occasionally moldinghis monstrous exemplars within distinctive cultural characteristics H u m a n i t i e s

occasionally moldinghis monstrous exemplars within distinctive cultural characteristics H u m a n i t i e s

This week we are going to be working on one of the last big parts of our researched literary argument: the literature (or lit) review.

For this assignment, we will be breaking down what a lit review is, the purpose of a lit review, and how to write a lit review. I will also be providing an example of what a sample lit review looks like. (For some of you this information may be review, but for some of you this may be new.

STEP ONE: Review the following relevant materials.

A Lit Review: What is it?

A standard lit review is a a survey of scholarly sources on a specific topic. It provides an overview of current knowledge, allowing you to identify relevant theories, methods, and gaps in the existing research. Conducting a literature review involves collecting, evaluating and analyzing publications (such as books and journal articles) that relate to your research question. A lit review most often appears as the first body paragraph of your essay, right after your introduction.

For our purposes, the lit review for your researched argument essay, the lit review will only contain information about your anchor source (the main source for your essay), so this means that it would cover either just the novel, just the movie, or be a combination lit review of both the novel and the movie. For the rest of your sources, those should be introduced to your audience the first time you mention them in your essay.

The Purpose of It: Why Do We Write a Lit Review?

When you write a thesis, dissertation, or research paper, you will have to conduct a literature review to situate your research within existing knowledge. The literature review gives you a chance to:

  • Demonstrate your familiarity with the topic and scholarly context
  • Develop a theoretical framework and methodology for your research
  • Position yourself in relation to other researchers and theorists
  • Show how your research addresses a gap or contributes to a debate

You might also have to write a literature review as a stand-alone assignment. In this case, the purpose is to evaluate the current state of research and demonstrate your knowledge of scholarly debates around a topic.

The content will look slightly different in each case, but the process of conducting a literature review follows the same steps.

Most importantly, we write a lit review to introduce our audience to the anchor text, or the source that is the main basis and focus of our argument. (This is also why for our purposes, you lit review will only focus on the one source if you are using the book or the movie, and two sources if you are focusing on the book and the movie.)

The Meat of It: What Goes in a Lit Review?

Your lit review needs to establishes and explain your anchor source’s main points in a body paragraph. It should summarize the source’s argument, claims, and evidence; this may include relevant plot points and the overarching thesis of the work. Discuss the relevant ideas of the source as if you were explaining them to someone who was unfamiliar with the text.

The second half of your lit review needs to both explain the intended audience of the work, the tone used by the author/director, and the author or director’s purpose of creating the source as well as a rhetorical analysis of the successfulness of the source. Make sure to state why this source is successful or not.

Remember when you are writing your lit review, you should connect the source back to your focused research question(s) and/or your thesis.

What Should My Lit Review Look Like?

This is an example from a student who completed the same assignment assignment, and this example is a successful integration of all parts of a lit review that focuses on Cohen just like yours should. This lit review covers most of the theses in “Monster Culture,” but yours only needs to focus on the theses you decided to focus on for your essay. You only need to explain the specific theses you are going to connect to your monsters.

PRO-TIP: Go back to the worksheet you filled out for Breaking Down Cohen, all the information that you wrote down on that worksheet should appear somewhere in your lit review.

Example: Before embarking upon our characterization of Godzilla, we must first characterize Cohen’s argument. His essay claims that examination of a given monster’s traits may yield insight into the cultures they inhabit. Cohen supports his dissertation with his seven theses, which are each complex and weighty enough to exist independently as an argument in its own right. Since seven is confusingly excessive, we shall focus upon his most relevant theses, of which there are only four. The first thesis we shall examine is Cohen’s Thesis 2, which states that a monster’s existence is based upon its indestructibility. The monster eludes our understanding and can even be invoked as a perceived connection to immediate social issues. Thereupon, the surmised threat the monster poses is through its mutability and difficulty to combat. The monster’s mutability is key as we move into Cohen’s Thesis 3, which contends that monsters are dangerous because they are “full of rebuke to traditional methods of organizing knowledge and human experiences (Cohen 7). Its challenge to our cultural understanding becomes something simultaneously discomfiting and perilous. Similarly unnerving is the alien-ness of the monster: in Thesis 4, Cohen claims that monstrosity comes through difference in culture, which is often specified racially, economically, or sexually. True to form, the monster threatens to erase difference in the world of its creators, thus revealing the fragility of the established system (Cohen 11). The final Cohen thesis we will inspect is Thesis 5, which dictates that the monster serves to warn against curiosity and reminds us not to test the limits set in place by our encompassing culture. These theses individually examine various essential monstrous characteristics and determine how each monstrosity challenges the mores or understandings unique to each culture. In support of his theses, Cohen invokes a plethora of examples originating from mythology, history, wordplay, and even current day practices. He then makes his point by emphasizing the way the monster infringes upon the traditions established by its respective culture. Although Cohen’s argument ultimately weakens because of his somewhat recursive methodology of occasionally molding
his monstrous exemplars within distinctive cultural characteristics, his essay provides a fresh outlook for
a reader with an interest in cultural studies. Freshly and adequately armed with Cohen’s methodology, we
can now examine Godzilla against the backdrop of Japanese culture and history to find the reason for his
half-century reign as King of Monsters.


If you need more clarification on lit reviews, I’ve put the following videos together in support. While these videos cover lit reviews that focus on more than one text, they share the same basis as a singular source lit review.

What is a Literature Review? Explained | Scribbr

Outlining Your Literature Review’s Structure | Scribbr

How to Write a Literature Review | Wordvice

STEP TWO: Write Your Lit Review

Based on the previously covered materials, write a lit review for Cohen for your Essay 3. Remember, you only need to include the theses you chose to connect to your monsters in this lit review, not all seven.

STEP THREE: Submit Your Lit Review to this Submission Link

STEP FOUR: Add your Lit Review to the next draft of your essay

Go to the current draft of your essay that you are working on and add this lit review you have just created as the first body paragraph in your document.

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