While it may appear like there are a thousand and one reasons you or other scholars sit to write a response to literature essay, we must come to understand that one reason is always what is left when there is nothing more.
Other reasons may anytime be rendered insignificant; without this purpose, we may not have to bother our minds with a response after all. It appears to be the umbrella under which other purposes are nurtured. And what is it?
Whether or not we can readily perceive this, hours upon hours of research conducted have proven that expressing our opinions or view of a work (should opinion sound too subjective), is the main purpose of a response to literature essay.
Why is this so? First, come down to the essence of the term ‘response to literature’. It denotes our reactions to a literary work. This means that something that we have encountered must first exist before we go on to giving feedback.
Therefore, whether a person’s response to a work is harsh, destructive, constructive, or simply underscoring the points illustrated by a writer, what is being passed is our opinion.
In giving his opinion, however, the critic must develop for himself a premise that is underscored by evidence from the original text.
In the same vein, he is allowed to do some comparison; showing the nexus between what was read and similar works or the world outside the work.
To wrap up, the use of such other terms as ‘literature review’ in place of ‘response to literature’ can hinder a critic from going completely subjective. More of this, in our ‘achieving the purpose’ heading, in a bit.
Some other purposes of a response to literature essay include but are not limited to:
Analyzing the elements of a piece
What point is in responding to a message you can’t interpret? Because there is little to no point in doing so, analyzing the elements we think are present in any given piece is an essential reason for writing literary responses.
For instance, you can ask a class of students to write a response essay to any text as a way of exploring more elements in the work or crowdsourcing the central theme of such works.
Understanding a text better
Personally, this is it for me and I think for many of us as well. Since writing a response to literature essay means analyzing the elements (basically themes) of a work, then this practice can go a long way to improve our understanding of a text.
In fact, I’ve suggested this practice to students who find it hard to recollect the message of literary works they read. It can be in the form of an evaluative essay— a summary of what we were privileged to notice in a text. It not only helps understand better, but also enhances critical thinking.
Read Also: How Literature Enhances Critical Thinking
It doesn’t appear like this will weigh so much on the scale of why we write response essays, as there are oodles of essays of this type in teachers’ offices, in students’ lockers, in people’s personal libraries lying unprinted.
But this is not to override the fact that innumerable critics try to get their voices heard by pitching magazines, journals, and websites to get published.
Giving feedback to a writer
This appears to be the more important of the other purposes for writing a response essay. As that sage thought, “There is no complete work of art”.
The essence of making a work of art is perhaps, to improve that which has already been. The writer himself brings on the table his opinion of any given topic because he is not satisfied with what has been the fate of such topics over time.
Consequent upon which a response approving or disproving his idea must come around as feedback. Who knows, he might make a better piece in the future or learn more from the critics if they see eye to eye on the response.
Using a response to literature essay as feedback to a writer may also be the critic’s way of saying: “Hey Mr. Writer, look, I’ve got a unique view of this topic myself, but I don’t think writing a book on it will work, so here is an encapsulation of my view.”
This is a reminder for us that not all critics think they can make a book themselves!
Achieving The Purpose Of A Response To Literature Essay
Understanding certain theories of literary criticisms will help you approach a response to literature essay better. Let’s discuss just three of the multifarious theories.
Sometime in 1915, some linguists in Russia, Roman Jacobson being the more recognized of them, influenced the formalism theory of criticism. To them, critics should concentrate on the intrinsic and not extrinsic matters of a text.
In the same way, they are of the opinion that more attention should be paid to the form, language and structure of a work because while meaning and content are united, form is more important than content.
You can approach your essay with this theory in mind. It is a good one except that it may be reasonable to wonder if literature is really anything important without its content.
Psychoanalysis school of criticism
This school of literary criticism was majorly pioneered by Sigmund Freud, the one who is of the opinion that there is more to what we read in every text.
The school opines that regardless of the fictional representation we feel a work has, it is a reflection of the writer in some ways.
Similarly, it sees all literary works as a whole consisting of raw materials (the work of others, experiences, language, etc.) reflecting the mind of a writer.
If this pattern of thought is what you consider the most appropriate, you can write a response essay from the perspective of finding more to the surface meaning of a work.
Also known as the school of sociology, the sociological school of criticism believes that literature plays a significant role in our understanding of society. Literature is interrelated with society.
Knowing full well that everything (even our responses) is influenced by our prior knowledge which society contributes to, we will realize that the theory of this school is fine for relatively any kind of analysis.
Whoever is considering this for a response to literature essay should look out for the ways in which the society of an author is reflected in his or her work.
- Disclaimer: “Response to literature” was italicised throughout this piece because the standard form for it is response-to-literature.