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A critical essay is an analysis or evaluation of an already published text. It is an interpretation of the text through one’s perception. However, this analysis is independent of personal opinion and is purely informative.
The word "critical" has both a positive and negative meaning. A critical essay might be one that entirely supports the direct viewpoint with the text. Your attitude when while reading the piece of literature should be “critical” and not your approach in analysing it. It is necessary not to let feeling come in the way of literary analysis and this attitude is often termed as “detached evaluation” by many scholars.
There are two major components of a Critical Essay; the Summary and the Evaluation.
The summary is a short description of the author’s viewpoint as conveyed from the text. In case of a poem it is simply a paraphrase. It should include the facts and descriptions covered by the author in the text. It also gives an indication of the values that the author has implied.
It has several elements to it. It includes an assessment of logical consistency throughout the text. It also includes an analysis of the "facts" presented on the basis of validity and relevance.The coherence of events and circumstances with respect to the time period and location they are exist is also evaluated. The viewpoint on the values mentioned or discussed by the author should also be commented on.
There are some factors that should be kept in mind evaluating a text. Emphasis should be given that literary work being studied rather than the feelings and opinions of the person writing about the literary work. Criticism doesn’t implyattacking the work or the author, but simply means thinking about it with a critical approach, exploring about your findings and understanding them thereafter. Each element criticism must be supported by providing evidence.Often the best option to prove contradictions is touse evidence from the text itself. The discussion must be well structured. Each section should support the main purpose of healthy criticism. Also each section should logically follow sections that come before it and lead into the sections after it.
Through a critical essay viewpoints that a text may suggest, which hadn’t been thought by the author or other readers, do come out. Thus, at times before publishing publishers and authors do try and get feedback through critical essays so as to understand the message conveyed by a text.
One must mention in the essay, the recognition of the limitations in your own evidence, argument, and conclusion. These limitations could be your background, education, subject of expertise, personal bias etc. A critical essay is meant for and academic or literary oriented audience and thus, strong, influential language and elaborate vocabulary can be used.
A text can be called politically successful if critical essays on the publication have similar content i:e the author has been able to direct the thought process of the readers in a particular direction. Critical essays serve as a tool for retrospection of literature and helps it grow.