General Question

MetroGnome217's avatar

How to use MLA correctly when discussing a novel?

Asked by MetroGnome217 (311points) March 29th, 2010

How do I discuss a novel in a paper?
Underline, Italics?

How about a film or play?

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13 Answers

Jeruba's avatar

The title of the novel is in italics. The same goes for any book you reference. If you cite a shorter work—a chapter, a journal article, etc.—it goes within quotation marks.

Italics are for any major work: novel, nonfiction book, play, film, opera, etc. Shorter works both within those (an aria in an opera, for example) and alone (a poem or short story) get quotation marks.

MetroGnome217's avatar

Thanks, how bout a movie?

absalom's avatar


Consistency is important. You would want to use italics for films as well.

Jeruba's avatar

Yes, same for a movie. A film.

SeventhSense's avatar

Here’s your answer.
You may have to read a little but you can add it to your works cited list. :)

the100thmonkey's avatar

As I understand it, you shouldn’t list a work in a bibliography that you haven’t cited in a paper. Where I study, you’re kind of expected to use the proper citation method…

Megan64's avatar

MLA is awsome.

Jeruba's avatar

@the100thmonkey, if it’s a bibliography, you can list works you used, even if you don’t directly cite them in text. If you call it a list of references rather than a bibliography, it’s just what you actually cite.

Current MLA style calls for a list of works cited (“Works Cited”). For that, you do list only what you cite. In my recent term paper I consulted about twice as many references as I actually cited in text, so I had to leave half of my references off the list.

the100thmonkey's avatar

Interesting – a bibliography (list of works consulted, but not necessarily cited) is a bit of a waste of time, isn’t it?

Surely, if a work influences your thinking, it should be properly attributed with a citation. If it’s not, then it’s plagiarism.

Where’s the need for a bibliography, except in reading lists? What am I missing?

Jeruba's avatar

A list of references just gives the a full information on everything that is actually a direct source of something in the text: a quotation, a statistic, a concept, whatever. I used a citation without quotes, for example, when I made use of someone’s interpretive insight into one of my texts, even though I put it in my own words.

But an author may do much broader reading than just the things he or she cites. I like to see a bibliography rather than just a list of references because it is going to branch out from the subject matter in various directions. Everything the author read as background for his or her work, all the research, all the things that provided context for the ideas and explored related avenues, would be listed in the bibliography. If I get interested in some aspect of the topic and want to pursue it, that’s where I’ll start.

If you were going to list the origin of all your thinking, you’d have to put your entire education in your bibliography. I bring my own knowledge and opinions to what I read, even though at some point I was introduced to them through someone else’s works. That is not plagiarism. An educated person is assumed to have absorbed some things, and they become his own. In writing my last paper, for instance, I made some assertions about the essential elements of fiction. I have been exposed to those basics since high school, have attended countless lectures and workshops and read articles and books over many decades. That information is mine and can be used in a critical analysis without my having to attribute it to anyone.

the100thmonkey's avatar

So there’s no need for a bibliography except in a reading list. Gotcha.

Jeruba's avatar

I’m sorry, I don’t understand your conclusion, @the100thmonkey. A bibliography does not go “in” a reading list.

A book or article or paper for which the author did research might well have a bibliography and not just a list of references cited. But it is not required. MLA calls for works cited. Practice varies with the circumstances. More complete scholarship and more complete documentation of scholarship would indicate the need for a true bibliography, in my opinion.

the100thmonkey's avatar

@Jeruba: that’s the same conclusion I drew, although I was in a bit of a hurry and didn’t express it as clearly as you just did.

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