Saturday, January 11, 2014

Book Review: WRITING ABOUT WORLD LITERATURE By Karen Gocsik

Published 2012
Genre: Nonfiction / Academic Writing / Guide
Goodreads | Amazon

My first reaction while reading the book was: where was this when I was a freshman?! Writing About World Literature is a tiny book in a small trade paperback form. Spanning only 132 pages, it gives you the basic guidelines on how to organize your thought process and come up with ideas for an academic paper. There are five types of papers that she covers in the book:

  • textual analysis (breaking a piece down into several parts and explaining how they work)
  • contextual analysis (looking at the work's social, economic, and political contexts)
  • comparison papers (comparing and contrasting elements of two different texts)
  • adaptation (writing about literary works that are made into films)
  • translation (comparing different translations of the same work)
  • essay exams (something that every college student goes through)
Although the title specifically mentions "World Literature," all the writing advice can be used for any type of academic writing that one encounters in college.

You can probably finish this book in an hour or two, depending on how closely you're reading. As a senior student, I find Karen Gocsik's voice engaging and simple, and a great model for composing your own essay. She sticks mostly to the point, so there are no useless paragraphs that clog up the advice. 

You will learn how to brainstorm ideas, critically think, do research, develop your thesis, organize your paper, and improve your writing style. Since this is my last year in college, I find that the book is mostly a great review for what I already know, and Gocsik articulates a lot of what I have already learned while stumbling around in the lower division courses. For example, she separates the process of critical thinking into four steps: summarizing, evaluating, analyzing, and synthesizing. I tend to lump the processes of analysis and synthesizing together in one chaotic step. Every student's process is different, but I appreciate how she organizes them as separate processes and delivers them in a concrete manner so that it's easy to understand.

I also picked up some new ideas in this book, especially in the ideas department. Gocsik offers useful ideas that I had not expected in terms of coming up with a topic for a paper, such as Aristotle's topoi, which is "a series of questions that you might ask of a work of literature - questions that might lead you to interesting paper topics.". As a Literature major, my specialty is Writing, which means that a lot of my specialty-specific upper division courses deal with creative writing. However, now I'm starting to take some electives and English literature requirements, which put in me courses more aligned with the rest of the literature department. I'm now working with the academic side of literature, which requires using a specific structure to communicate my ideas. 

I recommend this book to:
  • high school students
  • college students (especially first years)
  • anyone who can use a refresher in academic writing
My rating: 

Find Writing About World Literature by Karen Gocsik on:
Goodreads | Amazon

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