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Lit Papers: Quotations

Writing a literature paper is the complete opposite of writing a research paper in one large aspect… usage of quotations.  There are probably other aspects that make the two opposite, but we're not talking about them right now.

In a research paper, quoting is generally discouraged and paraphrasing is preferred.

In a literature paper, paraphrasing is generally discouraged and quoting is preferred.

Quotations strengthen your arguments and work as hardcore evidence.  To use the Wife of Bath example, saying, "Somewhere on page 160, the Wife of Bath says that she really likes having sex and lots of it" does not offer the reader concrete evidence.  In order to obtain the hardcore evidence, the reader will have to get a copy of (in this case) The Canterbury Tales and find the text you're referring to.  This lack of evidence detracts from your paper and makes your argument seem weak.  One will wonder if you chose not to include the exact statement in your paper because either you are lazy or that's not really what the text is saying.  A much more efficient way to make that same statement is to set up your scenario or argument and then introduce your textual evidence.

A problem that men still suffer with today is that of “horniness.”  It seems that no matter how low his sex drive, a man will still want to “go at it” more than his female partner.  The Wife of Bath, on the other hand, has an insatiable lust for sex.  

Which shal be bothe my dettour and my thrall,

And have his tribulacion withal

Upon his flessh whil that I am his wif.

I have the power during al my lif

Upon his propre body, and nat he. (??-??)

You can also sprinkle small quotations throughout your text in order to set up a scene:

The potential homosexuality of Edna is first revealed in a wildly homoerotic scene occurring in chapter VII, or 7. When Edna and Madame Ratignolle go for a walk along the beach together alone, Edna has an initial erotic attraction to Madame Ratignolle as the personification of romance.  The narrator states that Edna had always “had a sensuous susceptibility to beauty” (McMichael 694).  After a period of time, the two sit together on a porch of some sort and commence to conversing.  During this conversation Edna turns “her quick eyes upon Madame Ratignolle and lean[s] forward… to bring her face quite close to that of her companion” (696).  In response, Madame Ratignolle grasps Edna’s hand “firmly and warmly,” and then begins stroking it while “murmuring in an undertone” (696).  Edna “len[ds] herself readily to the Creole’s gentle caress,” and “put[s] her head down on Madame Ratignolle’s shoulder” (696, 698).  She reveals many of her deepest secrets to Madame Ratignolle and feels flushed and intoxicated by this unaccustomed sexual candor.  Until this point, Edna had possessed a self-contained, almost masturbatory sexuality and thus it is Madame Ratignolle who initiates Edna into the world of female love and ritual.

By incorporating quotes from this scene, readers get a much more direct sense of the homoerotic qualities of The Awakening than they could possibly ever get through paraphrasing alone.

Next, learn how to incorporate your quotes.


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