Critical Lens
The critical lens is part of the New York State Comprehensive Regents exam in English. Students will take this exam after taking English III. The task asks students to interpret the critical lens in their own words, agree or disagree with it, and look at two texts they have read through that lens by using literary elements. This page provides sample lens quotes for students to practice interpreting and choosing books, or writing full essays.
Directions for a Critical Lens essay right from the Regents:

Your Task: Critical Lens:
Write a critical essay in which you discuss two works of literature you have read from the particular perspective of the statement that is provided for you in the Critical Lens. In your essay, provide a valid interpretation of the statement, agree or disagree with the statement as you have interpreted it, and support your opinion using specific references to appropriate literary elements from the two works.
Guidelines: Be sure to:
~ Provide a valid interpretation of the critical lens that clearly establishes the criteria for analysis
~ Indicate whether you agree or disagree with the statement as you have interpreted it
~ Choose two works you have read that you believe best support your opinion
~ Use the criteria suggested by the critical lens to analyze the works you have chosen
~ Avoid plot summary. Instead, use specific references to appropriate literary elements (for example: theme, characterization, setting, point of view) to develop your analysis
~ Organize your ideas in a unified and coherent manner
~ Specify the titles and authors of the literature you choose
~ Follow the conventions of standard written English

Sample Critical Lens Quotes
~"In literature, evil often triumphs, but never conquers."
~"Good people... are good because they've come to wisdom through failure."
~"All literature is protest. You can't name a single literary work that isn't protest."
~"The bravest of individuals is the one who obeys his or her conscience."
~"Knowing about the life and times of an author is irrelevant to appreciating the full meaning of a literary work."
~"A work of literature must provide more than factual accuracy or vivid physical reality... it must tell us more than we already know."
~"Good literature appeals to our intelligence and imagination, not merely our curiosity."
~"A writer should aim to reach all levels of society and as many levels of thought as possible, avoiding democratic prejudice as much as intellectual snobbery."
~"If the literature we are reading does not wake us, then why do we read it? A literary work must be an ice-axe to break the frozen sea inside us."
~"I am interested in making a good case for distortion because I am coming to believe that is the only way to make people see."
~"A work of literature is limited by the dominant attitudes and ideas of the period in which it is written."
~"If literature is nebulous or inexact, this inexactness is the price literature pays for representing whole human beings and for embodying whole human feelings."
~"Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." ~George Orwell
~“Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” ~Philip K. Dick
~“Humankind cannot stand very much reality.” –TS Eliot
~’Reality’ is the only word in the English language that should always be used in quotes.”
~“Imagination is the one weapon in the war against reality.” –Jules de Gaultier
~“Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.” ~Soren Kierkegaard
~“The purpose of the writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.” ~ Bernard Malamud
~"This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper." ~TS Eliot
~“History repeats itself; that's one of the things that's wrong with history.” ~Clarence Darrow
~“This is not the end. This is not even the beginning of the end. But, it is, perhaps the end of the beginning.”~ Winston Churchill
~“When tillage begins, other arts follow. The farmers therefore are the founders of human civilization.” ~Daniel Webster (1782-1852)
~"The end of the human race will be that it will eventually die of civilization." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
~"Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill." – Barbara Tuchman
~“The world is beautiful, but has a disease called man." ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
~“The ultimate security is your understanding of reality.” ~H. Stanly Judd
~“The truly educated man is that rare individual who can separate reality from illusion.”
~“The real hero is always a hero by mistake…” ~Umberto Eco
~“…it is the human lot to try and fail...” ~David Mamet
~“Greatness lies not in being strong, but in the right using of strength….” ~Henry Ward Beecher
~“For what does it mean to be a hero? It requires you to be prepared to deal with forces larger than yourself.” ~Norman Mailer
~“To gain that which is worth having, it may be necessary to lose everything else.” ~Bernadette Devlin
~“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” ~Martin Luther King, Jr.
All that is literature seeks to communicate power...” ~Thomas De Quincey ~