Writing a response to a literary critique

Let's take a step-by-step look at how to write the introduction for a response to a literary critique.

First write a sentence mentioning the novel you read for class and include an overview of the entire book.
          Benito Cereno by Herman Melville (1855), Animal Farm by George Orwell (1945), or Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897).

This will help your audience to understand what your paper is about.

Next: Write a sentence explaining to what critical literary essay are you responding?
          1) Grandin, Greg. “Who Ain’t a Slave? Historical fact and fiction of ‘Benito Cereno’. The Chronicle of Higher Education. 16 Dec. 2013. www.chronicle.com. 
          2) Rodden, John and John Rossi. “Animal Farm at 70.” Modern Age. Vol. 58, no. 4, pp. 19- 27. EBSCO host.
           Or 3) Senf, Carol A. “‘Dracula’: The Unseen Face in the Mirror.” The Journal of Narrative Technique. Vol. 9, no. 3, Fall 1979.Pp. 160-170. EBSCO Host.

This sentence should include the name of the critical essay, the author, and an overview of the entire essay. Yes, this sentence has to do a lot of work.

By starting with these two sentences, your readers have some idea of what they are getting ready to read in your response essay.

Next: So now let's create some background sentences in this introduction to help prepare your readers.
          1) Write a sentence or two explaining what exactly you agreed with in the critical literary essay?
          2) Next write a sentence or two explaining what exactly you disagreed with in the critical literary essay?
          3) Next write a sentence or two explaining where you have mixed feelings with the critical literary essay?

Remember, the critical literary essay was not written for you. It was written for a college-educated audience with some interest in the original novel being discussed. Just because you don't know anything about communism or socialism, or hadn't thought about Dracula as a sexual work does not mean that the critical essay was written poorly - it simply means you have not done as much reading as you will have done by the time you finish college (hopefully). In other words, you may have to do some Wikipedia searches while reading the critical essay to understand all the historical references (which I encourage).

Finally: Write a one-sentence thesis statement that presents your response to the critical essay, and, yes this will be a long sentence because you are asking it to also do a lot of work.

YAY! You should have a pretty-solid introduction.

Once you finish these sentences, look at adding transitional sentences if needed and rewrite some them in order to avoid using the same construction over and over again.

Once you begin writing the paper, think about how the critical essay writer uses fact, opinion, judgment, evaluation, and interpretation to sway his or her audience (and especially you) and include this in your body paragraphs.


  1. Animal Farm by George Orwell (1945)
    Rodden, John and John Rossi. “Animal Farm at 70.” Modern Age. Vol. 58, no. 4, pp. 19- 27. EBSCO host.
    I agree that the circumastances shaping the American reception of this Englishman's "squib" generated cultural and intellectual tremors that contributed decisively to the decades-long ideological fault lines that surfaced between the United States and the Soviet Union.
    I don't agree that Orwell thinks the essence of socialism was that it championed “justice and liberty,”, I consider that Orwell is satire the socialism, because this world can not own absolute "justice and liberty", it won't be realized.
    In my opinion, A seemingly prosperous country, in fact, lives entirely in lies. In Orwell's eyes, the so-called Soviet myth is like the farce of animals on a farm. This absurdity runs through the whole process, from the correspondence of characters and images to the analogy of the country with animal-like behavior, which is both vivid and humorous, but also full of bitter sarcasm and just torture.
    Democracy is just a gimmick. Revolution moves from one dictatorship to another.

  2. In Benito Cereno by Herman Melville, Captain Delano is tricked into believing that a stranded ship is led by Captain Cereno who is in charge of all the slaves on the ship, while in reality the slaves are in charge of Cereno. It is because of this that Greg Grandin argues in “Who Ain’t a Slave? Historical fact and fiction of ‘Benito Cereno’" that everyone is a slave, whether it be literal or metaphorical. Although I disagree with Grandin's statement that everyone is a slave, I do agree with his statement that "Benito Cereno" is "one of the bleakest pieces of writing in American literature" (Grandin). This is because the story takes place in Delano's mind so a lot of the novel is focused on him just describing what goes on on the ship which is very boring to read about for 75 pages. One point that Grandin makes is that there will always be some sort of form of slavery as time goes on and it will always adapt to the time period. This statement seems logical to me, but because it is thrown in at the end of his essay without any real evidence I cannot neither accept nor believe in it. I disagree with Grandin for multiple reasons: I do not agree with his belief that everyone is a slave, he does not use sufficient evidence to back his claims, and also uses multiple logical fallacies when he does have evidence for his claims.

  3. Chas Smith V

    In Benito Cereno by Herman Melville, Captain Delano is mislead into believing that a ship filled with rebels was in fact a slave ship, thanks to the deception by the ex-captain of the ship, Benito Cereno and the rebel's leader. In "Who Ain’t a Slave? Historical fact and fiction of ‘Benito Cereno’" Greg Grandin argues that everybody is a slave, whether they are aware of it or not. The one thing that I can agree with Grandin on is that "Benito Cereno" is one of the most bleak and annoying pieces of literature in American history. It is all-around pretty confusing to read, which makes sense because Melville was trying to make the story confusing, as it was being seen from the confused Delano's point of view. Other than that, pretty much everything that Grandin states I don't find to be very agreeable. I disagree with Grandin's main claim, that everyone is a slave whether they're aware of it or not. I also disagree with Grandin's claim that Melville paints Delano out to be a "blunt-thinking American" of "singularly undistrustful good nature" (Grandin). Melville doesn't portray Delano in this way, which can be shown by how he is constantly having doubts in his mind, and by his actions he eventually takes, against his own convictions, by putting down the rebellion. The evidence that Grandin tries to use is hardly relevant to what he is trying to prove, and some of his claims aren't backed up by anything to begin with. Grandin's work also has some logical fallacies.

    I disagree with Grandin's claims that everyone is a slave, and that Melville paints out Delano to be a dull American. Grandin also lacks sufficient evidence that would make his claims more believable, and has logical fallacies that hurt his argument more than support it.

  4. In the novel Dracula (1897) ,Bram Stoker tells the story of a vampire named Dracula, whose goal is to move from Transylvania to English, so he can spread his vampire curse. Along the way Dracula runs across multiple men and women who want him destroyed.
    In the essay Im responding to by Senf, Carol A. titled “‘Dracula’: The Unseen Face in the Mirror.” The Journal of Narrative Technique. Vol. 9, no. 3, Fall 1979.Pp. 160-170. EBSCO Host. She states that the novel was about the similarities between Good and Evil, instead of the differences. I agree with Senf’s point that dracula and his enemies are similar , that the novel is addressing the similarities between them. I also agree with that statement that the characters, and storytellers may not be mentally sane, which leads the story overall to be untrustworthy. When comparing Good and Evil in the novel Dracula, there are clear similarities between the two, which leads Senf to explain in her Analytical essay, the similarities of Dracula to his opponents.

  5. Max T:
    Dracula, a novel by Bram Stoker, is a compilation of the protagonists’ personal accounts detailing their individual interactions with and campaigns against the antagonist -- the legendary vampire, Count Dracula. While there have been innumerable critical literary assessments of the underlying messages innate within Dracula, I will be concentrating, primarily, on Carol A. Senf’s “‘Dracula’: The Unseen Face in the Mirror”; a criticism that characterizes the novel as a commentary on the similarities between good and evil. Senf’s criticism of Dracula included several valid points, particularly, the characterization of Dracula as an internal, sexual threat, the unreliability of the narrators, and the character traits shared by Dracula and the protagonists. On the other hand, there were also elements within Senf’s criticism that led to erroneous assessments of the text, namely, failing to provide critical context that undermines her arguments and neglecting to view Dracula, more thoroughly, through a cultural lens. However, my experience with the literary criticism was not one of absolutes. While I found myself, generally, in agreement with the concept of sexuality as a theme in the novel, Senf’s criticism very minimally accounts for the cultural significance of interpretations of the novel. Although Carol Senf crafts a somewhat viable argument on the similarity of good and evil in Dracula, her disposition is inherently shaky because she often provides interpretations of the novel while simultaneously neglecting to provide critical context of the narrative’s events and fails to adequately examine the text as a cultural product of its time.

  6. 1) I read Benito Cereno. The book is about the events on the Tryal. Amasa Delano and his crew board the Tryal after it seemed in distress, the rest of the story chronicles the unfolding of the disguise the slaves and captain on the ship hide behind.
    2) I am responding to the article "who ain't a slave?" by Greg Grandin, the essay states that the foundation of the americas in the 1700's is formed from american slave trade then talks about Amasa Delano the captain of the ship that found benito cereno and how naive damaso is.
    3) I agree with the author of the critical essay on the point that Amasa Delano is naive, throughout the book he blatantly misses clues about the people on the ship
    4) I disagree with the author on his statement that the americas were founded and depended upon slavery to support freedom and thrive in the 1700's. many factors created the foundation of America in the 1700's.
    5) I have mixed feelings about how the author talks about his ideas in the essay, his ideas are not thoroughly supported, and all the paragraphs are vague, but he hits on some of his points with a tiny bit of detail which creates my mixed feelings.
    6) The article titled “Who Ain’t a Slave? Historical fact and fiction of ‘Benito Cereno’." by Greg Grandin is about the truths and lies of the events that happened in Benito Cereno. Some of what the author says provide citations and proof, yet, some statements that Grandin make in his essay do not make sense and aren't backed up with thorough evidence.

  7. Bram Stoker’s, “Dracula”, follows a story about a English lawyer, Jonathan Harker, who travels to Castle Dracula in Transylvania a Eastern European country to find out about a real estate transaction with Count Dracula. Harker avoids all the signs and warnings to bravely pursue Count Dracula. Throughout the story Harker becomes uneasy when figuring out what Dracula really is. Simultaneously, we are introduced to Harker’s fiancée, Mina and she dealing with her best friends Lucy, who is showing vampire like symptoms. These stories ultimately lead to Dracula’s demise. Being that this story has been around for many years, there are a lot of interpretations of the hidden meanings. In this particular article by Carol A. Senf, “Dracula: The Unseen Face”, she looks into not the differences of good and evil but the similarities between the two. In terms of the similarities between the two I do agree to that extent. Especially when she talks about Stoker’s subtle hints of “… their unreliability and encourages the reader to see the frequent discrepancies between their professed beliefs and their actions” (Senf). Although this article’s talk about sexuality may be unnecessarily heightened, the similarities between good and evil are uncanny because of the actions of Dracula, Harker, Mina, and Van Helsing.

    - Bernard Cabanilla

  8. Benito Cereno by Herman Melville (1855) chronicles the fateful interaction between an experienced Western Sailor and a captive Spanish ship momentarily disguised as a mere slave ship. The academic response to this story entitled, "Benito Cereno by Herman Melville (1855)", written by Greg Grandin, analyzes the historical and cultural context that allowed this story to take place, and extrapolates some of the significance in comparison with the impending events in the United States during the mid-19th century. I agree with his assumptions that the idea of Freedom and slavery were in direct conflict with one another. I think the context Grandin tries to provide is helpful as well. However I think Grandin's over generalizations push the narrative a certain direction without maintaining a solid logical foundation. His general un-cited arguments tend to spill out of his specific examples, and are used to describe larger facets of our culture in unnecessarily broad strokes. While I agree with many of Grandin's initial arguments regarding the unique dichotomy of the slave/master relationship portrayed in Benito Cereno by Herman Melville, I feel his lack of evidence and over generalization takes away from his reliability.

  9. Albert Galustyan

    In the critical literary essay, Animal Farm at 70, I agree with what the authors said about how Animal Farm by George Orwell greatly contributed to the tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union, but I disagree with the authors' claim that Animal Farm was simple enough to be understood by anyone.

  10. Damon Akram:

    The novel Animal Farm by George Orwell (1945) is a story about animals on a farm that organize themselves and make rules to have a better life than they had when they were being controlled by humans, but there are many conflicts among the animals that reflect political conflict in the real world. John Rodden and John Rossi’s article, “Animal Farm at 70”, claims that the novel Animal Farm decisively caused the decades of conflict between the United States and Soviet Union; the essay also touches upon some of the events that happened during the time of the release of Animal Farm, and how they relate to the novel. The literary essay made some reasonable points that I can agree on as to how the novel contributed to the rising tensions between the two countries. The authors compared the impact of the release of Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four to that of the atomic bomb and the hydrogen bomb, but I do not believe the impact of the novels were that great. The authors of this literary critique essay make some bold claims about the impact of Animal Farm on relations between the United States and the Soviet Union, but while some of their points are convincing, the main argument of the essay seems to be weak and it is supported with little evidence as well as some logical fallacies.

  11. Benito Cereno written by Herman Melville in 1855 focuses on the point-of-view of Captain Delano who helps people on board the San Dominick ship. Delano meets the “Captain” of this ship, Benito Cereno, who acts very strange for someone who is supposed to be in charge. Delano also notices unusual instances happening on this ship including an African American slave child hitting a white child, no other commanding officers (besides Cereno of course), and Cereno himself acting strangely as well. It turns out that Babo, who is Cereno’s supposedly “right hand man”, is actually the leader of the slaves on the ship. They all overtook the ship and are trying to get back to Africa, however when Delano comes on board, they have to pretend to be slaves to not cause any distraction to what is really going on. In the end, as Delano goes on a boat to sail back to his ship, Cereno jumps into his boat. These two get away, and the slaves on San Dominick are put on trial and eventually executed. Greg Grandin’s “‘Who Ain’t a Slave’ Historical fact and the fiction of ‘Benito Cereno’” is the critical literary essay that I have the chance to respond to. In this essay, Grandin speaks upon an in depth summary of Benito Cereno, history behind the characters in the book, people being bound to one-another, and everyone existing as a slave in their own way. Grandin brings true statements in his article, which include that the book plays with the mind psychologically, everyone is a slave whether physically or mentally, and historical information explains why characters carry out certain tasks. What I personally disagree with is that his evidence does not always correlate to what his claims are. The mix feelings come with his logical fallacies and how Grandin uses information in a way that does not make much sense. “‘Who Ain’t a Slave’ Historical fact and the fiction of ‘Benito Cereno’” written by Greg Grandin, proves his thesis of humans being bounded to one another including everyone being a slave up to a point of comprehension, however, he weakens this and other claims with unnecessary information, misguidedness, and numerous fallacies.

  12. Jack Vallee

    George Orwell’s Animal Farm is an allegorical novella that reflects the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Stalinist era of the Soviet Union. In this satirical fable, the animals of Animal Farm stage a revolution to rebel from their master’s tyranny and create an idealistic state of justice and progress. Though successful at first, but the farm becomes a totalitarian state at the hands of the power hungry pig Napoleon, who becomes a dictator who turns Animal Farm into a deeper state of oppression. Since it was published in 1945, when the Cold War was just beginning, the book has seen continued success and popularity as denouncement of the Soviet Union as a totalitarian dictatorship. John Rossi and John Rodden provide solid analysis in explaining the extent of the legacy of Animal Farm and Orwell’s other works in their critique “Animal Farm at 70”, as the cultural impact of Orwell’s writing can still be clearly seen to this day. However, Rossi and Rodden make the mistake to claim that the popularity of Orwell’s writing was so influential that it was responsible for the decades long tension between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The essay provides insufficient proof through logical fallacies and contradictions to support this claim. On the contrary, there is an abundance of evidence to suggest that the political climate of the Cold War influenced Orwell’s success, not the other way around.

  13. Samuel Aranovich

    Animal Farm by George Orwell (1945) is a novel that is satirizing the Bolshevik revolution in order to inform the audience about the history and corruption of power by Joseph Stalin who at the time was treated favorably by most of the British and American population.

    Animal Farm at 70 by John Rossi is a critical literary essay response to Animal Farm that discusses the popularity of Animal Farm and critiques George Orwells writing in a positive way and commends him for his vision and opinion on the Bolshevik Revolution. I agree with the point John Rossi made that George Orwell’s views on totalitarianism and how power corrupts any individual that grabs it even if they were for noble ideas at first such as what was with Joseph Stalin. I disagree with the author of Animal Farm in his choice of evidence since he seems to use mostly ethos to support his claims, but I feel as if this is ineffective as he does not have a variety of styles of evidence to support his claim.Stalinism and totaliatiarism are problems that George Orwell knew about before anyone else realized, and Jorn Rossi used ethos to commend Orwell on his insight.

  14. George Orwell’s Animal Farm (1945) tells a story about a group of farm animals who fight for their freedom, but their success results in a conflict of power. The response essay, “Animal Farm at 70.” by John Rossi and John Rodden, talks about the novel’s portraying of the war between Russia and America and the various opinions of the book from different beliefs. I did agree with the idea of the novel being based on the idea of “communism” and the “Soviet Union” because that is Orwell’s general intent of what readers would expect from the novel. I also agree with the way that the author described the novel as an “Aesopian fable” because of the way that the novel contains simple storybook-like characters such as talking farm animals. I disagreed with how the author claimed that Animal Farm talked about the “cruelties of the Russian Revolution”, as the novel describes more than that. I had some mixed feelings toward the author noting that the novel was “against the betrayal of revolutionary dreams.” The novel expresses some parts of betrayal such as misrepresentation and greed for power, but the animals are somehow happy for their level of freedom because they have the basic necessities for survival. Despite the idea of the novel representing the ideas of Russia, Animal Farm can show many aspects of American culture and humanity culture in which the characters can be personified with while relating to the idea of politics.

  15. The critical literacy essay talks about how to set it up as a work cited page. This shows a work cited page with the correct format on how to set it all up. Work cited should include author last and first, title, year, and page.


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