Analyzing the Author

Analyzing the Author

Author: Nikki Hansen

To discuss how to find common themes amongst works and to discuss why it is important to/how to analyze an author.

This packet discusses why analyzing the author helps you to find common themes. This packet includes a slide show, text and video portion to help you better understand how to find themes, and how to analyze the author.

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How to Analyze an Author.

When is it necessary for me to analyze the author of a work?

Analyzing the author of a work (a novel, poem, play, etc) is important when writing a paper about the life of the author, or when trying to pull common themes from the works themselves. Knowing background behind the author can also aid in comparison/contrast papers between 2+ authors.  Knowing their history can give insight into common themes, styles and so on. 

What other types of literary analysis are there?

When analyzing literature, you can use a variety of approaches.  You can analyze the author/work by looking for symbols throughout the text(s).  This involves searching for symbols that are repeated again and again.  Ask yourself: is there a person, image, object or situation that appears multiple times? By pulling common symbols out, and analyzing them, you are analyzing the text and the motives of the author.

You can also analyze literature by monitoring character development. What is the character's story? How do they change/grow/develop over time?  Is this similar to the other characters? What does this say about the author?

If you are analyzing common themes from an individual author, studying the point of view and writing style can assist you in understanding the intent of the author.  Pay attention to how the story is narrated.  Is it in first, second or third person? What does this exclude/hide/reveal to the reader and what does it mean? Why does the author do this? You can also further your analysis by following an individual character and count the number of times they state their opinion about something, or follow two characters and study their interactions. Your argument should be based on ample examples.

Analyzing the plot of the text can provide insight into the motives of the author, as well as allow you to track common plot themes. When analyzing the plot, you analyze the entire piece of work from beginning, climax to end. 

More complicated literary analysis includes a psychoanalytic, feminist or marxist approach.  

A psychoanalytic approach to a text involves looking at the text (in reference to the author or a character) as something similar to a dream.  This approach suggests that the text hides its real message behind a more obvious message and involves operations of concentration and displacement.  In this type of analysis, you analyze the language and symbolism of a text to arrive at the hidden/real message of the text. 

Feminist literary criticism/analysis is informed by feminist theory and feminist politics. When analyzing a text from a feminist approach, be sure to look for the condition of women and gender roles in the novel.  What is the author trying to say?  How are women portrayed?

When analyzing a text from a marxist approach, you approach the text looking for expressions of ideological oppression of a dominant economic class over lesser/subordinate classes.  Does the text reflect a dominant ideology? Does the main character affirm or resist certain political notions? Are lower economic groups devalued or ignored? Who is the intended audience?  What does this say about the author?

Remember that your argument should be based on ample examples.

What is a theme?

A theme is the broad idea, moral or message of an essay, novel, play, etc. This message can be about anything from life, to society, to human nature. Themes tend to explore universal ideas (nature vs. nurture, society vs. man). "Themes" are considered one of the fundamental components of fiction. 


Author: Charlotte Bronte

Literary Approach: Feminist

Novels: Wuthering Heights, Shirley, Villette

Themes: dysfunctional inter-personal relationships, suppressed passions and emotions, the condition/station of women, lack of options for women (teaching, governessing, marrying), pushing women towards meaningful work instead of marriage, breaking social roles

Analyzing Authors/Themse