Examine Evidence from the Text

During my graduate study, I enrolled in a required literary theory class. In this class, my professor gave me an assignment to present and write a paper on Edmund Husserl’s The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology. Husserl, a Moravian-born German philosopher of the early twentieth century, invents phenomenology. It is his hope, as a critic writing to other critics, that we return to the value embedded within concrete human experience and totally disregard scientific naturalism (Cahoone 149). Somewhere, somebody knows what I have just written. Someone reading this glossary understands the nature of “phenomenology,” but please don’t ask me to “elaborate.” If I am asked to do so, I might have to stop here.

The point I am trying to make involves the comment “look at the immediate text” or “Examine Evidence from the Text.” In my attempt to apply postmodern ideas to Husserl’s work, I lost my reader, my professor. The comment “Don’t Quote without Context” is different from “Examine Evidence from the Text” because in one instance (in the former), a wants you to add context; he or she wants you to examine the environment evoked from the text and the environment that contributed to the writing of the text.

However, in the latter instance, “Examine Evidence from the Text” means that you need only to examine all of the evidence the author provides. In other words, provide all of the definitions the author provides within your paper. Don’t use as a last resort a dictionary or a thesaurus in this instance, because the dictionary meanings don’t apply. How the author presents a word and its definition within the context of the work is how he or she wants you to understand it and relate it in your paper, “exactly.” The author bases his understanding of the words according to the context in which he writes.

The best method for examining evidence from the text is to evaluate the primary title, secondary title, how the author has structured the information, and if the information is logically organized as it is presented to you. Here are some questions to consider as you revise your body paragraphs:

1) From what verb tense is the work written? Is there a shift in verb tense?

2) What point of view does the author use? Does the author shift between first-person and third-person points of views?

3) Does the author provide secondary characters?

4) Does the author provide information about a certain country or types of contexts?

5) What evidence does the author provide concerning the date of composition, time period, surrounding historical events, parallels to what has happened before his or her day and what is going on as you read and write about the text?

Your professor wants you to look only at the immediate text, so a good habit to develop centers on annotation. In other words, make a photocopy of the text and use the text as an annotation instrument. Develop categories and a color-coding system for referencing purposes. Use categories such as “date of composition,” “historical context,” “events of the text,” and “author’s point of view” to refer to those areas of the text. Annotate the text based upon these categories.

Another option is to type and/or paste the content of the work into a Microsoft Word document. Ask questions concerning why an author such as Husserl might want to invent “phenomenology.” Why does he take this particular concept to task? What has motivated him to do so? Who or what has contributed to his views?  Just remember this: answer these questions based upon what the immediate text implies. The immediate text is the text that is sitting upright and open on your desk, nothing else.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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