Writing a Formalist Literary Analysis

Using formalism, a critic can show how the various parts of a work are welded together to make an organic whole. This approach examines a text as a self-contained object; it does not, therefore, concern itself with biographical information about the author, historical events outside of the story, or literary allusions, mythological patterns, or psychoanalytical traits of the characters (except those aspects described specifically in the text.)

A formalist critic examines the form of the work as a whole, the form of each individual part of the text (the individual scenes and chapters), the characters, the settings, the tone, the point of view, the diction, and all other elements of the text   which join to make it a single text. After analyzing each part, the critic then describes how they work together to make give meaning (theme) to the text.

Point of View Setting Characters Plot Symbols Theme

A thorough analysis of the text is important to write a good paper here. Remember the judgment you make about a literary work will reflect your own values, biases, and experience; however, you MUST respect the author ' s words and intentions as presented in the text. Do not analyze a work in terms of what you would like to see; analyze it in terms of what you actually observe. Remember to clearly separate your assumptions from the author ' s assumptions.

·     Before you begin to write, re-read your notes, considering which approach seems most appropriate. Write your answers to the following questions in FULL sentences.

o    Did a particular aspect (literary element) of the novel make an impact on me?

o    What relationships between the various parts of the novel (and literary elements) do I see?

o    What lesson (meaning or theme) did the author want me to learn from reading this novel?

·     Write a thesis which clearly and directly states the point you want to make about the novel. Consider this example of a thesis statement:

Example 1 :

Setting in "A Worn Path" by Eudora Welty is effective: the descriptions are beautiful.

·     Next underline key words:

Setting in "A Worn Path" by Eudora Welty is effective : the descriptions are beautiful .

·     Answer these questions about the example:

1. Does this thesis limit and focus what the writer has to say about the story?

Definitely not! This thesis (and I use the term loosely) is very vague. The key terms are so general that they fail to provide any focus for the paper. To provide specific examples to support this statement will be very difficult.

2. Can this thesis help to explicate the novel ' s theme?

Again, this statement has no real connection to what the author is saying (the meaning) in the story.

Eudora Welty uses the setting of "A Worn Path," presented in the vivid descriptive phrases of the protagonist ' s strenuous journey through the wild country of Natchez Trace, to connect the reader with Phoenix , both as a character and as a symbol .

1. Does this thesis limit and focus what the writer has to say about this story?

Yes! This paper will be give examples from the text which show how the description of the setting (during this character ' s journey) characterize the protagonist as a person and a symbol. In addition, repetition of the underlined key words will help this writer build coherence in the paper.

2. Can this thesis help to explicate the novel ' s meaning (theme)?

No, at least not directly. While connecting the setting along the journey to the main character will definitely get at the author ' s theme, the theme is not made clear. In fact, though both the character and the symbolism, almost assures this paper will discuss theme, the actual reference to the story ' s theme is missing. However, this thesis would address the assignment response for looking at form (structure) and how the story is built.

Example 3 :

Through Phoenix ' s strenuous journey in the wild country of Natchez Trace, Eudora Welty uses her protagonist to symbolically show the struggle of African-Americans toward equality and integration in the South after the Civil War.

Yes! This paper will give examples from the text showing how the character ' s journey symbolizes the African-Americans struggle for equality and integration. Repetition of the underlined key words will help this writer build coherence in the paper.

Yes! It connects the setting with the symbolic journey to get at the author ' s theme. In fact, looking at the journey, the character and the symbolism almost assures this paper will discuss theme. This thesis would address the assignment response for looking at meaning (theme).

Once you have arrived at the thesis, make a brief outline of the examples (including quotes and paraphrases--and page numbers for each) which will support the thesis you have written.

After preparing an optional outline, complete with examples, begin writing the paper.  Always avoid allowing the quotes and paraphrases from the text to take over the paper. You are the critic, and this paper is YOUR formalist interpretation of the novel. Quote only the words necessary to make your point; avoid long passage of diaglor , etc. Also use the specific quotes and paraphrases as support for YOUR ideas and always interpret them for the reader, by showing how the quoted material connects to the point you are making.  Do not expect a reader to interpret a scene or event from the text in the same way that you have.  Always make the connections for the reader.

What is the point of view? 

Point of view is the viewpoint from which you view the setting, see the action, observe the characters, and hear the conversations. Depending on the powers the author has granted this narrator, you may even be able to see inside a character ' s mind, learning what he or she thinks and feels. (. . .ever wish we all had these powers. . .?)

  • In first person point of view, "I" and "we" are used. Sometimes the first person narrator is a participant in the story of the novel; sometimes, he/she is an observer. The reliability of first person narrators should be evaluated on the basis of their involvement in the story).
  • In third person point of view, "he," "she," and "they" are used.  Third person narrators may be omniscient (all-knowing), offering editorial comments on or an objective report of the characters and situations. Third person narrators may also be limited omniscient, functioning as a sort of central intelligence, though limited by the fact that they are also a character in the story; hence, they usually cannot see into minds, know the future, etc. A note of caution-- It is important to avoid confusing the narrator with the author in reading fiction.

              Ask yourself the following questions in analyzing point of view:

  • How does the author ' s choice of point of view affect the reader ' s understanding and feelings about the story?
  • Does the point of view in the novel have a particular use?
  • What advantages does the author gain by using this viewpoint?
  • What changes in the novel would have to be made if the point of view were changed?
  • Does the author ' s choice of point of view reveal or illuminate his/her theme?

What is the setting?

Setting is more than just the place and time a story takes place.  Setting also includes the atmosphere:  the social and cultural context of the story. A novel may have many settings or occur at different times; however, each time and place were selected by the author for a particular reason. As yourself the following questions:

  • Does the setting play an important role in revealing any element of the novel?
  • What information does the setting give me about a situation or a character?
  • What influence does the setting have on the characters or their actions?
  • Does the setting contribute to the novel ' s theme?

Who are the characters?

Characters are the lifeblood of every novel, and some characters are more important than others. Characters may be round (more like real life with positive and negative traits) or flat (usually stereotypes that symbolize a certain type of person/place/thing). Characters may also be dynamic (changing and growing as the novel ' s events unfold) or static (those who remain unchanged no matter what happens to them).

         In addition, note the following important character types as you read through the novel:

  • the protagonist - the main character around whom the novel ' s action revolves (usually). Don ' t be trapped into thinking this character must be human because he/she/it may not   be .
  • the antagonist - the important character with whom the protagonist is locked in conflict. The antagonist may be a person or some other animate life form (or a collection of said life forms), a place, or a thing.
  • the foil - a minor character (usually) who is offered as a contrast to point out or emphasize a distinctive characteristic of the protagonist.

Ask yourself the following questions about the important characters of the novel?  

4.         Are the character physically described? How detailed are these descriptions, and who gives them to you? ( a narrator? or another character? reliability?)

5.         How do the character ' s words and actions characterize him/her/it?

6.         What is the character ' s motivation for the decisions and actions he/she/it makes?

7.         Are the character ' s actions believable, given the setting and situations in the novel?

8.         How do the characters, their actions and motivations, contribute to the novel ' s theme?

What are symbols?

Symbols extend beyond one-to-one comparison. Be cautious when looking for symbols. A symbol is a like signpost, used and oftentimes repeated at key junctures, that alludes to a larger meaning than the signpost normally would indicate. Symbols can be public or private.

Public symbols have traditional meanings. The rose which is a well-known symbol of love, and the apple is a religious symbol for forbidden knowledge as in the Adam and Eve story. 

Private symbols can mean anything the author wishes them to mean, and this meaning is only apparent from the way in which they are used in the novel. Sometimes authorial and traditional symbols merge having both the traditional meaning, and one that is more closely related to the novel.

Symbols most often reveal characters to us and/or strongly allude to the theme of a novel. Readers of a novel may not always agree on a particular symbol ' s interpretation or even if a particular item is a symbol, so be careful to offer plenty of supporting evidence and reasoning to back up both your selection and interpretation of any symbol. 

What is Theme?

Theme is the point of the book, the author ' s message to us: the readers. Theme is often complex, and thus, it may be difficult for two people out of ten to interpret the same theme.  Though certain readers may see similar themes, most likely the themes they interpret will be different in some way or another to varying degrees.

Hence, theme is a matter of individual interpretation. However, the interpreter must not be too cavalier in assuming he/she can choose any theme whatsoever.  The theme must logically come from the text; therefore, the theme must be supportable by using specific text examples.  Care should be given to interpreting these specific text examples in the context that they are used in the novel.  Care should also be given to avoid "stretching" or "reaching" too far to make a text example fit into our interpretation of the theme.  In addition, the wise reader/interpreter will avoid associating the author or the author ' s life too closely with the main character or his/her life.

Questions to ask to get to the theme: 1. What lesson does the author want me (the reader) to learn from this book? 2. What lesson does the author want me (the reader) to learn about life?

* Important note -   Be doubly sure to state the theme in an arguable statement.  See the following examples:

  In Way of the Peaceful Warrior , Dan Millman writes about living in the present.  (This statement is not a theme; it announces the topic but does not make an arguable statement about it.)

 In Way of the Peaceful Warrior , Dan Millman concludes that living in the present is the key to unreasonable happiness. (This statement gives us the topic "living in the present" and makes a point about it "is the key unreasonable happiness")

Definition and Examples of Formal Essays

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

  • An Introduction to Punctuation
  • Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia
  • M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester
  • B.A., English, State University of New York

In composition studies , a formal essay is a short, relatively impersonal composition in prose . Also known as an impersonal essay or a Baconian essay (after the writings of England's first major essayist , Francis Bacon ).

In contrast to the familiar or personal essay , the formal essay is typically used for the discussion of ideas. Its rhetorical purpose is generally to inform or persuade.

"The technique of the formal essay," says William Harmon, "is now practically identical with that of all factual or theoretical prose in which literary effect is secondary" ( A Handbook to Literature , 2011).

Examples and Observations

  • "' Formal' essays were introduced in England by [Francis] Bacon , who adopted Montaigne's term. Here the style is objective, compressed, aphoristic , wholly serious. . . . In modern times, the formal essay has become more diversified in subject matter, style , and length until it is better known by such names as article , dissertation, or thesis, and factual presentation rather than style or literary effect has become the basic aim." (L. H. Hornstein, G. D. Percy, and C. S. Brown, The Reader's Companion to World Literature , 2nd ed. Signet, 2002)
  • A Blurred Distinction Between Formal Essays and Informal Essays "Francis Bacon and his followers had a more impersonal, magisterial, law-giving, and didactic manner than the skeptical Montaigne. But they should not be viewed as opposites; the distinction between formal and informal essay can be overdone, and most great essayists have crossed the line frequently. The difference is one of degree. [William] Hazlitt was essentially a personal essayist , though he wrote theater and art criticism; Matthew Arnold and John Ruskin were essentially formal essayists , though they may have tried a personal essay once in a while. Personality creeps into the most impersonal of writers: it is difficult to read Bacon on friendship or having children , for instance, without suspecting he is talking about autobiographical matters. Dr. Johnson was probably more a moral essayist than a personal one, though his work has such an individual, idiosyncratic stamp that I have persuaded myself to place him in the personal camp. George Orwell seems split fifty-fifty, an essay hermaphrodite who always kept one eye on the subjective and one on the political. . . . "The Victorian era saw a turn toward the formal essay , the so-called essay of ideas written by [Thomas] Carlyle, Ruskin, [Matthew] Arnold, Macaulay, Pater. Between Lamb and Beerbohm there was scarcely an English personal essay, with the exception of those by Robert Louis Stevenson and Thomas De Quincey . . . ." (Phillip Lopate, Introduction to The Art of the Personal Essay . Anchor, 1994)
  • Voice in the Impersonal Essay "[E]ven when 'I' plays no part in the language of an essay, a firm sense of personality can warm the voice of the impersonal essay narrator . When we read Dr. [Samuel] Johnson and Edmund Wilson and Lionel Trilling , for instance, we feel that we know them as fully developed characters in their own essays, regardless of their not referring personally to themselves." (Phillip Lopate, "Writing Personal Essays: On the Necessity of Turning Oneself Into a Character." Writing Creative Nonfiction , ed. by Carolyn Forché and Philip Gerard. Writer's Digest Books, 2001)
  • Crafting the Impersonal "I" "Unlike the exploratory 'self' of Montaigne, Francis Bacon's impersonal 'I' appears already to have arrived. Even in the comparatively expansive third edition of the Essays , Bacon provides few explicit hints as to either the character of the textual voice or the role of the expected reader. . . . [T]he absence of a felt 'self' on the page is a deliberate rhetorical effect: the effort to efface voice in the 'impersonal' essay is a way of evoking a distant but authoritative persona . . . . In the formal essay , invisibility must be forged." (Richard Nordquist, "Voices of the Modern Essay." University of Georgia, 1991)
  • A Brief History of English Literature
  • What Are the Different Types and Characteristics of Essays?
  • What is a Familiar Essay in Composition?
  • Characteristics of a Formal Prose Style
  • The Essay: History and Definition
  • What Is a Personal Essay (Personal Statement)?
  • What Does "Persona" Mean?
  • An Introduction to Literary Nonfiction
  • What Is Tone In Writing?
  • A Look at the Roles Characters Play in Literature
  • Plain Style in Prose
  • Periodical Essay Definition and Examples
  • What Is Colloquial Style or Language?
  • style (rhetoric and composition)
  • Figures of Speech: The Apostrophe as a Literary Device

In literature, formalism is a school of literary criticism and theory. It’s concerned more with the structure of the text than it is with any outside influence on the author.

Formalism does not consider the author’s personal history, cultural influences, and the actual content in the work itself. Instead, it focuses on the form and genre of the writing. For example, formalism is concerned with the use of grammar and syntax , and meter in poetry.

Formalism pronunciation: for-muhl-ehh-zum

Explore Formalism

  • 1 Definition of Formalism
  • 2 Characteristics of Formalism
  • 3 Russian Formalism
  • 4 Formalism in Visual Arts
  • 6 Related Literary Terms
  • 7 Other Resources

Formalism in literature definition and examples

Definition of Formalism

Formalism is a form of literary criticism that focuses on a text’s use of structure. It would analyze the use of grammar, word choice, syntax, and how all the elements work together. With formalism, one does not spend any time concerned with the author’s influences, what the work might say about the contemporary moment in history.

Characteristics of Formalism

  • Focus on a literary work’s formal elements.
  • Analysis of grammar, word, choice, syntax.
  • Disregard to cultural or historical influences

Russian Formalism

An important type of formalism that relates directly to the work of the Society for the Study of Poetic Language. It was founded in 1916 in St. Petersburg. The formalist advocated for several basic ideas around literature. They included:

  • Wanting to produce a “science of literature.” It would be independent and factual.
  • Linguistics is a foundational element.
  • Literature is considered to be autonomous from external conditions.
  • Defamiliarization and plot /story distinction are important elements. The former refers to how literary language is different from ordinary language, and plot/story refers to the way that events of a work are separated out.

Formalism was not a movement that worked well after the Russian Revolution. Many writers did not like the Formalist approach, stating that there was no way to truly separate form from content and culture. The Formalists were at one point accused of being political after one writer, Shklovksy, wrote about how art was “always free of life” and never reflected in “the color of the flag.”

Formalism in Visual Arts

Formalism in the world of visual arts is the study of any kind of art through analysis. One might use comparisons to determine how successful the visual elements of a work of art are. One might study the use of color, line, shape, texture, and more. These things are usually emphasized over the content and meaning. Formalism is far less interested in the context and what the artist is trying to accomplish.

Formalism is an important approach to literary analysis. It is still used today. Understanding the Formalist approach will help you, as a reader and a writer, better visualize what it is about writing that makes it successful and unsuccessful.

The goal is to understand a text through the formal elements the writer used. Formalism ignores the cultural influences that might’ve changed the way a writer did something.

True formalism is when someone truly does not consider the outside influences on a text when they’re analyzing it. It’s very hard to successfully do this as it requires you not to consider your own outside influences as well.

Related Literary Terms

  • Realism : a literary movement that portrays everyday life exactly how it is.
  • Imagism : a literary movement of the early 20th century. The proponents were interested in the use of precise imagery and clear language.
  • Acmeism : a literary movement that emerged in the early 1910s in Russia. The movement is also referred to as the Guild of Poets.
  • Aestheticism : a literary and artistic movement in the 18th and 19th centuries that focused on the importance of beauty.
  • Literary Modernism : originated in the late 19th and 20th centuries. It was mainly focused on Europe and North America.

Other Resources

  • Listen: What is Formalism?
  • Watch: Realism vs. Formalism

Home » Movements » Formalism

The Definitive Literary Glossary Crafted by Experts

All terms defined are created by a team of talented literary experts, to provide an in-depth look into literary terms and poetry, like no other.

Cite This Page

Baldwin, Emma. "Formalism". Poem Analysis , https://poemanalysis.com/movement/formalism/ . Accessed 21 June 2024.

Poem Analysis Logo

Help Center

Request an Analysis

(not a member? Join now)

Poem PDF Guides

PDF Learning Library

Poetry + Newsletter

Poetry Archives

Poetry Explained

Poet Biographies

Useful Links

Poem Explorer

Poem Generator

[email protected]

Poem Solutions Limited, International House, 36-38 Cornhill, London, EC3V 3NG, United Kingdom

Discover and learn about the greatest poetry, straight to your inbox

Unlock the Secrets to Poetry

  • Directories
  • General Literary Theory & Criticism Resources
  • African Diaspora Studies
  • Critical Disability Studies
  • Critical Race Theory
  • Deconstruction and Poststructuralism
  • Ecocriticism
  • Feminist Theory
  • Indigenous Literary Studies
  • Marxist Literary Criticism
  • Narratology
  • New Historicism
  • Postcolonial Theory
  • Psychoanalytic Criticism
  • Queer and Trans Theory
  • Structuralism and Semiotics
  • How Do I Use Literary Criticism and Theory?
  • Start Your Research
  • Research Guides
  • University of Washington Libraries
  • Library Guides
  • UW Libraries
  • Literary Research

Literary Research: Formalism

What is formalism.

"Formalism refers to the critical tendency that emerged during the first half of the twentieth century and devoted its attention to concentrating on literature's formal structures in an objective manner... There are three critical movements that represent a formalist approach to literature. The first movement is Russian Formalism , from the 1910s to the 1930s (which, when suppressed by the Soviets in the 1930s, was continued by members of the Prague Linguistic Circle). The second is the New Criticism , which emphasized close reading, dominant in British and American education. The third movement is Structuralism , a dominant trend in mid-century France."

Brief Overviews:

  • " Formalism ." New Dictionary of the History of Ideas.
  • " Form and Formalism ." Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Literature.
  • " Russian Formalism ." The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory & Criticism .
  • " New Criticism ." The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory & Criticism .
  • ' Structuralism ."  The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory & Criticism .

See also: Structuralism and Semiotics

Notable Scholars

Russian Formalism:

Boris Eichenbaum

  • In original Russian .

Roman Jakobson

  • Selected Writings (8 volumes).

Jakobson, Roman. Language in Literature . Belknap Press, 1987.

Victor Shklovsky

Shklovskiĭ, Viktor. On the Theory of Prose . Translated by Shushan Avagyan, Dalkey Archive Press, 2021.

In original Russian: O teorii prozy ( print ) and eBook .

The Prague School / Prague Linguistic Circle:

René Wellek

  • Wellek, René. The Literary Theory and Aesthetics of the Prague School . University of Michigan, 1969.

New Criticism:

Cleanth Brooks

  • Searle, Leroy. " Cleanth Brooks ."  Oxford Bibliography  in Literary and Critical Theory, 2021. doi: 10.1093/obo/9780190221911-0112
  • Brooks, Cleanth. The Well Wrought Urn: Studies in the Structure of Poetry . Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1956.
  • Brooks, Cleanth. Modern Poetry and the Tradition . University of North Carolina Press, 1967.

Kenneth Burke

  • Burke, Kenneth. The Philosophy of Literary Form: Studies in Symbolic Action . Louisiana State University Press, 1941.

Northrop Frye

  • Collected Works (30 volumes)

I. A. Richards

  • Richards, I. A. and C. K. Ogden, C. K. The Meaning of Meaning: a Study of the Influence of Language Upon Thought and of the Science of Symbolism . Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1938.
  • Richards, I. A. and C. K. Ogden, C. K. The Foundations of Aesthetics.  International Publishers, 1925. ( Print and eBook .)

Introductions & Anthologies

Cover Art

  • << Previous: Feminist Theory
  • Next: Indigenous Literary Studies >>
  • Last Updated: Jun 12, 2024 2:03 PM
  • URL: https://guides.lib.uw.edu/research/literaryresearch

Novlr is now writer-owned! Join us and shape the future of creative writing.

What is a Formalist?

A literary approach that analyzes a text through its form and structure., exploring the beauty of form and structure in literature.

Formalist is a term that is used to describe a specific literary approach that analyses a text primarily through its form and structure, rather than its content or meaning.

This method of literary criticism asserts that the form of a text, such as its style, narrative structure, and technical aspects, is essential to its meaning and should be studied closely in order to fully understand and appreciate the work.

By examining how a text is constructed, formalist analysis can reveal how the author uses literary techniques to convey their ideas and themes, creating a deeper appreciation for the work as a whole.

While not everyone subscribes to the formalist approach to literature, it can be an enriching way to explore and understand the beauty of form and structure in the written word.

Formalist analysis is an intriguing way to explore literature, and has been applied to many notable works. Here are two such examples:

By examining the careful structure and organization of the stories in Dubliners, formalist analysis reveals Joyce's use of repetition and parallels to create a cohesive collection that explores the themes of paralysis and epiphany.

Formalist analysis of The Old Man and The Sea highlights Hemingway's use of sparse, declarative sentences and simple language to create a narrative that mirrors the rhythm and movement of the ocean itself.

Have a language expert improve your writing

Run a free plagiarism check in 10 minutes, generate accurate citations for free.

  • Knowledge Base
  • How to write a literary analysis essay | A step-by-step guide

How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay | A Step-by-Step Guide

Published on January 30, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on August 14, 2023.

Literary analysis means closely studying a text, interpreting its meanings, and exploring why the author made certain choices. It can be applied to novels, short stories, plays, poems, or any other form of literary writing.

A literary analysis essay is not a rhetorical analysis , nor is it just a summary of the plot or a book review. Instead, it is a type of argumentative essay where you need to analyze elements such as the language, perspective, and structure of the text, and explain how the author uses literary devices to create effects and convey ideas.

Before beginning a literary analysis essay, it’s essential to carefully read the text and c ome up with a thesis statement to keep your essay focused. As you write, follow the standard structure of an academic essay :

  • An introduction that tells the reader what your essay will focus on.
  • A main body, divided into paragraphs , that builds an argument using evidence from the text.
  • A conclusion that clearly states the main point that you have shown with your analysis.

Instantly correct all language mistakes in your text

Upload your document to correct all your mistakes in minutes


Table of contents

Step 1: reading the text and identifying literary devices, step 2: coming up with a thesis, step 3: writing a title and introduction, step 4: writing the body of the essay, step 5: writing a conclusion, other interesting articles.

The first step is to carefully read the text(s) and take initial notes. As you read, pay attention to the things that are most intriguing, surprising, or even confusing in the writing—these are things you can dig into in your analysis.

Your goal in literary analysis is not simply to explain the events described in the text, but to analyze the writing itself and discuss how the text works on a deeper level. Primarily, you’re looking out for literary devices —textual elements that writers use to convey meaning and create effects. If you’re comparing and contrasting multiple texts, you can also look for connections between different texts.

To get started with your analysis, there are several key areas that you can focus on. As you analyze each aspect of the text, try to think about how they all relate to each other. You can use highlights or notes to keep track of important passages and quotes.

Language choices

Consider what style of language the author uses. Are the sentences short and simple or more complex and poetic?

What word choices stand out as interesting or unusual? Are words used figuratively to mean something other than their literal definition? Figurative language includes things like metaphor (e.g. “her eyes were oceans”) and simile (e.g. “her eyes were like oceans”).

Also keep an eye out for imagery in the text—recurring images that create a certain atmosphere or symbolize something important. Remember that language is used in literary texts to say more than it means on the surface.

Narrative voice

Ask yourself:

  • Who is telling the story?
  • How are they telling it?

Is it a first-person narrator (“I”) who is personally involved in the story, or a third-person narrator who tells us about the characters from a distance?

Consider the narrator’s perspective . Is the narrator omniscient (where they know everything about all the characters and events), or do they only have partial knowledge? Are they an unreliable narrator who we are not supposed to take at face value? Authors often hint that their narrator might be giving us a distorted or dishonest version of events.

The tone of the text is also worth considering. Is the story intended to be comic, tragic, or something else? Are usually serious topics treated as funny, or vice versa ? Is the story realistic or fantastical (or somewhere in between)?

Consider how the text is structured, and how the structure relates to the story being told.

  • Novels are often divided into chapters and parts.
  • Poems are divided into lines, stanzas, and sometime cantos.
  • Plays are divided into scenes and acts.

Think about why the author chose to divide the different parts of the text in the way they did.

There are also less formal structural elements to take into account. Does the story unfold in chronological order, or does it jump back and forth in time? Does it begin in medias res —in the middle of the action? Does the plot advance towards a clearly defined climax?

With poetry, consider how the rhyme and meter shape your understanding of the text and your impression of the tone. Try reading the poem aloud to get a sense of this.

In a play, you might consider how relationships between characters are built up through different scenes, and how the setting relates to the action. Watch out for  dramatic irony , where the audience knows some detail that the characters don’t, creating a double meaning in their words, thoughts, or actions.

Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.

Your thesis in a literary analysis essay is the point you want to make about the text. It’s the core argument that gives your essay direction and prevents it from just being a collection of random observations about a text.

If you’re given a prompt for your essay, your thesis must answer or relate to the prompt. For example:

Essay question example

Is Franz Kafka’s “Before the Law” a religious parable?

Your thesis statement should be an answer to this question—not a simple yes or no, but a statement of why this is or isn’t the case:

Thesis statement example

Franz Kafka’s “Before the Law” is not a religious parable, but a story about bureaucratic alienation.

Sometimes you’ll be given freedom to choose your own topic; in this case, you’ll have to come up with an original thesis. Consider what stood out to you in the text; ask yourself questions about the elements that interested you, and consider how you might answer them.

Your thesis should be something arguable—that is, something that you think is true about the text, but which is not a simple matter of fact. It must be complex enough to develop through evidence and arguments across the course of your essay.

Say you’re analyzing the novel Frankenstein . You could start by asking yourself:

Your initial answer might be a surface-level description:

The character Frankenstein is portrayed negatively in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein .

However, this statement is too simple to be an interesting thesis. After reading the text and analyzing its narrative voice and structure, you can develop the answer into a more nuanced and arguable thesis statement:

Mary Shelley uses shifting narrative perspectives to portray Frankenstein in an increasingly negative light as the novel goes on. While he initially appears to be a naive but sympathetic idealist, after the creature’s narrative Frankenstein begins to resemble—even in his own telling—the thoughtlessly cruel figure the creature represents him as.

Remember that you can revise your thesis statement throughout the writing process , so it doesn’t need to be perfectly formulated at this stage. The aim is to keep you focused as you analyze the text.

Finding textual evidence

To support your thesis statement, your essay will build an argument using textual evidence —specific parts of the text that demonstrate your point. This evidence is quoted and analyzed throughout your essay to explain your argument to the reader.

It can be useful to comb through the text in search of relevant quotations before you start writing. You might not end up using everything you find, and you may have to return to the text for more evidence as you write, but collecting textual evidence from the beginning will help you to structure your arguments and assess whether they’re convincing.

To start your literary analysis paper, you’ll need two things: a good title, and an introduction.

Your title should clearly indicate what your analysis will focus on. It usually contains the name of the author and text(s) you’re analyzing. Keep it as concise and engaging as possible.

A common approach to the title is to use a relevant quote from the text, followed by a colon and then the rest of your title.

If you struggle to come up with a good title at first, don’t worry—this will be easier once you’ve begun writing the essay and have a better sense of your arguments.

“Fearful symmetry” : The violence of creation in William Blake’s “The Tyger”

The introduction

The essay introduction provides a quick overview of where your argument is going. It should include your thesis statement and a summary of the essay’s structure.

A typical structure for an introduction is to begin with a general statement about the text and author, using this to lead into your thesis statement. You might refer to a commonly held idea about the text and show how your thesis will contradict it, or zoom in on a particular device you intend to focus on.

Then you can end with a brief indication of what’s coming up in the main body of the essay. This is called signposting. It will be more elaborate in longer essays, but in a short five-paragraph essay structure, it shouldn’t be more than one sentence.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is often read as a crude cautionary tale about the dangers of scientific advancement unrestrained by ethical considerations. In this reading, protagonist Victor Frankenstein is a stable representation of the callous ambition of modern science throughout the novel. This essay, however, argues that far from providing a stable image of the character, Shelley uses shifting narrative perspectives to portray Frankenstein in an increasingly negative light as the novel goes on. While he initially appears to be a naive but sympathetic idealist, after the creature’s narrative Frankenstein begins to resemble—even in his own telling—the thoughtlessly cruel figure the creature represents him as. This essay begins by exploring the positive portrayal of Frankenstein in the first volume, then moves on to the creature’s perception of him, and finally discusses the third volume’s narrative shift toward viewing Frankenstein as the creature views him.

Some students prefer to write the introduction later in the process, and it’s not a bad idea. After all, you’ll have a clearer idea of the overall shape of your arguments once you’ve begun writing them!

If you do write the introduction first, you should still return to it later to make sure it lines up with what you ended up writing, and edit as necessary.

The body of your essay is everything between the introduction and conclusion. It contains your arguments and the textual evidence that supports them.

Paragraph structure

A typical structure for a high school literary analysis essay consists of five paragraphs : the three paragraphs of the body, plus the introduction and conclusion.

Each paragraph in the main body should focus on one topic. In the five-paragraph model, try to divide your argument into three main areas of analysis, all linked to your thesis. Don’t try to include everything you can think of to say about the text—only analysis that drives your argument.

In longer essays, the same principle applies on a broader scale. For example, you might have two or three sections in your main body, each with multiple paragraphs. Within these sections, you still want to begin new paragraphs at logical moments—a turn in the argument or the introduction of a new idea.

Robert’s first encounter with Gil-Martin suggests something of his sinister power. Robert feels “a sort of invisible power that drew me towards him.” He identifies the moment of their meeting as “the beginning of a series of adventures which has puzzled myself, and will puzzle the world when I am no more in it” (p. 89). Gil-Martin’s “invisible power” seems to be at work even at this distance from the moment described; before continuing the story, Robert feels compelled to anticipate at length what readers will make of his narrative after his approaching death. With this interjection, Hogg emphasizes the fatal influence Gil-Martin exercises from his first appearance.

Topic sentences

To keep your points focused, it’s important to use a topic sentence at the beginning of each paragraph.

A good topic sentence allows a reader to see at a glance what the paragraph is about. It can introduce a new line of argument and connect or contrast it with the previous paragraph. Transition words like “however” or “moreover” are useful for creating smooth transitions:

… The story’s focus, therefore, is not upon the divine revelation that may be waiting beyond the door, but upon the mundane process of aging undergone by the man as he waits.

Nevertheless, the “radiance” that appears to stream from the door is typically treated as religious symbolism.

This topic sentence signals that the paragraph will address the question of religious symbolism, while the linking word “nevertheless” points out a contrast with the previous paragraph’s conclusion.

Using textual evidence

A key part of literary analysis is backing up your arguments with relevant evidence from the text. This involves introducing quotes from the text and explaining their significance to your point.

It’s important to contextualize quotes and explain why you’re using them; they should be properly introduced and analyzed, not treated as self-explanatory:

It isn’t always necessary to use a quote. Quoting is useful when you’re discussing the author’s language, but sometimes you’ll have to refer to plot points or structural elements that can’t be captured in a short quote.

In these cases, it’s more appropriate to paraphrase or summarize parts of the text—that is, to describe the relevant part in your own words:

The conclusion of your analysis shouldn’t introduce any new quotations or arguments. Instead, it’s about wrapping up the essay. Here, you summarize your key points and try to emphasize their significance to the reader.

A good way to approach this is to briefly summarize your key arguments, and then stress the conclusion they’ve led you to, highlighting the new perspective your thesis provides on the text as a whole:

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

  • Ad hominem fallacy
  • Post hoc fallacy
  • Appeal to authority fallacy
  • False cause fallacy
  • Sunk cost fallacy

College essays

  • Choosing Essay Topic
  • Write a College Essay
  • Write a Diversity Essay
  • College Essay Format & Structure
  • Comparing and Contrasting in an Essay

 (AI) Tools

  • Grammar Checker
  • Paraphrasing Tool
  • Text Summarizer
  • AI Detector
  • Plagiarism Checker
  • Citation Generator

By tracing the depiction of Frankenstein through the novel’s three volumes, I have demonstrated how the narrative structure shifts our perception of the character. While the Frankenstein of the first volume is depicted as having innocent intentions, the second and third volumes—first in the creature’s accusatory voice, and then in his own voice—increasingly undermine him, causing him to appear alternately ridiculous and vindictive. Far from the one-dimensional villain he is often taken to be, the character of Frankenstein is compelling because of the dynamic narrative frame in which he is placed. In this frame, Frankenstein’s narrative self-presentation responds to the images of him we see from others’ perspectives. This conclusion sheds new light on the novel, foregrounding Shelley’s unique layering of narrative perspectives and its importance for the depiction of character.

Cite this Scribbr article

If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.

Caulfield, J. (2023, August 14). How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay | A Step-by-Step Guide. Scribbr. Retrieved June 18, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/academic-essay/literary-analysis/

Is this article helpful?

Jack Caulfield

Jack Caulfield

Other students also liked, how to write a thesis statement | 4 steps & examples, academic paragraph structure | step-by-step guide & examples, how to write a narrative essay | example & tips, "i thought ai proofreading was useless but..".

I've been using Scribbr for years now and I know it's a service that won't disappoint. It does a good job spotting mistakes”

purpose of formalist essay

New Formalist Criticism: Theory and Practice

From the publisher:

New Formalist Criticism defines and theorizes a mode of formalist criticism that is theoretically compatible with current thinking about literature and theory. New formalism anticipates a move in literary studies back towards the text and, in so doing, establishes itself as one of the most exciting areas of contemporary critical theory.

Palgrave Macmillan

English Summary

Introduction to Formalism

Back to: Literary Theory in English Literature

Formalism is a branch of literary theory and criticism which deals with the structures of text . It means that external agents outside of the text are not taken into consideration. All the things about culture, politics, and the author’s intent or societal influences are excluded from formalism.

The focus in formalism is only on the text and the contents within the text such as grammar, syntax, signs, literary tropes , etc. Formalism also brings attention to structural tendencies within a text or across texts such as genre and categories. Formalism is based on an analysis of a text rather than a discussion on issues more distant to the text.

A text according to Formalism is a thing on its own without the need of external agents. As the name suggests, Formalism is a scientific, technical mode of understanding texts which expects a greater degree of mental intelligence instead of emotional intelligence from the readers.  

Russian Formalism was a school of literary criticism in Russia from 1910 to 1930. Some prominent scholars of Russian Formalism were Viktor Shklovsky, Yuri Tynianov, Vladimir Propp, Boris Eichenbaum, Roman Jakobson, Boris Tomashevsky and Grigory Gukovsky. Russian Formalism brought the idea of scientific analysis of poetry. Russian Formalism alludes to the work of the Society for the Study of Poetic Language (OPOYAZ), 1916 in St. Petersburg by Boris Eichenbaum, Viktor Shklovsky and Yury Tynyanov.

New Criticism – New Criticism is an American Literary theory in the 20 th century. Its philosophy was taken from John Crowe Ransom’s The New Criticism , 1941. New Criticism talked about the closed-reading approach.

The closed-reading approach was a method developed by I.A. Richards in which only words on-page were analyzed very closely in a text. It argued that a text should be very closely read and analyzed without referring to external materials and issues such as cultural, political, and economic and others. New Criticism did not deal with cultural, political or social issues around a text. It dealt only with the textual world.   

Academia.edu no longer supports Internet Explorer.

To browse Academia.edu and the wider internet faster and more securely, please take a few seconds to  upgrade your browser .

Enter the email address you signed up with and we'll email you a reset link.

  • We're Hiring!
  • Help Center

paper cover thumbnail

FORMALISM (also known as NEW CRITICISM) A Basic Approach to Reading and Understanding Literature

Profile image of Alia Dilber

Formalist theory has dominated the American literary scene for most of the twentieth century, and it has retained its great influence in many academic quarters. Its practitioners advocate methodical and systematic readings of texts. The major premises of New Criticism include: "art for art's sake," "content = form," and "texts exist in and for themselves." These premises lead to the development of reading strategies that isolate and objectify the overt structures of texts as well as authorial techniques and language usage. With these isolated and objective readings, New Criticism aims to classify, categorize, and catalog works according to their formal attributes. Along the way, New Criticism wants to pull out and discuss any universal truths that literary works might hold concerning the human condition. These truths are considered by New Critics to be static, enduring, and applicable to all humanity. Leading new critics include I.A. Richards, Cleanth Brooks, Northrop Frye, John Crowe Ransom, T.S. Eliot, and Roman Jacobsen. These thinkers consider literature to be a language game in which communication becomes semi-transparent. They reject Impressionism, moral tones, and philological studies, and believe that written works should work mostly on the intellect. The rise of New Criticism coincides with that of modern literature, probably because of the popularity of the "art for art's sake" maxim. Formalists value poetry rich in ambiguity, irony, and intention, and want to make literary criticism a science. This last projection introduces the concept of expert readers into interpretive theory. Current theorists tend to criticize Formalism for this and other symptoms of narrow-mindedness; still, they cannot deny that New Criticism has left a lasting impression on American literary scholarship. Its terminology continues as the basis for most literary education in the United States, and other critical approaches to reading and critiquing literature depend upon readers' familiarity with these terms to articulate their findings.

Related Papers

afi enyo nutakor

purpose of formalist essay

Mohammed AlFuadi

The article deals with the interaction of formalism as a trend in language and literature studies, on the one hand, and a teaching method , a technique of teaching to understand and investigate literary text proceeding from its structure and content, on the other hand. One of the main principles is dialogism (M. Bakhtin) that creates the coeducation between the writer and the reader. Thus, the process becomes bilateral, or even multilateral and it includes criticism on both parts, a teacher and a student-reader as they are interpreting a literary text. Key words: literary criticism, formalism, dialogism, coeducation, readerly, reader-response theory, literalism.

Bill Benzon

At the most abstract philosophical level the cosmos is best conceptualized as containing various Realms of Being interacting with one another. Each Realm contains a broad class of objects sharing the same general body of processes and laws. In such a conception the human world consists of many different Realms of Being, with more emerging as human cultures become more sophisticated and internally differentiated. Common Sense knowledge forms one Realm while Literary experience is another. Being immersed in a literary work is not at all the same as going about one's daily life. Formal Literary Criticism is yet another Realm, distinct from both Common Sense and Literary Experience. Literary Criticism is in the process of differentiating into two different Realms, that of Ethical Criticism, concerned with matters of value, and that of Naturalist Criticism, concerned with the objective study of psychological, social, and historical processes.

Urvi Sharma

Martin Coyle

Kafkas Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Dergisi

Aydın Görmez

Many opinions have been discussed about the place of literature in society so far. The overwhelming majority is of the opinion that literature is a mirror of society. On the other hand, Formalism, as a literary theory, argues that the purpose of literature is literariness. Therefore, it is accepted as a rebellion against the understanding of literature dating back to the 1900s. Instead, it is suggested that a literary work should be studied as text-oriented. Furthermore, Formalists argue that the language of the work should be examined in terms of its literary elements, that is intrinsic, rather than extrinsic. That is the reason why they are criticized by other literary critics focusing on biographical, sociological, psychological, religious or historical issues. Their approach draws on those of Ferdinand de Saussure. Combining the views of many theorists, they make text-oriented literary studies. Formalism is often confused with official or legal correspondence. The reason why for...

New Literary History

Robert S Lehman

Sathish Kumar

Charles Palermo

To define the domain of literary criticism would require some contentious choices and some contended definitions—about what the “literary” is and about what kinds of interventions can be included as “criticism.” The aim of this entry is not to trace the whole history of literary criticism. Nor should it be assumed that modern literary criticism is naturally or necessarily academic. The following discussion will address such matters and operate with such definitions and omissions, always mindful that doing so does not necessarily settle anything.https://scholarworks.wm.edu/asbookchapters/1007/thumbnail.jp

rasol jamali

Loading Preview

Sorry, preview is currently unavailable. You can download the paper by clicking the button above.


Journal of Siberian Federal University. Humanities & Social Sciences

Boris Lanin

Don Bialostosky

Anton Pokrivčák

Richard Strier

Shailendra Chauhan

The Import of Literary Criticism

Paroles Gelees

Naomi Silver

twana shwani

Roderick McGillis

Asma Fathima

Vipin Pandey

Usman Anwar

Abdelrahman Nairat

The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism

stacie friend


Joshua Pimentel

richard klein

Michael V. V Fox

sayd nursiba

Hans Walter Gabler


  •   We're Hiring!
  •   Help Center
  • Find new research papers in:
  • Health Sciences
  • Earth Sciences
  • Cognitive Science
  • Mathematics
  • Computer Science
  • Academia ©2024

The Mindsmith

"To mend and mold and shape minds, let's first break the barriers of learning…"

Formalist criticism

Literary criticism image

Intended learning outcomes

By the completion of this lesson, the students should be able to:

  • Explain formalist criticism;
  • Discuss the gist of the short story “Araby”;
  • Write a formalist criticism of a chosen short story.

What is Formalist criticism?

Formalist criticism is defined as a literary criticism approach which provides readers with a way to understand and enjoy a work for its own inherent value as a piece of literary art. Formalist critics spend a great deal of time analyzing irony, paradox, imagery, and metaphor. They are also interested in a work’s setting, characters, symbols, and point of view.

Broadly, it is concerned exclusively with the text in isolation from the world, author, or reader.

Specifically, the Russian Formalism focused on literariness of texts, defamiliarization, material & device, story & plot, and narrative voice; while the New Criticism focused on the text as an object that can be analyzed independent of the author, world, or reader.

What isn’t formalist criticism?

  • It does not treat the text as an expression of social, religious, or political ideas; neither does it reduce the text to being a promotional effort for some cause or belief.
  • Those who practice formalism claim they do not view works through the lens of feminism, psychology, Marxism, or any other philosophical standpoint.
  • They are also uninterested in the work’s effect on the reader.

Other names of formalist criticism

  • Russian Formalism
  • New Criticism
  • Aesthetic criticism
  • Textual criticism
  • Ontological criticism
  • Practical criticism

Historical background

  • Aristotle focused on the “elements” with which a work is composed.
  • The Romantics stressed organic unity from imaginations’ “esemplastic” power.
  • Poe extolled the “singleness of effect” in poetry & fiction.
  • James made the same case for fiction as “organic form. ”

British practitioners

  • I. A. Richards
  • William Empson
  • F.R. Leavis

American practitioners

  • W.K. Wimsatt
  • Robert Penn Warren
  • Richard Blackmur
  • Cleanth Brooks
  • John Crowe Ransom

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Samuel Taylor Coleridge is an English poet, literary critic and philosopher. With his friend William Wordsworth, he founded the Romantic Movement in England. He is one of the three “Lake Poets . ” His most celebrated work is the poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”

  • He believes that “ the spirit of poetry must embody in order to reveal itself .”
  • Form to him is not simply the visible, external shape of literature. It was something “organic,” “innate.”
  • “ It shapes as it develops itself from within, the fullness of its development is one and the same with the perfection of its outward form. Such is life, such the form !”

New criticism

  • New criticism is a form of formalist formed as a reaction to the prevalent attention that scholars and teachers in the early part of the 20th century who paid to the biographical and historical context of a work thereby diminishing the attention given to the literature itself.
  • Informally began in 1920s at Vanderbilt University in discussions among John Crowe Ransom, Robert Penn Warren, Allen Tate, Cleanth Brooks.
  • They published a literary magazine called The Fugitive for three years.
  • They influenced writers and theorists abroad such as T.S. Eliot, I.A. Richards, and William Empson.
  • Practice of close-reading the text
  • Practice of appreciation of order
  • Asserts that understanding a work comes from looking at it as a self-sufficient object with formal elements
  • To know how a work creates meaning became the quest

T.S. Eliot

T.S. Eliot’s full name is Thomas Stearns Eliot. He is an essayist, publisher, playwright, literary and social critic. He is one of the twentieth century’s major poets. He penned famous poems such as “The Waste Land” and “The Hollow Men.”

  • He proposed the idea called “objective correlative” which tells how emotion is expressed in art.
  • “A set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of that particular emotion…”
  • “When external facts, which must terminate in sensory experience; are given, the emotion is immediately evoked.”

Russian formalism

  • Its practitioners were influenced by Ferdinand de Saussure (French linguist and literary critic).
  • They believe that literature is a systematic set of linguistic and structural elements that can be analyzed.
  • They saw literature as a self-enclosed system that can be studied not for its content but for its form.
  • Form was more important than the content.

Viktor Shklovsky

Viktor Shklovsky

Viktor Shklovsky is a member of the Russian formalism movement. Shklovsky is perhaps best known for developing the concept of “ ostranenie” or defamiliarization (also translated as “estrangement” ) in literature. He explained this concept in the important essay “Art as Technique” (also translated as “Art as Device”) which comprised the first chapter of his seminal ” Theory of Prose ,” first published in 1925.

  • He argued for the need to turn something that has become over-familiar, like a cliché in the literary canon, into something revitalized.
“The purpose of art is to impart the sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known. The technique of art is to make objects ‘unfamiliar’, to make forms difficult, to increase the difficulty and length of perception because the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself and must be prolonged. Art is a way of experiencing the artfulness of an object; the object is not important.” (Shklovsky, “Art as Technique“)

Reading as a Formalist critic


  • Must first be a close or careful reader who examines all the elements of a text individually
  • Questions how they come together to create a work of art
  • Respects the autonomy of work
  • Achieves understanding of it by looking inside it, not outside or beyond
  • Allow the text to reveal itself
  • The text is a self-contained entity
  • Analyze how the elements work together to form unity of form.


  • Look beyond the work by reading the author’s biography, or literary style
  • Examining the work’s historical background and condition of society
  • The text’s influences or prior similarity with other works
  • Take the elements distinct and separate from each other.

Important considerations

  • Look for motifs – rhyme scheme, recurrences, repetitions, relationships, patterns, images, parallelism
  • Examine the Point of View – (prosody) the narrator: personality, understanding, presentation, attitude
  • Scrutinize the structure – plot (chronological), conflict (surface-subsurface)
  • Development of form – similarities and differences
  • Look for denotation/connotation – allusions, etymology, synonyms
  • Examine the symbols – objects, artifacts, events, actions, images
  • Follow the work’s unity – how do elements conspire?
  • Watch out for tensions – the conflict of these elements
  • Analyze the figures of speech – ambiguity, irony, paradox, etc.

What doesn’t appear in Formalist criticism

  • To restate a poem or summarize or summarize a story is to lose it.
  • Its uniqueness disappears.
  • Any alteration of wording or structure or point of view changes the meaning of the original and cannot, therefore, be valid.
  • To indulge concern about what he (author) had planned to do is to commit Intentional fallacy.
  • Intentional fallacy refers to the belief that the meaning of a work may be determined by the author’s intention.
  • Even if the intention of the author is obvious, it may not have been carried out.
  • The work is not the writer, nor is the writer the work.
  • By asking the work’s effect on the reader or audience, they shift their attention to results rather than the work itself.
  • Such activity will lead to affective fallacy.
  • Affective fallacy refers to the belief that the meaning or value of a work may be determined by its affect on the reader.

Writing a Formalist criticism

  • Revisit your reading log or marginal notation.
  • See how the keywords are woven together.
  • recurrences,
  • visual motifs,
  • repeated words and phrases for meaning;
  • unity – meaningful coherence of the elements
  • tension – identify the effects produced by paradox and irony.
  • a strong image
  • a particular element
  • a reaction or
  • an observation

Drafting and revising

  • Recount a meaningful incident from a story or
  • Quote a few lines from the poem
  • Then explain why such incident or lines are important to understanding the text as a whole.
  • Cite examples on how the form, diction, and unity operate together to develop a theme
  • Observe unity, emphasis and coherence in detailing your examples
  • Focus on the literary elements rather than the plot or sequence of the story or the stanza of the poem.
  • Giving a generalization or conclusion
  • Rhetorical question
  • Strong conviction
“That’s for the lecture. We will use the short story “Araby” as our spring board text, hence, you are expected to read it three times using the guidelines presented here.

In our class, we will put these theories into action. Message me if you have concerns by clicking here .

  • Dobie, Ann B.  (2009). Theory into Practice: An Intro to Literary Criticism. Boston: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
  • Fry, Paul H. (2013). Theory of Literature. New Haven: Yale University Press.
  • Habib, M. R. (2011). A History of Literary Criticism: From Plato to Present. UK: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing.
  • Images courtesy of google images

Show Comments Hide Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed .

Seamless Theme Starry Food , made by Altervista

Create a website and earn with Altervista - Disclaimer - Report Abuse - Web Push Notification - Privacy Policy - Customize advertising tracking

Formalist Strategies in Literary Criticism Essay

  • To find inspiration for your paper and overcome writer’s block
  • As a source of information (ensure proper referencing)
  • As a template for you assignment

The fundamental aspect of a formalist critic is to visualize a literary work from the perspective of “ language, structure and tone ” (Meyer 1538). This form of criticism is more about the vibe of literature rather than the interpretation of its structural foundation. This is a new tool in the hands of a writer and the writer can benefit from it immensely as it provides the opportunity to explore a whole new world of literary understanding of insight, sensitivity, perception, and perspective.

If we analyze the approach of a formalist critic we would see that this form of criticism is more dependent on imageries presented in the text rather than the basics of the literature. Its approach appears to be more suited for criticism of poetry rather than novel or academic writings. However, this form of criticism can be beneficial if used properly. Maynard Mack’s “The World of Hamlet” is such an example of the able use of the approach. He interprets the character of Hamlet in a completely new level of understanding, and this is regarded as one of the finest examples of formalist strategies. Again, in Kate Choplin’s story “The Story of an Hour”, with a formalist approach, one can derive the ironic situation of the main character of the story. These are the occasions when a formalist critic can analyze and evaluate the fundamentals of a text without even describing the plot or the characters of the literature.

Thus, it is obvious that the formalist critic depends on the basic vibe of the literature rather than the literature itself. It can be well stated that this form of analysis or criticism is more intricate and sensitive. It can be stated as a responsive method because it directly deals with the inner core of the plot or structure of the literature and not the plot itself with the help of literary tools like ironies or paradoxes. It is also more susceptible in a sense because while dealing with elements like metaphors and symbols, it evokes the intention of the author in a more perceptive manner. It is difficult to reach such an outcome with the help of traditional tools of criticism like plot, settings, or characterizations of the literature.

Thus, it is obvious that the analysis of tone is more sensitive than analysis of plot or criticizing with the help of structure is more insightful than the use of characterizations. Similarly, with the use of language and its evaluation one would be able to present an intuitive vibe that, otherwise, would not evoke through a traditional style of criticism with the help of setting of the text. As a result, Shakespeare’s depiction of Hamlet as the principal avenger of the play along with his dealing with the senses of loss and frailty reaches a new level with the formalist discussion. Similarly, the symbolic equivocations in the story, along with the thematic depiction of renewal and rebirth, set the character of Mrs. Mallard alive in a different aspect.

However, it is not the objective to prove traditional criticism as an obsolete or unhelpful tool, rather it can be stated that the use of Formalist criticism has provided a new perspective of literal analysis that was not present earlier. In conclusion, it can be stated that Formalist criticism and strategies are a special part of literature review, and they just enrich the literature by deploying new avenues of discussion.

Works Cited

Meyer, Michael. The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature: Reading, Thinking, Writing . St. Martin’s: Bedford, 2008.

  • Analysis Essay on Keats's Poem, Chapman's Homer
  • Mary Lavin: Biography of Writer
  • Battleship Potemkin
  • "Big Fish" Movie and Ovid's "Metamorphoses"
  • Racial Inequality in “Cry, the Beloved Country” by Paton
  • Steve Williams on Critical Thinking Review
  • Science Fiction Literary Analysis
  • ‘The Third Policeman’ by O’Brien
  • Chicago (A-D)
  • Chicago (N-B)

IvyPanda. (2021, December 31). Formalist Strategies in Literary Criticism. https://ivypanda.com/essays/formalist-strategies-in-literary-criticism/

"Formalist Strategies in Literary Criticism." IvyPanda , 31 Dec. 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/formalist-strategies-in-literary-criticism/.

IvyPanda . (2021) 'Formalist Strategies in Literary Criticism'. 31 December.

IvyPanda . 2021. "Formalist Strategies in Literary Criticism." December 31, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/formalist-strategies-in-literary-criticism/.

1. IvyPanda . "Formalist Strategies in Literary Criticism." December 31, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/formalist-strategies-in-literary-criticism/.


IvyPanda . "Formalist Strategies in Literary Criticism." December 31, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/formalist-strategies-in-literary-criticism/.

  • Architecture and Design
  • Asian and Pacific Studies
  • Business and Economics
  • Classical and Ancient Near Eastern Studies
  • Computer Sciences
  • Cultural Studies
  • Engineering
  • General Interest
  • Geosciences
  • Industrial Chemistry
  • Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies
  • Jewish Studies
  • Library and Information Science, Book Studies
  • Life Sciences
  • Linguistics and Semiotics
  • Literary Studies
  • Materials Sciences
  • Mathematics
  • Social Sciences
  • Sports and Recreation
  • Theology and Religion
  • Publish your article
  • The role of authors
  • Promoting your article
  • Abstracting & indexing
  • Publishing Ethics
  • Why publish with De Gruyter
  • How to publish with De Gruyter
  • Our book series
  • Our subject areas
  • Your digital product at De Gruyter
  • Contribute to our reference works
  • Product information
  • Tools & resources
  • Product Information
  • Promotional Materials
  • Orders and Inquiries
  • FAQ for Library Suppliers and Book Sellers
  • Repository Policy
  • Free access policy
  • Open Access agreements
  • Database portals
  • For Authors
  • Customer service
  • People + Culture
  • Journal Management
  • How to join us
  • Working at De Gruyter
  • Mission & Vision
  • De Gruyter Foundation
  • De Gruyter Ebound
  • Our Responsibility
  • Partner publishers

purpose of formalist essay

Your purchase has been completed. Your documents are now available to view.

Chapter Eight — Formalist Criticism: Its Principles and Limits

From the book language as symbolic action.

  • Kenneth Burke
  • X / Twitter

Supplementary Materials

Please login or register with De Gruyter to order this product.

Language As Symbolic Action

Chapters in this book (30)

Cleanth Brooks: ‘The Formalist Critic’

Cite this chapter.

purpose of formalist essay

  • K. M. Newton  

1014 Accesses

Here 1 are some articles of faith I could subscribe to:

That literary criticism is a description and an evaluation of its object. That the primary concern of criticism is with the problem of unity — the kind of whole which the literary work forms or fails to form, and the relation of the various parts to each other in building up this whole. That the formal relations in a work of literature may include, but certainly exceed, those of logic . That in a successful work, form and content cannot be separated. That form is meaning . That literature is ultimately metaphorical and symbolic . That the general and the universal are not seized upon by abstraction, but got at through the concrete and the particular . That literature is not a surrogate for religion . That, as Allen Tate says, ‘specific moral problems’ are the subject matter of literature, but that the purpose of literature is not to point a moral . That the principles of criticism define the area relevant to literary criticism; they do not constitute a method for carrying out the criticism .

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this chapter

Institutional subscriptions

Unable to display preview.  Download preview PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others

purpose of formalist essay

Toward a New Formalism: The Intrinsic and Related Problems in Criticism and Theory

purpose of formalist essay

Marxist Criticism, Then and Now

purpose of formalist essay

Frye, Northrop: Anatomy of Criticism

You can also search for this author in PubMed   Google Scholar

Editor information

Copyright information.

© 1997 Macmillan Publishers Limited

About this chapter

Newton, K.M. (1997). Cleanth Brooks: ‘The Formalist Critic’. In: Newton, K.M. (eds) Twentieth-Century Literary Theory. Palgrave, London. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-349-25934-2_6

Download citation

DOI : https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-349-25934-2_6

Publisher Name : Palgrave, London

Print ISBN : 978-0-333-67742-1

Online ISBN : 978-1-349-25934-2

eBook Packages : Palgrave History Collection History (R0)

Share this chapter

Anyone you share the following link with will be able to read this content:

Sorry, a shareable link is not currently available for this article.

Provided by the Springer Nature SharedIt content-sharing initiative

  • Publish with us

Policies and ethics

  • Find a journal
  • Track your research


Extended Essay: Formal vs. Informal Writing

  • Extended Essay- The Basics
  • Step 1. Choose a Subject
  • Step 2. Educate yourself!
  • Using Brainstorming and Mind Maps
  • Identify Keywords
  • Do Background Reading
  • Define Your Topic
  • Conduct Research in a Specific Discipline
  • Step 5. Draft a Research Question
  • Step 6. Create a Timeline
  • Find Articles
  • Find Primary Sources
  • Get Help from Experts
  • Search Engines, Repositories, & Directories
  • Databases and Websites by Subject Area
  • Create an Annotated Bibliography
  • Advice (and Warnings) from the IB
  • Chicago Citation Syle
  • MLA Works Cited & In-Text Citations
  • Step 9. Set Deadlines for Yourself
  • Step 10. Plan a structure for your essay
  • Evaluate & Select: the CRAAP Test
  • Conducting Secondary Research
  • Conducting Primary Research
  • Formal vs. Informal Writing
  • Presentation Requirements
  • Evaluating Your Work

Differences Between Informal and Formal Essays

When writing your extended essay you should use language that is formal and academic in tone.  The chart below gives you some idea of the differences between informal and formal essays. See the box below for examples of the differences in tone in informal and formal essays written on identical topics. A PDF of this chart, and the examples below, is in the box to the right , along with a list of tips for avoiding colloquial writing.

Informal essay (sometimes also called personal or familiar essay)
Author’s viewpoint Usually uses first-person pronoun; directly addresses the reader. Usually uses third-person pronoun.
Subject/content: Sources of evidence Frequently drawn from life of the student and everyday events. More commonly drawn from shared historical events or literature or other forms of knowledge.    
Tone Frequently more personal and subjective; may be ironic, amusing, thoughtful, angry or serious; conversational and casual. Tends to be removed from the subject and appears to be objective; tends to hold emotions in check and express concerns through strong arguments and powerful rhetorical devices.
Structure Appears to be more loosely structured. Follows a structure that focuses on the development of one clear argument at a time to support a clearly stated thesis.
Location of the research purpose/question


May appear anywhere in the essay; may not be explicitly stated. Stated explicitly, generally located in the first or second paragraph of the essay.
Vocabulary Everyday words; slang and colloquialisms; contractions; uses “you” and “I”. Technical words according to subject; no slang or contractions; avoids “you” and “I” (the use of “I” in the introduction and conclusion of an essay is permitted but in the body of the essay is best avoided in order to maintain an academic tone).
Purpose Entertainment; gentle reflection. Presentation of facts and ideas with critical evaluation, arguing a point and analyzing in detail.

Examples of Informal and Formal Tone in Essay Writing

The following examples highlight the differences between formal and informal tone.

Language B - English


I decided to write an extended essay on how hip-hop works as protest of the lower classes because I think the music is cool and really gets people dancing, inspiring those people who wouldn’t normally think there’s any point in being against anything to listen to the message. Being an enthusiastic hip-hop dancer myself, I really wanted to find out some more about this.


This extended essay on how the lyrics of hip-hop developed as a form of protest against a society segregating the working classes is based on the premise of the music having a distinct and energizing rhythm that really inspires people thereby reaching out to audiences who wouldn’t normally believe in protest, let alone speak out in public. Thus, the music becomes a vehicle for words of protest that can and indeed have changed the world. My own experience with dancing hip-hop at a relatively advanced and skilled level fuelled my desire to research this topic in more depth.


Biology has always been a passion of mine. Ever since I was searching for frogspawn in my grandparent’s pond as a four-year-old and annoying my mum with a battery of jam jars on the window sill in which I was trying to raise tadpoles I have been fascinated with observing nature in detail. Even in English, reading Death of a Naturalist by Seamus Heaney, I found myself thinking up an experiment to do with dragonflies and bluebottles. I have a fish tank at home with three different sorts of fish. I’ve noticed that they all respond differently when I feed them. I’m wondering what else is different in their behavior so, in this extended essay, I’m going to find out how they react to light.


This extended essay is focused on investigating the phototaxic responses of three different species of fish that occupy different areas of an aquarium: danios ( ), which group near the surface of the water, black skirt tetra ( ), which swim in the middle of the tank, and kuhli loach ( ), which swim near the bottom of the tank. It is anticipated that they will respond differently to light according to their niche within the tank.

The outcome of my investigation could inform the feeding strategy used for different fish as well as highlight the adaptive nature of toxic response in fish. In addition, this essay may help to inspire some fellow students to view their fish with new interest, and consider their own strategies in populating a fish tank.


When I go into a supermarket there is always gentle background music playing, although in the clothes shops I like it is always loud pop music. At breakfast my dad likes to listen to Rossini string sonatas, while my little brother has heavy metal on his iPod and will head-bang his way through a bowl of cornflakes. My extended essay is trying to research why people rely on certain types of music to influence their mood and how music is used in this way for advertising. I am not sure if there is a connection and whether the music does affect, for example, people’s shopping habits, but it will be interesting to try to find out, especially to see if different peoples’ brains are wired differently when it comes to music.


This extended essay intends to investigate whether there is a causal relationship between music listened to and the mood of individuals. Additionally, it will seek to explore whether this relationship is used in advertising to encourage people to spend money.

  • Formal vs. Informal Writing A chart giving the differences between informal and formal essays in seven areas (author's viewpoint; subject/content (sources of evidence); tone; structure; location of the research question; vocabulary; and purpose. Also included are examples comparing informal and formal writing for essays in English, biology, and psychology.
  • How to Avoid Colloquial (Informal) Writing While it may be acceptable in friendly e-mails and chat rooms, excessive colloquialism is a major pitfall that lowers the quality of formal written text. Here are some steps/tips that you can follow to help improve your overall writing.
  • << Previous: Plagiarism
  • Next: Presentation Requirements >>
  • Last Updated: May 8, 2024 3:48 PM
  • URL: https://libguides.westsoundacademy.org/ee


How to Write a Formal Essay: Format, Rules, & Example

If you’re a student, you’ve heard about a formal essay: a factual, research-based paper written in 3rd person. Most students have to produce dozens of them during their educational career. 

Writing a formal essay may not be the easiest task. But fear not: our custom-writing team is here to guide you through the process. This article will:

  • explain what a formal essay is;
  • show how to write it step by step;
  • provide you with an essay sample. 

👔 Formal Essay Definition

  • ✅ How to Write
  • ✍️ Writing Rules
  • 🖥️ Essay Format
  • 📑 Sample Paper

🔍 References

A formal essay is a well-structured piece of writing with a clear introduction, body, and conclusion. This type of essay often includes cited research, uses an academic tone, and is written in 3rd person. While writing a formal essay, it’s necessary to back up your arguments with factual evidence.

What Is an Informal Essay vs. Formal Essay?

Essays come in two formats: formal and informal (also known as personal .) They differ in terms of style and context. You can choose one of the formats depending on the situation and the type of paper you need to write.

Don’t know how to tell the difference between them? Well, here are some key characteristics of these essay types:

Characteristics Informal essay Formal essay
Usually, the purpose of an informal essay is to share opinions or to entertain the reader. A formal essay aims to critically analyze facts, details, and ideas to prove a point. 
Addresses the reader directly and uses 1st-person pronouns. Uses 3rd-person pronouns and doesn’t address the reader.
Expresses the writer’s thoughts and opinions and tends to be more subjective. Strives to be objective and uses arguments to support its ideas.
Doesn’t have to be as structured as a formal essay. Should be well-structured and logical.
The thesis may be stated in any part of the work or not explicitly stated at all. The thesis is clearly stated and located in the essay’s first paragraph.
Uses everyday language, slang, 1st- and 2nd-person pronouns such as “I,” “you,” and “me.” Uses jargon and avoids using slang and 1st- or 2nd-person pronouns.

As you can see, these types of writing are almost total opposites. Informal essays are only reserved for creative assignments, which means that most of the papers you write need to be formal.

Our article on creative essays can help you write an informal paper. But how do you craft a perfect formal essay? Keep reading to find out.

✅ How to Write a Formal Essay

Traditionally, a formal essay it’s composed of 3 sections: an introduction, 3 or more body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Let’s examine each part in detail.

Formal Essay Introduction

The introduction is what your essay starts with. Its primary goal is to catch the reader’s attention with a hook, briefly introduce the topic, and lead toward the thesis statement located at the end of the first paragraph.

Here is what you might want to keep in mind while writing the introduction:

✔️ It should be related to the topic and give the reader an overall idea of the paper.
✔️ It’s good to start your introduction with a quotation, an interesting fact, or a statistic.
Try not to make the introduction too far-fetched or in-your-face.
Avoid using questions in an introduction of a formal essay.

If you want some more inspiration for your introduction, check out our article on hooks in writing .

Now on to the thesis statement : the key idea of your essay. When working on it, keep in mind that it should answer the central question in your topic and reflect your essay’s overall structure. your essay’s overall structure.

Suppose your topic is related to the teaching methods involving poetry. In that case, the thesis statement can be like this:

Teaching methods that involve reading and writing poetry in elementary school are beneficial for children as they enhance their capacity for empathy, develop creativity, and help with self-realization.

Formal Essay Body

The next part of an essay is the main body paragraphs. They support the thesis statement with well-developed arguments and explore the topic in-depth. Each body paragraph starts with a topic sentence stating its main point. The length of a paragraph can vary, but the best option is to have between 4 and 7 sentences.

To make the text flow easily, you may use transitional words. Here are some examples:

  • after all, 
  • for instance, 
  • on the one/other hand, 
  • initially, 
  • as a result.

How to Write a Formal Essay Conclusion

Lastly, every essay needs closure. A good conclusion summarizes the essay’s main ideas, includes a paraphrased thesis, and encourages the readers to think more about the topic.

The structure of a conclusion may change slightly depending on the subject. For instance, it can suggest some solutions to a problem, express an opinion, or give a recommendation. It’s important to remember that the conclusion is a part that emphasizes your essay’s most important points and doesn’t introduce new information.

If you’re curious about writing each essay part, check out our article on 5-paragraph essays .

✍️ Formal Writing Rules

Just like choosing the proper attire to wear to a formal event, we need to use the right words while writing a formal essay. Here are some suggestions that can help you maintain a formal tone in your paper:  

Dos of formal writing

  • Pay attention to your vocabulary. The words you will use in a formal essay will likely have a nuanced meaning. Make sure you know exactly what the terms mean, and do your best to sound precise.
  • Use punctuation correctly. Here are some of the things to watch out for: Avoid exclamation marks; Use dashes for insertions; Use colons with enumerations; If you’re unsure of whether to use a punctuation mark or not, rewrite the sentence in a way that doesn’t require it.
  • Use varied sentence structure. In formal writing, there is always a danger of sounding monotonous. Avoid repeating sentence structures to make your essay more readable.
  • Provide references. It’s essential to cite every idea that you borrow. Try to paraphrase quotations from your sources: it will help you avoid plagiarism.

Don’ts of formal writing

  • Avoid using pronouns.  With words such as “I,” “me,” “we,” or “us,” an essay becomes wordy. It also makes the author seem less sure of their ideas. If you want to use personal pronouns, try substituting them with words like “the reader,” “viewers,” or “one.”
  • Avoid using slang expressions and nonstandard diction. Slang words in a formal essay will make it less appealing to the readers. If you want to be taken seriously, it’s best to avoid those expressions and use proper Standard English.
  • Avoid informal tone.  When you write a formal essay, incorporate the language and the expressions you would use while delivering a speech, not the words you use when you casually talk to friends. A formal tone suggests that the author is serious about the topic and respects the audience.
  • Avoid passive voice. Passive verbs are hard to read, and they are wordy. Use active voice to sound more straightforward and concise.

Contractions in Formal Writing

A contraction is usually a combination of two words into one, such as “don’t,” “isn’t,” “can’t,” and “wouldn’t.” When you work on a formal essay, it’s essential to be careful about contractions. It’s inappropriate to use them in academic writing, so it’s best to stick to the full variant.

However, there are exceptions to this rule. For instance, when working with direct quotations, it’s essential to reproduce words exactly as they are used in the original. To learn more about it, be sure to check out the University of North Florida’s article on in-text citations .

What to Use Instead of “You” in an Essay

Another common mistake students make is using the “you” and “yours” pronouns to address the readers. This mistake can make the essay overly informal and lead to misinterpretations of the text.

How do you fix it? Our advice is to replace 2nd-person pronouns with the following words:

  • individuals,

You can find more formal writing tips in this informative video from Smrt English:

🖥️ Formal Essay Format

Now that we’ve discussed formal essay writing in detail, it’s time to look at the formatting. A formal essay is usually written in MLA or APA formats. If you’re asked to write a paper in one of these formats, you may find the guidelines below helpful:

Write your name, the instructor’s name, your class, and the date in the upper left corner of the 1st page. Make the title centered and place it after the heading information in the same font as the rest of your paper. Create a separate . Make your title centered and written in boldface. Add your name, instructor’s name, school affiliation, and date.
Write your last name and the number of each page in the upper right corner. Write the number of each page in the upper right corner.
Use 12-point Times New Roman font.
Make your essay double-spaced without extra spacing between the paragraphs.
Add a 1-inch margin on each side of the page.
Make the 1st line of each paragraph indented 1/5 inch.
Line up your text flush against the left margin. 

📑 Formal Essay Example

Here is an excellent sample of a formal essay that uses all the guidelines mentioned in this article. It will help you to produce a perfect paper of your own:

Title Adverse effects of sponsorship in the sports industry
Sponsorship plays a significant role in the sports industry these days. Many sports associations, football leagues, and clubs are entering partnerships with famous brands. However, it does not mean that all sponsorship has a good impact. This essay argues that a questionable sponsorship may undermine the image of a sport or a team and adversely influence the viewers.
Important sports events such as FIFA or The Olympic Games are sponsored by brands such as Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Cadbury’s, and Budweiser. These are also brands that promote unhealthy lifestyles and foods that lack nutritional value and have high levels of salt, sugar, and saturated fats. Such kind of sponsorship aims to obtain a favorable change in the attitude toward the brand itself by connecting it with sport and a healthy lifestyle.
While alcohol and junk food brands link themselves to sports bodies and active lifestyles, their main targets are children and sports fans. The growing popularity of products high in saturated fat, salt, and sugar, including potato chips, sugary drinks, and confectionary, results in them being not simply a treat but a daily staple for many people. It creates various health issues, such as obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay.
Finally, an association with a widely criticized brand is likely to damage the reputation of a team or even a sport itself (Crompton, 2014). People tend to expect their favorite teams to partner with fair, responsible sponsors. If the partnership is questionable, the fans may think that the sports body compromised their virtue for profit.
To sum up, some kinds of sponsorship, such as alcohol or junk food, may use the sport’s image to attract more people and increase sales. It leads to the excessive consumption of sponsored products by children and teenagers and causes various health issues. It is also likely to affect the public image of a sports body.

For more information, check out Purdue OWL’s resources on various formatting styles .

Formal Essay Topics

  • Stress management techniques
  • The effects of coffee 
  • Negative effects of technology on children
  • Causes and outcomes of organizational conflicts in sports
  • Different types of friends
  • Same-sex marriages in the United States
  • Are early marriages harmful or beneficial?
  • How do nutrition and hydration improve athletes’ performance? 
  • Is polygamy morally acceptable?
  • Different features of sports business
  • What characterizes friendship in the age of media?
  • Positive and negative effects of tourism on environment in the Caribbean
  • How does society treat single parents?
  • How does the uninvolved parenting style affect child’s future well-being?
  • The role of family relationships in Odyssey
  • Financial concepts in sport finance
  • Main features of a strong marriage
  • The importance of media coverage for sport teams
  • Reasons why students choose to get internship
  • The role of stadiums in the sports industry
  • The multiracial family: the Carters case analysis
  • Characteristics of children’s sports
  • Crucial factors affecting health fitness 
  • How is technology used in hotel management?
  • Structure and operational context of Four Seasons
  • What are the main qualities of a true friend?
  • Different websites that promote rental properties
  • The imperative aspects of tourism
  • Importance of hotel training 
  • What factors determine adolescents’ adjustment after they experience parental divorce? 
  • How does tobacco use affect the human body?
  • The importance of language and world view for communication
  • What makes a combination of reinforcement and punishment in parenting efficient?
  • The scientific approach of sports economics
  • How does divorce affect children?
  • Living on-campus vs. living off-campus when attending university: a comparison
  • How does the New Moves program promote a healthy lifestyle? 
  • How to be an effective counselor
  • Various types of restaurants in Ireland
  • Carolina Dog’s characteristics
  • Comparison of Monzameon’s The Love Suicides at Amijima and Tartuffe by Moliere
  • Comparing homosexual and heterosexual families
  • How is family presented in Everyday Use by Alice Walker ?
  • In what ways can Anaerobic Threshold be assessed? 
  • Is bad parenting a healthcare problem? 
  • Why student-athletes should benefit from sports
  • Mind-body awareness and its health benefits
  • Can punishment boost academic performance?
  • Techniques to teach students swimming
  • Issues faced by the sports licensing field

Thanks for reading through this guide! We hope that you found it helpful and now have a better idea of how to write an excellent formal essay. Don’t hesitate to share our article with a friend who may need it. Good luck!

Further reading:

  • How to Write a Critical Thinking Essay: Examples & Outline
  • What Is a Discourse Analysis Essay: Example & Guide
  • How to Write a Narrative Essay Outline: Template & Examples
  • How to Write a Précis: Definition, Guide, & Examples 

❓ Formal Essay FAQs

It’s best not to use pronouns such as “I,” “my,” “we,” “our,” etc., in a formal essay since it give the paper an informal tone and the text becomes wordy. It also makes the writer seem less sure about their ideas.

It’s better to avoid using parentheses and dashes in formal academic writing. If the information you want to include in the essay is important enough, it should be a part of the sentence. Otherwise, you can simply omit it.

The formal and informal essays differ in style and context. While a formal essay is a piece of well-structured writing that tries to convince the reader by providing arguments, an informal essay has no set structure. It reflects the author’s personal thoughts or opinions.

Starting your sentence with “because” in formal writing is not the best idea. The word “because” is a subordinate conjunction, which means it’s used to join the main clause to a subordinate clause, not to start a sentence.

It’s best to avoid using 1st- and 2nd-person pronouns, slang expressions, nonstandard diction, and contractions in a formal essay. They are primarily used in daily speech and are considered inappropriate in academic writing. 

  • Point of View in Academic Writing: St. Louis Community College
  • Components of a Good Essay: University of Evansville
  • Introductions & Conclusions: University of Arizona Global Campus
  • How to Improve Your Academic Writing: University of York
  • Nine Basic Ways to Improve Your Style in Academic Writing: University of California, Berkeley
  • Academic Writing Style: Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper: University of Southern California
  • Formal and Informal Style: Northern Illinois University
  • Formal Writing: Davenport University: LibGuides
  • Share to Facebook
  • Share to Twitter
  • Share to LinkedIn
  • Share to email

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Outline: Examples & Strategies

Rhetorical analysis is never a simple task. This essay type requires you to analyze rhetorical devices in a text and review them from different perspectives. Such an assignment can be a part of an AP Lang exam or a college home task. Either way, you will need a solid outline...

How to Write a Synthesis Essay: Examples, Topics, & Outline

A synthesis essay requires you to work with multiple sources. You combine the information gathered from them to present a well-rounded argument on a topic. Are you looking for the ultimate guide on synthesis essay writing? You’ve come to the right place! In this guide by our custom writing team,...

How to Write a Critical Analysis Essay: Examples & Guide

A critical analysis essay is an academic paper that requires a thorough examination of theoretical concepts and ideas. It includes a comparison of facts, differentiation between evidence and argument, and identification of biases. Crafting a good paper can be a daunting experience, but it will be much easier if you...

How to Write a Process Analysis Essay: Examples & Outline

Process analysis is an explanation of how something works or happens. Want to know more? Read the following article prepared by our custom writing specialists and learn about: So, let’s start digging deeper into this topic! ♻️ What Is Process Analysis? A process analysis describes and explains the succession of...

How to Write a Visual Analysis Essay: Examples & Template

A visual analysis essay is an academic paper type that history and art students often deal with. It consists of a detailed description of an image or object. It can also include an interpretation or an argument that is supported by visual evidence. In this article, our custom writing experts...

How to Write a Reflection Paper: Example & Tips

Want to know how to write a reflection paper for college or school? To do that, you need to connect your personal experiences with theoretical knowledge. Usually, students are asked to reflect on a documentary, a text, or their experience. Sometimes one needs to write a paper about a lesson...

How to Write a Character Analysis Essay: Examples & Outline

A character analysis is an examination of the personalities and actions of protagonists and antagonists that make up a story. It discusses their role in the story, evaluates their traits, and looks at their conflicts and experiences. You might need to write this assignment in school or college. Like any...

Critical Writing: Examples & Brilliant Tips [2024]

Any critique is nothing more than critical analysis, and the word “analysis” does not have a negative meaning. Critical writing relies on objective evaluations of or a response to an author’s creation. As such, they can be either positive or negative, as the work deserves. To write a critique, you...

How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis Essay: Outline, Steps, & Examples

If you are assigned to write a rhetorical analysis essay, you have one significant advantage. You can choose a text from an almost infinite number of resources. The most important thing is that you analyze the statement addressed to an audience. The task of a rhetorical analysis essay is to...

How to Analyze a Poem in an Essay

Any literary analysis is a challenging task since literature includes many elements that can be interpreted differently. However, a stylistic analysis of all the figurative language the poets use may seem even harder. You may never realize what the author actually meant and how to comment on it! While analyzing...

Book Review Format, Outline, & Example

As a student, you may be asked to write a book review. Unlike an argumentative essay, a book review is an opportunity to convey the central theme of a story while offering a new perspective on the author’s ideas. Knowing how to create a well-organized and coherent review, however, is...

Argumentative vs. Persuasive Essays: What’s the Difference?

The difference between an argumentative and persuasive essay isn’t always clear. If you’re struggling with either style for your next assignment, don’t worry. The following will clarify everything you need to know so you can write with confidence. First, we define the primary objectives of argumentative vs. persuasive writing. We...


In order to continue enjoying our site, we ask that you confirm your identity as a human. Thank you very much for your cooperation.


  1. Formalist Approach Essay Example

    purpose of formalist essay

  2. Formal Essays

    purpose of formalist essay

  3. How to Write an Essay: Step by Step Guide & Examples

    purpose of formalist essay

  4. An Essay on Formalism

    purpose of formalist essay

  5. Formalistic Approach in Literature

    purpose of formalist essay

  6. 📗 Free Essay Example on Formalism Literary Theory

    purpose of formalist essay



  2. Final Essay Overview, Part 1

  3. Формалисты. ОПОЯЗ. Введение

  4. Structuralist and Formalist Approach || Grade 10 English || Quarter 3 Week 5

  5. The Formalist Approach to Literary Criticism-1

  6. What is Realism and Formalism in Film Theory ?


  1. Writing a Formalist Literary Analysis

    A formalist critic examines the form of the work as a whole, the form of each individual part of the text (the individual scenes and chapters), the characters, the settings, the tone, the point of view, the diction, and all other elements of the text which join to make it a single text. After analyzing each part, the critic then describes how ...

  2. What is formalist criticism?

    Formalist criticism is one way that a reader can approach his understanding of a text. When a reader looks at a poem, play, story or novel from a formalist perspective, he is looking solely at the ...

  3. Formalism (literature)

    Formalism is a school of literary criticism and literary theory having mainly to do with structural purposes of a particular text. It is the study of a text without taking into account any outside influence. Formalism rejects or sometimes simply "brackets" (i.e., ignores for the purpose of analysis) notions of culture or societal influence, authorship, and content, and instead focuses on modes ...

  4. Definition and Examples of Formal Essays

    In composition studies, a formal essay is a short, relatively impersonal composition in prose. Also known as an impersonal essay or a Baconian essay (after the writings of England's first major essayist, Francis Bacon ). In contrast to the familiar or personal essay, the formal essay is typically used for the discussion of ideas.

  5. The Formalist Approach

    Formalism may be defined as a critical approach in which the text under discussion is considered primarily as a structure of words. That is, the main focus is on the arrangement of language, rather than on the implications of the words, or on the biographical and historical relevance of the work in question. A strictly formalist critic would ...

  6. Formalism in Literature

    Definition of Formalism. Formalism is a form of literary criticism that focuses on a text's use of structure. It would analyze the use of grammar, word choice, syntax, and how all the elements work together. With formalism, one does not spend any time concerned with the author's influences, what the work might say about the contemporary ...

  7. Formalism

    The first movement is Russian Formalism, from the 1910s to the 1930s (which, when suppressed by the Soviets in the 1930s, was continued by members of the Prague Linguistic Circle). The second is the New Criticism, which emphasized close reading, dominant in British and American education. The third movement is Structuralism, a dominant trend in ...

  8. What is a Formalist?

    Exploring the Beauty of Form and Structure in Literature. Formalist is a term that is used to describe a specific literary approach that analyses a text primarily through its form and structure, rather than its content or meaning. This method of literary criticism asserts that the form of a text, such as its style, narrative structure, and ...

  9. Formalistic Criticism

    The formalist view of creativity is of a rage brought to order through submission to the discipline of form. A good poem is characterized by tensions that are usually reconciled. The most detailed ...

  10. How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay

    Table of contents. Step 1: Reading the text and identifying literary devices. Step 2: Coming up with a thesis. Step 3: Writing a title and introduction. Step 4: Writing the body of the essay. Step 5: Writing a conclusion. Other interesting articles.

  11. New Formalist Criticism: Theory and Practice

    From the publisher:New Formalist Criticism defines and theorizes a mode of formalist criticism that is theoretically compatible with current thinking about literature and theory. New formalism anticipates a move in literary studies back towards the text and, in so doing, establishes itself as one of the most exciting areas of contemporary critical theory.

  12. Formalism in Literature: Definition, Meaning and Characteristics

    Formalism is a branch of literary theory and criticism which deals with the structures of text. It means that external agents outside of the text are not taken into consideration. All the things about culture, politics, and the author's intent or societal influences are excluded from formalism. The focus in formalism is only on the text and ...

  13. (PDF) FORMALISM (also known as NEW CRITICISM) A Basic Approach to

    On the other hand, Formalism, as a literary theory, argues that the purpose of literature is literariness. Therefore, it is accepted as a rebellion against the understanding of literature dating back to the 1900s. Instead, it is suggested that a literary work should be studied as text-oriented. Furthermore, Formalists argue that the language of ...

  14. Formalist criticism is the first of the series of literary critic

    Formalist criticism is defined as a literary criticism approach which provides readers with a way to understand and enjoy a work for its own inherent value as a piece of literary art. Formalist critics spend a great deal of time analyzing irony, paradox, imagery, and metaphor. ... He explained this concept in the important essay "Art as ...

  15. PDF Formalist criticism

    formalist school ofNew Criticism, for instance, isolates the text for examination, separating it both from its author's intentions and from the reader's response. The text is abstracted its social and historical contexts, and is regarded as a distinct artefact, which possesses its own inner coherence and complex organic unity.

  16. Formalist Strategies in Literary Criticism Essay

    Maynard Mack's "The World of Hamlet" is such an example of the able use of the approach. He interprets the character of Hamlet in a completely new level of understanding, and this is regarded as one of the finest examples of formalist strategies. Again, in Kate Choplin's story "The Story of an Hour", with a formalist approach, one ...

  17. Chapter Eight

    "Chapter Eight — Formalist Criticism: Its Principles and Limits" In Language As Symbolic Action: Essays on Life, Literature, and Method, 480-506. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1968. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1968.

  18. Cleanth Brooks: 'The Formalist Critic'

    That the formal relations in a work of literature may include, but certainly exceed, those of logic. That in a successful work, form and content cannot be separated. That form is meaning. That literature is ultimately metaphorical and symbolic. That the general and the universal are not seized upon by abstraction, but got at through the ...

  19. Extended Essay: Formal vs. Informal Writing

    A chart giving the differences between informal and formal essays in seven areas (author's viewpoint; subject/content (sources of evidence); tone; structure; location of the research question; vocabulary; and purpose. Also included are examples comparing informal and formal writing for essays in English, biology, and psychology.

  20. How to Write a Formal Essay: Format, Rules, & Example

    Informal essay Formal essay ; Purpose: Usually, the purpose of an informal essay is to share opinions or to entertain the reader. A formal essay aims to critically analyze facts, details, and ideas to prove a point. Pronouns use: Addresses the reader directly and uses 1st-person pronouns.

  21. What is the Formalist theory in literature?

    In a sense, then, the Formalist theory calls for the analysis of a work of literature's composition and structure, the mechanics of the literary work such as genre and the inherent features such ...

  22. Formal Essay Format, Types & Example

    The purpose of a formal essay is to present a strong argumentative case to the reader. The author will present valid evidence to support their thesis statement, or the concept they are arguing in ...