Higher Education

Writing Essays About Literature, 9th Edition

  • Kelley Griffith Emeritus, University of North Carolina - Greensboro
  • ISBN-10: 1133307299  |  ISBN-13: 9781133307297
  • 496 Pages
  • Previous Editions: 2011, 2006, 2002
  • © 2014 | Published
  • College Bookstore Wholesale Price = $108.25
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Widely used in introductory literature courses, this book provides valuable guidelines for interpreting literature and writing essays. It includes a thorough discussion of the 3 main literary genres--fiction, drama, and poetry, an overview of literary theory, guidelines for writing essays, procedures for writing and documenting research essays, a selection of full-length works that illustrate key points, and student essays.

Features and Benefits

  • The first part of Writing Essays about Literature provides thorough and clear descriptions of literary conventions characteristic of fiction, drama, and poetry, not just for their own sake but for their usefulness in interpreting literature; while the second part focuses specifically on the writing process.
  • Prompts, such as Questions, Thinking on Paper, Now It's Your Turn, encourage readers to think on their own, develop their own ideas, and to practice what they have learned.
  • End of chapter material includes Works Cited lists that serve as invitations for further reading and Checklists that serve as summaries of the chapters and allow students to apply what they've learned to any literature they read. Page references in the Checklists take readers to places where the concepts are treated.
  • Writing Essays about Literature includes many full-length works both throughout the text and in an Appendix that serve as illustrations of major points and as subjects for further discussion and writing.
  • The 'Style Sheet' thrust of the book – Chapters 10 and 11 – gives guidelines for the physical format of essays and rules of usage typical of essays about literature. It also includes a student essay to serve as a model for research essays.
  • Chapter 6, "Specialized Approaches to Interpreting Literature," is organized around 'sites' of study – the work, the author, the reader, all of reality – so that the chapter is more than just a 'history' of literary criticism but also a 'map' showing the major areas of literary study. This structure encourages students to focus on these same areas themselves, and at the end of each of these major sections are suggestions about how readers might actually use some of these approaches in their own study and writing.
  • A Glossary of Literary Terms provides quick definitions of key concepts mentioned in the book.

Table of Contents

1. Strategies for Interpreting Literature.
2. What is Literature?
Walt Whitman, Cavalry Crossing a Ford. Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, My Friend, the Things that Do Attain. Christopher Marlowe, The Passionate Shepherd to His Love. Sir Walter Raleigh, The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd.
3. Interpreting Fiction.
4. Interpreting Drama.
5. Interpreting Poetry.
Emily Bronte, The Night Is Darkening Round Me. William Wordsworth, A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal. Louise Bogan, Song for a Lyre. Jane Kenyon, In the Nursing Home. Matthew Arnold, Dover Beach. Robert Browning, My Last Duchess. Samuel Daniel, Love Is a Sickness. Thomas Campion, There Is a Garden in Her Face. William Blake, The Sick Rose. William Shakespeare, Sonnet 129. Edgar Allan Poe, To Helen. William Shakespeare, Sonnet 116. Edna St. Vincent Millay, I, Being Born a Woman. Anonymous, The Daemon Lover. Emily Dickinson, Because I Could Not Stop for Death. Matsuo Basho, How to say goodbye! Taniguchi Buson, Under the blossoming pear. Kobayashi Issa, The old, plump bullfrog. Anonymous, Psalm 23. Ezra Pound, Xenia. Amy Lowell, Road to the Yoshiwara. Langston Hughes, Vagabonds. Elizabeth Bishop, One Art. George Herbert, Easter Wings. e. e. cummings, l(a. Gwendolyn Brooks, We Real Cool.
6. Specialized Approaches to Interpreting Literature.
7. Writing about Literature.
8. Choosing Topics.
9. Drafting the Essay.
10. Revising and Editing.
11. Documentation and Research.
12. Taking Essay Tests.
13. Sample Essays.
Edwin Arlington Robinson, Richard Cory. Robert Frost, The Death of the Hired Man.
Short Stories.
Ernest Hemingway, Hills Like White Elephants. Mary Robison, Yours. Edgar Allan Poe, The Cask of Amontillado.
Susan Glaspell, Trifles.
Index of Concepts and Terms.
Index of Critics, Authors, and Works.

What's New

  • Chapter 6 has been updated to include an overview of one of the latest, most accessible, and most interesting developments of literary criticism – ecocriticism. This new field should appeal to students and encourage them to try their own hands at writing about this subject.
  • Chapter 7 has been revised to discuss three new kinds of essays – essays that advocate, essays that evaluate, and essays that illuminate. This discussion illustrates the kinds of essays about literature that people actually write and publish outside of academia, emphasizing the connection between writing about literature and writing students will do in the "real world" once they leave college.
  • Chapter 8 now gets right to practical methods of thinking one's way toward a topic and suggest new writing "games" for students: activities for studying and reviewing in groups.
  • The discussion in Chapter 9 on reasoning – induction, deduction, and sound logic – has been reorganized and revised for clarity.

Learning Resource Bundles

Choose the textbook packaged with the resources that best meet your course and student needs. Contact your Learning Consultant for more information.

Bundle: Text + Questia, 1 term (6 months) Printed Access Card

ISBN-10: 1285574931 | ISBN-13: 9781285574936

List Price = $156.95  | CengageBrain Price = $156.95  | College Bookstore Wholesale Price = $118.25

This Bundle Includes:

  • Writing Essays About Literature
    List Price = $143.95  | CengageBrain Price = $143.95  | College Bookstore Wholesale Price = $108.25
  • Questia, 1 term (6 months) Printed Access Card
    List Price = $47.95  | College Bookstore Wholesale Price = $35.75

Efficacy and Outcomes


"I feel that the language of the book and the way that it is sectioned is at exactly the right level of simplicity and depth for my students to clearly understand the concepts without confusion, but also without causing them to feel as if they are being talked down to."

— Dalva Church

"I think it is the best of its kind, and I hope it continues to be in print for many years to come."

— Geoffrey Lindsay


All supplements have been updated in coordination with the main title. Select the main title's "About" tab, then select "What's New" for updates specific to title's edition.

For more information about these supplements, or to obtain them, contact your Learning Consultant.

Instructor Supplements

Questia, 1 term (6 months) Instant Access  (ISBN-10: 1428277439 | ISBN-13: 9781428277434)

Questia is the online library that provides 24/7 access to the Web's premier collection of full-text books and academic journal and periodical articles in the humanities and social sciences. And, it is more than a vast collection of online sources. Questia can help your students in the entire research process, from topic selection and research to organization of their notes and proper citations. Questia will help your students write better papers, providing a wider array of scholarly sources, and enabling them to organize what they've learned into a better-thought-out paper.

List Price = $.00  | CengageBrain Price = $40.00  | College Bookstore Wholesale Price = $40.00

Questia, 2 terms (12 months) Instant Access  (ISBN-10: 1285079205 | ISBN-13: 9781285079202)

When writing research papers, QUESTIA is a student’s best friend. Featuring 24/7 online access to thousands of full-text books and millions of academic journal and periodical articles along with a complete suite of organizational and productivity tools, QUESTIA takes the pain out of finding good sources and keeping track of them. And, it is more than a vast content collection of online sources. QUESTIA can help your students in the entire research process, from topic selection and research to organization of their notes and proper citations. In addition, QUESTIA now offers faculty-developed instructional tutorials centered around the research process, covering student pain points such as “Evaluating Sources” and “Paraphrasing Sources” to “Avoiding Plagiarism” and “Working with Documentation Styles”. QUESTIA will help your students write better papers, providing a foundation in sound research practices, a wider array of scholarly sources, and easy-to-use tools for organizing what they've learned into a better-thought-out paper.

List Price = $79.00  | CengageBrain Price = $79.00  | College Bookstore Wholesale Price = $79.00

MindTap® Literature 2.0, 1 term (6 months) Instant Access  (ISBN-10: 1337091707 | ISBN-13: 9781337091701)

MindTap® Literature 2.0 is the digital learning solution that helps instructors engage and transform today's students into critical thinkers. Through paths of dynamic assignments and applications that you can personalize, real-time course analytics, and an accessible reader, MindTap helps you turn cookie-cutter into cutting-edge, apathy into engagement, and memorizers into higher-level thinkers. As an instructor using MindTap, you have at your fingertips the right content and unique set of tools curated specifically for your course, all in an interface designed to improve workflow and save time when planning lessons and course structure. The control to build and personalize your course is all yours, focusing on the most relevant material while also lowering costs for your students. Stay connected and informed in your course through real-time student tracking that provides the opportunity to adjust the course as needed based on analytics of interactivity in the course. Paired with the Questia online library, a rich collection of sources selected by librarians, MindTap Literature gives students direct links to hundreds of short stories, poems, plays, novels, and essays, as well as access to robust search tools in Questia that students can use as they do research. Comprehensive multimedia instruction in writing five major types of papers assigned in the course and supporting modules on literary terms and literary criticism provide extensive guidance for students as they learn to read and write about literature. Access to this product is valid for 6 months of usage. MindTap Literature 2.0 offers newly added iconic pieces of American Literature with discussion questions and quizzes. Additionally, there is insightful information about various literary movements and associated authors within each movement.

List Price = $60.00  | CengageBrain Price = $60.00  | College Bookstore Wholesale Price = $60.00

Student Supplements

Questia, 1 term (6 months) Instant Access  (ISBN-10: 1428277439 | ISBN-13: 9781428277434)

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List Price = $.00  | CengageBrain Price = $40.00  | College Bookstore Wholesale Price = $40.00

Questia, 2 terms (12 months) Instant Access  (ISBN-10: 1285079205 | ISBN-13: 9781285079202)

Write better papers faster with QUESTIA, the powerful online research tool for all your research and paper writing needs. Through access to QUESTIA's complete versions of copyrighted books (77,000 + and growing) and 4 million academic journal articles, plus magazine and newspaper articles—all selected by professional librarians—you can quote and cite peer-reviewed sources without worrying about their credibility. QUESTIA's powerful search function enables you to quickly find the most relevant sources for your research without painstakingly sifting through page after page of irrelevant information. Besides scholarly content, QUESTIA also provides easy-to-use search, note-taking, and writing tools to help you produce a first-rate paper. Any book or article you find is always available. No book is ever checked out. QUESTIA is always open—24 hours a day, 7 days a week—available when and where you want to work.

List Price = $79.00  | CengageBrain Price = $79.00  | College Bookstore Wholesale Price = $79.00

MindTap® Literature 2.0, 1 term (6 months) Instant Access  (ISBN-10: 1337091707 | ISBN-13: 9781337091701)

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Meet the Author

Author Bio

Kelley Griffith

Kelley Griffith earned a BA from Wake Forest University and an MA and PhD in English from the University of Pennsylvania. In his 34-year teaching career at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, he taught courses in composition, American literature, English literature, European literature, and literary research. In 1996 he won the Alumni Teaching Excellence Award, UNCGreensboro's top honor for outstanding teaching. He is the author of two textbooks, Narrative Fiction: An Introduction and Anthology (Harcourt Brace, 1994) and Writing Essays about Literature: A Guide and Style Sheet (Wadsworth Cengage Learning), soon to appear in its ninth edition. Upon his retirement in 2002, he completed the Fine and Creative Woodworking Program at Rockingham Community College and now makes custom furniture. Examples of his work can be seen at www.sunburstfinewoodworking.com. He continues to be a deeply engaged reader of literature and maintains a strong interest in literary theory and pedagogy. On occasion he teaches non-credit courses at UNCG. In his new career he has been struck by how the skills required for interpreting and writing about literature mesh with those for operating a small business and making furniture. These skills include such things as analyzing complicated structures, doing research, solving problems, thinking systematically, and communicating clearly and persuasively to a general audience.