Rail yard background, from the Library of Congress

Connections

A Hypertext Resource for Literature

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Comparison Papers

The comparison, or "comparison and contrast," paper sometimes creates a version of the listing problem. If a paper compares two works simply to compare them, the paper will become a list of similarities and differences, often consisting of interchangeable sections like those of a weak listing paper. On the other hand, much of the very best criticism also employs comparisons among works. How can you work to make your papers more like the latter kind of comparison?

First, remember a point from philosophy rather than literature: any two things have an infinite number of similarities and differences. It follows that one can compare any two texts and find that they are similar, yet also different. If you find yourself writing a paper that argues only that two texts are both similar and different, stop writing and construct a more specific argument. Comparing two works can take you to all manner of interesting arguments, as long as you remember that the comparison is the means, not the end. For pithy examples explaining ways to refine comparison essays, see Hester Blum's essay on the subject, then use your "Back" button to return here.

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