Writing in a Literary Criticism Journal

The research journal I have chosen to work with is the Sigma Tau Delta Review. This is a literary criticism journal, which means that a specific type of literary criticism (psychoanalysis, queer theory, feminism, etc) is chosen and applied to a specific text or texts. The Review specifies that manuscripts cannot exceed 3000 words, although exceptions can be made. It also requires submissions to use MLA style.

Sigma Tau Delta Review

Project 1

Draft 3 is the most complete version of my paper right now.
What do you think of the introduction and conclusion? Is there any fluff or unnecessary comments in them? Do they link together? How can I strengthen them?
Are there any quotes that seem unnecessary?
Are there any sentences in general that seem unnecessary or need more clarification? Anything that can be reworded and cleaned up? I'm really looking to streamline my paper.

Paying Forever Draft 1
Paying Forever Draft 2
Paying Forever Draft 3
Paying Forever Final Draft

Journal Overview and Citation Practices

1. The research journal I would like to work with this semester is the Sigma Tau Delta Review. The journals cover a wide range of topics, both in terms of the texts that are chosen and what aspect of those texts is analyzed. All of them, however, are very narrow analyses of the chosen text, like “’And this is her voice?’: The Nexus of Language and Power” or “Between Fact and Fancy: The Ethical-Aesthetic in Dickens’s Hard Times.” The Review specifies that manuscripts cannot exceed 3000 words, although exceptions can be made. It also requires submissions to use MLA style. Looking at several previous submissions, the number of references used ranges anywhere from 5 to 15, although 11 to 13 seems to be the most common range. These are texts used in the essays in addition to the primary text.

2. Ever since Samuel Taylor Coleridge insisted on Iago’s “motiveless malignity” circa 1822 (190), Shakespeare critics have been fascinated by Iago’s motive, or lack thereof. Iago makes his reasons explicit—he desires the lieutenant rank and fears Othello has made him a cuckold—yet critics continue to debate the underlying cause for his revenge. In her 1997 article “Iago’s Alter Ego: Race as Projection in Othello,” Janet Adelman takes a psychoanalytical approach, viewing Iago as a fragmented individual. She notes, “Iago successfully attempts to rid himself of interior pain by replicating it in Othello” (113). In his 1994 article “The Humiliation of Iago,” Karl Zender posits Desdemona as the cause of Iago’s scheming, claiming that she humiliates him by exposing his inability to play a “wit game” she considers “a courtly pastime” (329), causing Iago to influence Othello’s turn on her. In her 1989 article “Sexuality and Racial Difference,” Ania Loomba notes that Iago’s proclaimed “love” for Desdemona and desire to be “even’d with him [Othello], wife for wife” is less due to actual suspicions of Emilia’s infidelity and more due to his vision of himself as the “’protector’ of all white women from black men” (804).

The above quote is from the article “’Put Money in thy Purse’: The Economy of Evil in Shakespeare’s Othello” by Erin Sharpe (26-27). This is only part of a larger paragraph that establishes Iago’s motive in Othello as a point of significant puzzlement to scholars and then goes on to elaborate on a number of the supposed motives of Iago through different literary criticisms, like psychoanalysis and critical race theory. I find it interesting that this author chooses to name the authors, the name of their article, and the year in which it was published as part of the text instead of as a parenthetical citation, but writing it this way and using the same structure over and over to introduce each new theory helps create a parallel between each of the different theories. This makes it more apparent at the end of the paragraph (not typed here) when the author finally remarks on what these articles fail to notice, rather than what they do say, breaking from the structure she repeated throughout the paragraph. It is also important to note that these articles do not converse with each other but remain completely separate, something I overlooked when first reading this paragraph. This helps establish the parallel and show the broad range of theories that have been postulated concerning Iago’s motives.

3. I would say that one of the major expectations of this journal is to work with existing research. I don’t think it has to be as extensive as this one was, but you have to fit your paper into the existing literature and establish what that literature is before moving on to your own point. And it has to be done at the beginning so people can start reading your paper and know what direction you’re going in and why this is something new. Otherwise readers won’t know why they should keep reading.


The current draft of the paper I am working with only uses two references in addition to the primary text, which is not enough according to what most other papers have submitted. However, these are texts used throughout my paper and are not setting the scene for exisiting research in the area of my paper, which I think is what a number of those references do in the submitted essays. In order to prepare my essay for submission, I need to research other examples of articles that have analyzed the struggle between the consumption and production ethics in the 1930s and add a paragraph detailing my findings. If I cannot find this research, then I think I should add a paragraph talking about why I decided to do this, why it is relevant, and how people could continue what I have started so far.

Definition Practices

The article I chose for this post is titled “’Touching a Secret Spring’: Catherine’s Sexual Awakening in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey” by Cayla Eagon in the 2012 Sigma Tau Delta Review. In the entire article, I was actually only able to find one definition, or at least there was only one that stuck out. The article is a psychoanalytic analysis of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, a novel that parodies the Gothic stories that were so popular at the time. The author chose to define “the Gothic tale” with a scholarly quote, and used another quote to elaborate further, although I’m not sure if I would consider this part of the definition or not (80). In the context of this article, the author seems to assume the reader already knows what a Gothic tale is and chooses to add a definition that frames it in psychosexual terms. This is important for the rest of the article because the author is setting up a comparison between “the text’s Gothic features and Austen’s parody of them” (79), and this gives readers the psychoanalytic background of a Gothic tale that helps them in understanding this comparison. It makes sense, then, that this definition comes closer to the beginning of the article as the author wraps up her introduction but before she gets into her interpretation of the text. However, what I noticed in this text was not so much the use of definitions as the lack of them. The author talks a lot about the implications and expectations of the Gothic novel, but she never defines what those are for the reader. I think it’s fair to say that scholars in that particular field would know what it is, but I think this article would have benefited from a paragraph elaborating on the Gothic novel before going into the psychosexual analysis, especially since it is part of a general undergraduate journal and not a more specific Gothic one. It would make it more accessible to a wider range of readers and really strengthen the analysis so that readers have more of a context for her claims.

Also, on rereading the article I saw something that could count as a definition in terms of what a castle represents in Gothic literature (81-82). It is a quote from psychoanalytic scholars that she uses as it becomes relevant to her argument in order to reinforce her interpretation of Northanger Abbey. This is different from the other definitions of representation in that this is a definition for the genre as a whole, while the definitions later in the paragraph are really more her interpretations of what specific images from the text represent.

Style of Dense Passages

“In short, Chamberlain, in the only open discussion of theology in the play, is more interested in the political implications of Cranmer’s theology than whether it will actually strengthen or weaken the newly formed Anglican Church” (“Comparing Shakespeare’s Henry VIII to the Historical Henry” by Philip Derbesy 124-125).
The only time religion is discussed in the play, they are more interested in what it means than in evaluating the new church.

“This king, imperfect though he was, was invaluable in the creation of contemporary Britain” (“Comparing Shakespeare’s Henry VIII to the Historical Henry” by Philip Derbesy 126).
Even though the king wasn’t perfect, he was important in creating modern Britain.

“Iago’s alienation is a direct result of the emerging capitalist system, for Venice allows Othello’s word to outweigh the suggestion of its leaders to make Iago his lieutenant.” (“’Put Money in thy Purse’: The Economy of Evil in Shakespeare’s Othello” by Erin Sharpe 28)
Iago is alienated because of the new economic system that gives Othello more power and lets him make Iago his lieutenant.

This assignment was really difficult for me. I looked at a few articles and tried to find places that were hard to understand because of nominalization, but I couldn’t find any. That’s not to say that nominalization isn’t present in this journal, because it definitely is. It’s just that a lot of the nominalization that is used is common in everyday speech or relatively simple to interpret. I think what you see more in English journals that might make them more difficult to understand is a higher level of vocabulary and more abstract ideas and analyses that readers outside of the field might not be used to. The area that uses nominalization in English is much narrower and not frequently encountered. I’m thinking along the lines of Simone Beauvoir and Jacques Derrida, who were responsible for creating some of the philosophical foundations of English and can be very difficult to read. But for the most part you don’t see this in English literary journals. The sentences I picked have examples of nominalization that I attempted to break down into simpler speech, but I’m not sure I would call them difficult to understand in the first place because they don’t use a lot of abstract noun compositions that I think is more prevalent in scientific writing. However, by doing this you can see how much more polished and nuanced the original text is than the simplified rewrite.

General Academic Style

The two articles I chose to compare are “’Touching a Secret Spring’: Catherine’s Sexual Awakening in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey” and “’Put Money in thy Purse’: The Economy of Evil in Shakespeare’s Othello,” both in the 2012 edition of the Sigma Tau Delta Review. I realized when I was looking at the table of contents for the Review that the most important thing that affects the style of these articles is the assumption that the reader is familiar with the text. Neither one of them spends time talking about the text or explaining who a character is, they just jump right in and start talking like the reader is already familiar with the play. This makes it difficult if not impossible for someone to read and understand these articles if they haven’t read the texts the author is analyzing. The other thing they both do is apply a specific literary theory. The mention the theory by name and that they are using it to make an analysis of their chosen text. This is relevant because they also expect the reader to already be familiar with the theory and a lot of its terms, so they don’t spend very much time explaining it except to clarify here and there.

I also noticed when comparing these two texts that they use very similar structures. Both of them introduce their text and what they’re writing about, then move into analysis that has already been done and how they are doing something different. Then they move into the body of their paper, which focuses heavily on the text itself but draws on different references here and there. Once the author reaches the end of the essay, he or she will conclude their own argument and talk about how their own essay has added to the broader field of research in which they are writing. They both used this framework almost to a T, and I suspect a lot of other articles do this as well.

I did notice when reading these two texts, though, that the Othello article was much more difficult to read, and I think a lot of that has to do with the language. While both are academic and professional, the Othello article has a lot of phrases like “Even though Iago admits only a lust for revenge, his emphasis on economic gain reveals money as the underlying motive in his plot to overthrow the source of his alienation, Othello, ironically implicating the superstructure of Venice in its own tragedy due to its espousal of capitalist values” (26). The author structures sentences like this a lot in her text. The sentence is really long with a lot of information packed into it, with really advanced and even esoteric vocabulary. In contrast, the Northanger Abbey essay, while still academic, had a much different style that made it easier to read. For instance, the author writes “There is no doubt of the novel’s concern with Catherine’s developing maturity, as it is a coming of age story and that it includes a sexual awakening is no great stretch of the imagination in light of the text’s Gothic elements” (80). This sentence is also long, although not as long as the Othello one and with less information packed into it. It also uses simpler vocabulary, even colloquialisms, that make it easier to understand, although there are a few terms in there that an unfamiliar reader would need defined, like “sexual awakening” and “Gothic elements.”

From my comparison, I would say the structure of the article and the way in which sources are used is a very important expectation for this journal. I also thought it was interesting that the authors both refer to the authors of their references in text, bringing the other authors into the conversation instead of removing them from the text. Both authors also assume that the reader has read the text in question and is familiar with the type of criticism they are using in their essay. However, it looks like there is a lot of range in terms of the language and sentence structure used in the essays that are more reflections of the author’s personal style.

Knowledge-Making Cues

This article is definitely qualitative. There are instances in which quantitative measures can be used in English paper, but for the most part literary journals are overwhelmingly qualitative. There isn’t a specific methods section in this paper (most literary criticism articles don’t break down into titled sections), but there is a paragraph after the introduction that highlights the direction in which the paper will be moving. Here, the author outlines the content of her paper, using quotes from different sources to highlight the positional of this paper that she plans to flesh out. For instance, she writes “According to Stephen Derry in his brief psychoanalytic account of the text, ‘Northanger Abbey is concerned with Catherine Morland’s process of maturation, which includes the awakening of her sexuality’” (80). Here, she introduces Derry and his “brief” analysis that she will develop in her own paper. She does this for two other authors before writing “With these thoughts in mind, Catherine’s relationship to the Gothic can be explored in greater detail” (80). By doing this, the author highlights a few different brief analysis of her chosen text and starts to show how she will connect them together into paper, which will go more in-depth than the sources she mentions. She doesn’t use the methodological I, or even very many passive statements about how she will analyze the text. In fact, it is only the sentence the end that confirms the paragraph is a methodological one. I would say that the methodological I would be inappropriate in this text because it is so passive and focused on previous works that using the methodological I would only be distracting because it would stick out so much from the rest of the text.

I already mentioned how “brief” (80) was used as a modal expression, which was significant in its use because it signaled a lack of concrete analysis of Northanger Abbey from a psychoanalytic view. In the following paragraph, the author uses phrases like “seems to,” “not quite so,” “not as dangerous,” and “extraordinarily” (80-81). However, looking at the following two paragraphs, almost no modal expressions are used. At first I thought this was just because it was a section focusing on textual analysis, which is interpretation of a text and mostly consists of statements, so I wasn’t surprised not to see modal expressions there. But the conclusion didn’t have many modal expressions, either. She says “perhaps” (85) when referring to potential intentions of Austen, but later says either intent is irrelevant. She later calls Austen’s contribution “major” (85) and says her “brilliance is not being fully appreciated” (86). But none of these significantly alter the content of the text. While modal expressions are a natural part of speech and play a significant role in scientific texts, they do not seem to be as much a part of literary criticism texts. I would say this extends to limiting expressions as well. Besides the introductory sentence, which starts “Among the criticism on Jane Austen’s novels, Northanger Abbey is one that is less-critiqued” (79) and limits the range of scholarship the author is looking at, limiting expressions do not pay a major role in this article.

As far as tense goes, most of the article is written in present and present progressive tenses. This is significant because even though the book was written in the early nineteenth century, it is treated as though it is a part of the present. Some present perfect is used in the introduction (“has received,” “has sparked” (79)), but this is only to introduce what previous scholars have written. The rest of the paper is written in present tense, which I think is characteristic of literary criticism articles.

Introductions and Conclusions

The article I am using for this wiki post is “’With a Heart as Willing’: Service, Reciprocity, and Volitional Primacy in Shakespeare’s The Tempest” by Lauren McConnell from the 2012 edition of the Sigma Tau Delta Review (88-97). Her introduction starts with a general statement about how critics typically read Shakespeare’s The Tempest and then goes into how this interpretation overlooks something, how readers can gain a better understanding, and what this understanding means. The conclusion, on the other hand, talks about the resolutions of each of the master-servant relationships she has explored in the paper and ends with a statement that concludes the entire paper, restating what she has argued about the play and ending with her own interpretation.

Modality seems to play a more important role in the introduction. The most important one she uses states “one tends to overlook” (88). There are a few others, but I think they play an important role here because, like the text states, it is a symbol of respect for other researchers. She isn’t dismissing their work, just saying they have a tendency to overlook something, which is much nicer than saying they missed or ignored it. She also states that her interpretation makes the characters “more dynamic” (88), suggesting that other researchers have already acknowledged their dynamism, but not to the extent that she is about to argue. In the conclusion, though, modal and limiting expressions play a very minor role. I would say they are more characteristic of natural language here than something that needs to be paid attention to because the bulk of the conclusion is summarizing the conclusion of the play.

The conclusion does and does not end with a moralizing conclusion. She says “there are no victims, only active agents who must make their own choices as to whether or live in perfect freedom or base bondage” (96). She is saying what the characters have to do, but in doing this she is also telling readers how to interpret The Tempest and even how to potentially make choices in their own lives.

For the most part, I would say the introduction and conclusion serve very different purposes in this paper, unlike standard English papers where the conclusion restates the introduction. The intro sets up how people typically read The Tempest and how she is going to read The Tempest, concluding with what could be considered a thesis statement about her argument for the paper. In the conclusion she is wrapping up the play and ends with a sentence that says how all of this proves her thesis statement, but she ends it in a way that tells the characters (and the readers) what to do.

Project 2

The New Yorker Draft 1
The New Yorker Final Draft

The New Yorker

Unfortunately, The New Yorker doesn’t seem to have a page that tells who they are or what their mission is. However, from looking at the content of the magazine, they like writing about a wide variety of things. They have a politics section and a culture section and a science and tech section. They seem to include everything that can contribute to making the reader a well-rounded person with a particular emphasis on culture. Based off of the content and language level, I think this is aimed at an educated reader. Culture and the arts seem to have more of an association with educated readers, and while the articles don’t expect readers to be experts, they are supposed to have large vocabularies and understand classical references.

The article I found from The New Yorker is "H.G. Well's Ghost" by Brad Leithauser. This article accomplishes a few different things with H.G. Well’s The Time Machine. First he puts it in a historical context, then he provides a brief summary followed by some analysis of the text, and then he concludes by talking about the legacy of the book. The audience of this article is definitely educated, more specifically in literary tradition. He makes a lot of references to literary works and myths like “Shelley’s Ozymandias” and “Ares and Chronos” and W.H. Auden. There’s definitely an expectation that readers are familiar with them. My problem with this article is I had a hard time discerning the author’s purpose. He seemed to want to take a walk down memory lane and talk about The Time Machine, and he made the point that the book spends a lot of time talking about how the culture in the book evolved out of the culture of the reader. His conclusion says how Wells would have done well in the present day, but I had a hard time following how he got there. Before writing my own article, I think I’ll plan on finding a few more articles to look at, because while I understood who the audience was and how it fit into the literary genre, the author’s style of bringing in a lot of other texts and information made it difficult to follow the article and understand its purpose.

My article as it is doesn’t belong outside of a literary criticism journal. However, I do think I could adapt it to fit in The New Yorker, which publishes a lot of original fiction and book criticisms. The New Yorker is a good venue for my project because of its dedication to literature and culture, two elements that are important in the paper I wrote. Because there is no set format for this magazine, there are a lot of different ways I could go with this article, but I will try to do something similar to the article I analyzed above.

Revision Plan

The publication I am writing my article is The New Yorker, which utilizes both a monthly magazine and online content. It is a mixed genre magazine, drawing on current events, criticism, and original fiction work. Historically it has had a very close connection to literature. As a result, people who read this magazine typically have more literary interests, and they are usually educated. They read it for a more thorough look at current events and culture as opposed to just the news usually found in newspapers.

The topic of my article is a cultural analysis of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Babylon Revisited.” This is a nice match because it draws on both literary criticism and cultural relevance, which connects well with the audience of The New Yorker. I think the news value element will be a new interpretation of an old story and its relevance to today. The purpose, then, of my article to partly to inform and partly to get people to think more about where our culture is at today following the so-called Great Recession. Hopefully in response they can more clearly identify social problems we are facing today and start thinking of ways to address them.

I am still unclear as to the exact organization of my paper as I want to find a better article to mirror mine after. However, I do know it will start with some sort of hook, then move into a summary of “Babylon Revisited,” then into a highly condensed version of my argument, and finally draw on parallels to today’s society. This reorganization is appropriate because readers are no longer expected to be familiar with the work I am analyzing, and this type of article is not so much focused on supporting an interpretation of the text as simply providing it and telling the audience why it matters. The style will also change significantly as a result of the target audience. There will be a lot less quotes and supporting-my-argument style writing because the purpose of the article has changed. It will also take on a less academic tone and language and become more conversational. Because the target audience is still educated, I can still maintain higher levels of language and vocabulary, but as academic writing is typically seen as dry, I will have to change it up.

As for essential and non-essential information, it’s difficult to break them apart since they’re woven throughout my entire paper. However, my plan is to do a lot more summarizing of my argument, just conveying the general ideas rather than going as in-depth as my original article. For the most part, though, I think my argument will still look very similar, just significantly shorter and in a different style. I will cut the establishing knowledge section because the audience of The New Yorker will not be interested, but I plan to keep Malcolm Cowley in. He’s a famous literary critic and author and I think is acceptable to keep in my article.

Project 3

Editorial Introduction Final Draft

Edited Collection

For Project 3, I decided to write an introduction to a collection of works. Introductions usually include the editor’s intentions for collecting these specific works, why each work has been included, and what they hope to accomplish by displaying these works together.

The audience is someone who is interested in the topic and is likely an expert, but not necessarily. I think it would be expected that they are familiar with the works over which the articles are about (in this case “Babylon Revisited,” but possibly other works by F. Scott Fitzgerald), but that they might not be familiar with the existing research. I will definitely need to explain the things I mentioned earlier, but I don’t think I’ll need to include summaries of the texts themselves.

The purpose of collecting a series of works is to showcase them and present different sides of an issue side by side. Hopefully doing this can give readers a new perspective on the primary sources and a better understanding of the theme that connects them.

In my project, I plan to use consumerism and F. Scott Fitzgerald as the theme of my collected works. I’ll need to find articles about consumerism in the twenties and thirties as well as articles about consumerism and the works of F. Scott Fitzgerald. I’m hoping I can find articles that specifically relate to consumerism and Fitzgerald’s other works because I would like to use them to show Fitzgerald’s progression, but that might not be possible. My original scholarly article will be one of the articles included in this collection. That means that my project will be related to my original article, but it will not have any of the same content. I plan to include some background on consumerism, what life was like in the twenties and thirties, why I am specifically looking at F. Scott Fitzgerald, why this collection is being made, why each of these articles is being included, and how it can contribute to the reader’s overall understanding of the issue.

Included Texts

Living on $500,000 a Year
A Diamond Bigger Than the Ritz: F. Scott Fitzgerald and the Gold Standard
Deceitful Traces of Power: An Analysis of the Decadence of Tom Buchanan in The Great Gatsby
Possessions in The Great Gatsby
Paying Forever: A Cultural Analysis of Fitzgerald's "Babylon Revisited"

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