Explication (Textual Analysis)
Trace the full meaning and implications of the writer’s language. Listen for the full implication of a word, a phrase, a figure of speech. Spell out full meaning of key words and phrases.
Studying a Character (Character Analysis)
Write a coherent account (or trace the contradictions) of a character. Bring together from different parts of a story evidence that helps you understand a fictional person. The more fully developed a character is, the less likely she or he is to fit into a simple category. Note contradictory traits.
The Central Symbol
Trace the role of a symbol that is central to the work as a whole. Note recurrences of the symbol. What does it reveal about the structure? The theme? Even when a symbol is not actually repeated, it can assume a central role because it sums up many of the meanings that a work has been developing.
Tracing the Theme
Trace the underlying theme that gives unity of purpose to a work as a whole. When you state the theme, you try to sum up in a sentence or a paragraph the dominant idea that seems to pervade it, that gives it shape and direction. A theme is not a lesson, or moral, but it is organically related to the whole; it may be nowhere explicitly stated, but may emerge gradually. Isolate "thematic passages" for explication and analysis. Focus on key terms that recur at crucial points.
Defining a Critical Term
Sharpen a reader’s understanding of an important critical term by applying it to a key example. Tragedy, epic, comedy, tragicomedy, force, theatre of the absurd, protagonist, subplot, dénouement, etc.