Honestly, before this class, the way I wrote varied from paper to paper‒ mostly depending on the due date. Sometimes, I just hunched over my computer, furiously typing every thought that came to me. At other times, I came up with an extremely vague outline to have something to look back at and think, “Oh, I could include that too!” Yet again, other papers were last minute attempts to fill up the page minimum. My writing process was lacking any real sort of structure or revision. Writing was about the product, not the process.

And man, did that change through this class. Now, I knew I needed to revise no matter what. And the peer review days were actually helpful; instead of focusing in on grammar, we concentrated on ideas and evidence, which was a breath of fresh air. In addition to peer review and revising, my writing process has improved immensely throughout the course of this class. No longer do I think about the topic for a few days before I finally decide I should probably get a start on the paper due very soon.

Now, I have realized that I need to physically write out my ideas on paper. Writing my ideas out helps me to visualize and order them in a coherent way, allowing me the ability to connect ideas from paragraph to paragraph.  You can see examples of my brainstorming sessions in my Critical Contextualization, Psychoanalytic Critique (which is written in a wonderfully obnoxious pink), and Gender Critique/Deconstruction processes.

This portfolio is a detailed account of exactly how my writing process has changed. It shows a semester’s worth of late nights trying to perfect a paper (which I now realize is impossible), furious sounds of tap-tapping on a keyboard, and confusing moments of trying to wrap my head around complicated theories.

In this class, we had to write six essays, each centering on a writing skill or theoretical perspective. The writing skills covered in the first three essays were close reading, historical contextualization, and critical contextualization, each helping us to understand The Tempest. For the last three essays of the semester, we were tasked with trying on three different theoretical perspectives‒psychoanalytic critique, Marxism or New Historicist critique, and gender critique or deconstruction‒ to understand Hamlet. You can find the process of each essay in the Process Portfolio tab.

In the Presentation Portfolio are the four essays that I think exemplify my best works for the semester. Each essay demonstrates different skills or abilities I have improved on through taking this class.

You may ask why it’s important that my writing process has changed for the better. Here’s my answer: improving your writing helps to improve your reading, just as reading improves your writing. And no matter what people say, reading and writing are important.

At the beginning of the semester, we were asked, “Why do we study literature?” Obviously, because I am an English major, I believe literature is essential. But I never really had a reason I could put into words. Though my answer still seems a little ineffable, I think this semester has brought me closer to explaining it in words; instead of fluffy clouds of fleeting half-thoughts in my head, my reason for studying literature has become more of a blurry bunch of words.

Literature is a way for us to understand the world. We can close our eyes to reality, but we open them when we read literature. Literature provides us with an opportunity to see the world in millions of perspectives, making us feel more connected to people from all cultures through, and connection breeds empathy. Truthfully, I think my love for reading has made me into a better person for just this reason; I have experienced the lives of very different characters through literature, so I feel more connected to people. Literature helps us to understand the world, the people around us, and ourselves. What else can do that?

I also think literature entertains us. Some people don’t see the value in that, but I do. Literature is fun. And I think if a novel only entertains, that’s okay. It all depends on what you like.

Again, my answer to “Why do we read literature” is still a pretty jumbled mess of puzzle pieces, but I like to think I have at least created the border; all that’s left is the middle.