Writing Literary Comparisons



hi everyone in this short video I'm going to talk about literary comparative essays how to create a good literary comparison essay and some principles they should always keep in mind when you're creating a literary comparison essay and then we're gonna read two poems and then we're going to read an essay about those two poems that compares both of them so I think it'll be a pretty thorough introduction to literary comparison so what are comparison is an essay that examines two or more works in relation to one another so it examines you typically it has a select set of similarities or differences right that a an author beforehand analyzes the two pieces and sort of looks at what are some of the ways they're similar what are some of the ways they're different and pick some and those are the basis of the essay so the comparisons often highlight aspects of works that a reader might not have otherwise noticed and give us new perspectives and that's what really valuable about comparative essay in an analysis essay we're just looking inside of a work and we're making an argument for a theme of the work but in a comparison comparative essay we're not just looking inside of the work we're looking at one work as a lens to another work or in relation to another work and that's what makes comparative literature really powerful because and there's a whole field of study called comparative study that just looks at how texts you know relate to one another and how texts illuminate one another right when reading a text with another text in mind we get a whole different perspective on that first text so it's an interesting and it's almost magical when you actually do a literary comparative essay you know and you get to a surprising thesis it does feel sort of magical something like I never would have gotten to this point if I hadn't looked at this work in relation to another work um so it's a powerful form of literary critique or analysis the heart of a comparison is always the thesis right your literary comparison only be as good as your thesis a really good comparison for a comparative essay usually highlights a surprising similarity and works that appear different or surprising difference and works that appear similar and that's the real key all right you want to ask yourself generally are these two pieces similar if they are what can I show that's different or generally are these two pieces different if so what can I show that's similar so a comparative si succeeds when it reveals something new about both texts when a reader comes away sort of saying oh yeah I never would have seen these so as a writer or as a the author of a comparative essay you're really trying to bring the reader to that point show the reader something new that he or she wouldn't have seen about the two the relationship of the two essays the two pieces so the thesis a thesis that's not surprising is obvious and not really worth revealing so that's the danger of the comparative essays if your thesis is too obvious or does bringing the reader to that sort of a ha moment where he or she says oh yeah now I see these works in a different way if it doesn't bring the reader to that point then the thesis is the essays not really even worth writing also a good thesis typically follows the although format like in research thesis is usually follow if then the although format is good for literary comparisons although these works are similar in these ways in these ways in these ways they're actually different surprisingly in these ways in these ways or although these are works appear different in these ways in these ways they're actually similar in these ways in these ways so you do typically want to talk about both similarities and differences but if your thesis is mostly about the differences deal with those at the end since you want the reader to see your insights toward the end of the essay but at the beginning you probably want to talk about the sort of more obvious ways that somebody might see them as similar and same with the opposite thesis if your thesis is primarily about ways that works are surprisingly similar you want to point out those obvious differences towards the beginning of the essay so let's take a quick look at a sample so here are two poems that we're gonna look at and I thought we'd read the poems first and then look at an essay on these two poems the first one is by a famous poem by it's a sonnet by Elizabeth Barrett Browning it's called how do I love thee let me count the ways and the second poem is by Edna Vincent Millay st. Vincent Millay and it's called recuerdo so I'm just going to start by reading these poems and then we'll move into the essay so in recuerdo grab my pen real quick in recuerdo the title is how do I love thee let me count the ways here's the poem how do I love thee let me count the ways I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach when feeling out of sight for the ends of being an ideal grace I love thee to the level of every day's most quiet need by Sun and candlelight I love thee freely as men turn I love thee freely as men strive for right I love thee purely as they turn from praise I love thee with the passion put to use in my old griefs and with my childhoods faith I love thee with a love I seemed to lose when my lost with my lost Saints I love thee with the breath smiles tears of all my life and if God choose I shall but love thee better after death so I'm clearly the author of this poem loves her husband or her loves this person tremendously it's an expression of love although it's been questioned whether or not this dis poem is being sarcastic and ironic is does she really love him or is she being sarcastic and actually hates him but that's neither here nor there let's take a look at the next one but recuerdo by enough singlets in malay we are very tired we were very merry we had gone back and forth all night upon the ferry it was bare and bright and smelled like a stable but we looked into a fire we leaned across a table we lay on the hilltop underneath the moon and the whistles kept blowing the dawn came soon we were very tired we were very merry we had gone back and forth all night on the ferry and you ate an apple and I ate a pear from a dozen of each we had bought somewhere and the sky went when wane and the wind came cold and the Sun rose dripping a bucketful of gold we were very tired we were very fair Mary we had gone back and forth all night in the fairy we held good morrow mother to ash all covered ahead and bought a morning paper which neither of us read she wept god bless you for the apples and pears and we gave her all our money but our subway fares so definitely a different tone in here this poem is just more about what these people are doing they're tired they're going out they're seeing lots of interesting things they're doing mundane things that that they don't seem to mind because they seem sort of caught up in one another I mean this really feels like a good love poem to me although you know it's not as obvious right as the other poem is an expression of love if I was to look at both of these I would say primarily these seem really different you know I mean if we really think about it the second one is a love poem and the first one is clearly a love poem – but there are really different poems I mean this one's a sonnet the other one has three stanzas this one is all about expressing the love to the husband the other one is just about going back and forth in the ferry and doing interesting things so primarily I'd say these were different so if I was gonna write an essay on this I would probably look for some prising surprising similarities and ask myself in what ways of these poems actually surprisingly similar one of the ways is repetition obviously they both have have a repetition that could be a surprising similarity they are both about love I think that that makes them sort of thematically similar this one has a lot of imagery in it this one doesn't have quite as much imagery as the other poem so I guess that's a way that they're they're different so anyways those are some of the things I'd probably do if before I started thinking about what my thesis was gonna be is what are some of the ways they're similar what are some of the ways they're different wouldn't what about in terms of rhyme scheme or in terms of meter and tongue or feeling tone right that tone of the poem this poem seems much darker the first one seems much more intense anyway so let's take a look at an essay so here's an essay that was written on both of these poems by a student it's called opposites attract and I'll just read through and there's some things SSA does really well some things yes he doesn't do quite as well but I think it'll make a good sample essay to look at and to think about how to develop a comparison so the author starts in life some things are never what they seem to be that same can be said when comparing two poems that don't seem alike but are in many ways more more ways than one how do I love thee let me count the ways by Elizabeth Barrett Browning and recuerdo by Edna st. Vincent Millay portray two very different subjects in how do I love thee let me count the ways browning portrays the endless love a woman has for her husband while recuerdo talks about a memory a woman has with her husband I guess it's her husband while the two poems while these two poems have their differences when it comes to subject the use of metaphors in the form of the poem they both display the theme of love happiness and compassion I think this is basically her thesis here when they have differences when it comes to subject use of metaphors in the form of the poem they both display a theme of love happiness and compassion they also incorporate repetition so sister Arta thesis gem ffice eyes the importance of how they feel another similarity between these two poems is the visual imagery used to enhance the poem I don't know if that's actually similar but finally both poems incorporate rhyme scream to add to the flow and creativity of the poem so that's kind of a longer thesis I'd say she's probably the author of this is probably trying to take on too much when she's looking at these poems in a lot of different ways for a relatively short essay I think that would be a lot to look in depth to the kind of depth that you want to get at it's better to be to go into fewer subjects more deeply than to talk you know sort of superficially about many subjects but still the structure is good she's gonna look at some of the differences she has some ideas about how they're similar let's see after the intro she moves into talking about the differences right which makes sense because she primarily wants us to see the similarity social just briefly talk about some of the basic differences these poems do have many things in common but they also have their differences the first of which is when it comes to the use of metaphors and recuerdo Malay doesn't use any metaphors however Barrett Browning does she mentions I love thee freely it's men strive for right he or she is comparing the intensity of love she has for her husband in the comparison to the way people are fighting for their freedom this helps to read her get a glimpse of how much the speaker treacherous to love for her husband so here she says one differences recuerdo doesn't use metaphors browning does I don't think that's actually true I think Ricardo does use metaphors but anyways it's a point this is what she sees so one main difference is that she says one doesn't use metaphors one does use metaphors and she gives the example she says Browning uses a metaphor here's the metaphor and this is how the metaphor enhances that poem another difference between the two poems is the way they are formatted how do I love thee let me count the ways is in the form of a sonnet made up of fourteen lines this is effective because since onyx can only be fourteen lines the phone needs to figure out a way to describe how they feel in those fourteen lines and still have a great impact required on the other hands of three stanza poem this is important specifically pertaining to the poem because each stanza indicates a new chapter or a new memory from the day the couple had this is a nice difference right in terms of formatting they are pretty different you know the first is Islamic the second one three stanza poem although they are slightly different both poems include repetition the repetition of phrases so here she transitions into the heart of her thesis which is looking at some of the similarities and how do I love thee let me count the ways Browning uses the repetition of the words I love thee a number of times put emphasis on how important her husband is to her and how much she loves him by repeating this phrase a countless number of times throughout the poem the reader can truly get a good grasp on an idea of just how caring and sincere and loving this woman is towards her newly was letting a husband that's one way to look at it I tend to think that she's maybe trying to convince herself that she loves her husband by repeating it so many times but that's neither here though now in recuerdo the lines we were very tired we were very married we had gone back and forth all night on the ferry were repeated three times throughout the poem this is significant because each time these lines are mentioned they similan a new chapter or a new memory the woman remembers from the day every time she remember something she talks about the way they felt while on the ferry tired but happy to be in each other's company the first time Elaine incorporates his two lines is at the beginning of the poem the lines that fall on talk about the ferry smelling like this horse table but it didn't matter because they were sitting across from one another by the fire lying down lying down and looking up at the stars the next stanza also begins with these two lines however all proceeds after them are different now the woman talks about how they bought apples and tears and watch the sunrise the last time these two lines were repeated was the beating in the third stanza when the poet talks about the couple giving you know living on the street there apples pears and money that they could so he or she's looking at similarity in terms of the repetition and I think that is an interesting observation she does look at the way repetition operates in malaise pun she doesn't quite do it as much with the Browning poem and I think she could have got into some more detail up here about um Browning's phone and how the prepetition is working there but it's it's good I mean it's a good point to raise and to just bring some examples from the text here she's gonna look at another one visual imagery is used in poetry because helps the reader to create an image of the story the poet is trying to convey and both Hunza poets use descriptive language to help create visual image in the readers mind and how do I love thee let me count waise burning says I love thee with the breath and smiles and tears well in my life and if God choose I shall love thee better after death um that's not really imagery but that's okay here the reader can create a visual image in our heads of a woman maybe someone even they love they can picture smiling crying and fighting with them but the end of the day they know they'll always love them even after death do part just as the woman this shows how much passion and love this figure has towards her husband and recuerdo Malay says and the Sun rose dripping a bucket full of gold now that's an image and that's a nice image to hear the reader can visualize to hide the Sun high up in the sky and it's Ray's beating down on the couple talking about how hot the day is that's a good discussion in that image too so I think here she does have another point of comparison or the author has another point of comparison but I think she mixed up imagery a little bit probably I would say it's actually the opposite the Browning poem doesn't have a whole lot of imagery in it so she should have used this as a difference recuerdo actually has much more imagery than this would have been a good difference to use but but here's another point so hopefully you're getting the idea okay so let's take a look at rhyme scheme even though both poems use different types of crime schemes each uses it is a way to give the pond creativity and make it flow better and how do I love thee let me count the ways the rhyme scheme used by Browning is a a a b b a a b b AC DC DC d whereas in recuerdo Millais rhyme scream went a a BB c CA adde a a FF GG and both puns integration of rhyme scheme provides a structure and unity to each of the poems so overall I think that the this is a good point I mean she does highlight the differences between the rhyme schemes and each bones and I think that's a pretty significant difference here in the poems but she doesn't take it that little bit further and talk about how the rhyme schemes operate differently in each of the thumbs but it's another Point C and both these poems are love compassion and Happiness being shown by the poet in a number of different ways and how do I love thee let me count the ways the speaker is confessing her love for our husband and a very compassionate specifically when she says I love thee with the breath smiles and tears of all my life and if God choose I shall but love thee better after death here the speaker is expressing the unconditional love she haunts for her husband and the depths that she will go for him how he is her world and brings her the most happiness she will love him before and after he dies for eternity and recuerdo compassion love and happiness her scene but not as obvious and upfront as they were on the other pomp happiness here has stated multiple times for the speaker and her husband are on the ferry where she says we were very tired we were very merry no matter what the couple was doing they were happy happiness and love is also implied when the speaker says we looked into the fire and leaned across the table we lay on a hilltop underneath the moon and the whistles kept blowing and the dawn came soon here Malay creates a visual image in the readers head of a perfect date by the fire looking up with the stars in the moon in many people's eyes this is the perfect date implying love and happiness compassion comes into the picture when the speaker and her husband give an old lady on the street their food as well as their money Olay writes and she wept god bless you for the apples and pears and we gave her all our money but our subway fares and they didn't have to give the woman all those things but they did which speaks volumes about how loving kind-hearted and willing these people are in need in need they are the compassion the couple showed to this old woman is a different compassion then type Browning was displaying her pomp but nonetheless compassion its compassion so I'd say this is a really good pun probably the strongest really good point probably the strongest point in her essay is that sort of thematic aliy they're similar they're both about love and the author does a really good job here of showing us how the woman in Browning's poem loves her husband and how the couple in Malays poem are in love even though it doesn't say love we can tell from the context of what's happening and being kind-hearted is that they do are indeed in love with one another and then here she kind of wraps it up with conclusion when first reading recuerdo and how do I love thee let me count the ways one would never assume that these two poems being nothing alike would grow to be so similar wouldn't looked at in a different light when analyzing both poems both with similarities and differences revealed themselves both the Sumari rosio themselves to the reader in a way that showed the bone subject is not the only thing that dictates whether two points are liked or not there there are tools such as visual imagery metaphors and rhyme scheme that go into it as well that help one to come to such a conclusion that's you know decent conclusion at the end and she has a reference page at the end here for the poems that she cites so overall I would say this is a decent essay it has some problems there are some things that could have been more specific I think she tries to cover maybe a little bit too much with her thesis she probably could have done a little less with her thesis and then and covered it in more detail but the author does have some points I think a good example it's a good one to look at it to talk about and something to think about as you're writing your own essay so here's a here's a few things to take away from the poem from the comparative analysis first you want to make sure that you analyzed both of your poems on several bases right look at the similarities look at the differences I think that's a good way to start right maybe start by picking poems that are you know really different or phones that are really similar and then looking more closely at those similarities and differences although you should discuss both the similarities and differences be sure your thesis is proving a surprising point all right you want your thesis to be surprising you don't want it to be for a dull and boring surprising similarity and works that appear different a surprising difference in works that appear similar and then when you go to develop your essay save your strongest points for later in the essay so that it sort of builds and the reader can see your point I think in that example the author does a pretty good job of that be sure to develop your points with specific examples to references from the text quotes I think the example that we looked at isn't quite as specific as it could be so I'd be looking for an essay to be more specific than that with details in quotes but it is a pretty good example to look at either way so that's it so good luck in writing comparative essays hopefully this helps you to think about what comparative essay should look like and how to develop a comparative essay and yeah good luck with it

1 thought on “Writing Literary Comparisons

  1. Great video, as always, but I honestly wish you would use less shitty student examples 🙂

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