text, writers are able to develop clearer commentary and, thus, build on a defensible literary argument.

Commentary

Writers tend to make intentional decisions to convey their ideas, this includes manipulating the placement of clauses and phrases in a sentence. Coordination (equality or balance) and subordination (inequality or imbalance) are other methods used to illustrate a relationship or make a connection between ideas. Essay writers also enhance and emphasize their interpretation from the text through the maneuvering of words. This involves making meaningful decisions of how the punctuation will depict relationships between each component of a sentence.
As mentioned before, the commentary should relate back to the previously established thesis statement and develop logical relationships between the subclaims and evidence chosen. Keep in mind that the commentary must be relative to the evidence, not a repetition of it. Readers are already aware of the evidence the writers provide, but they still need understand its effect and the purpose of citing it. The commentary should focus on how the evidence makes the claim stronger, and how that altogether makes the thesis statement defensible.
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