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Workshop Resources: Exegesis

This guide contains resources to complement various workshops offered for Divinity students


Doing exegesis means pulling meaning out of a text. You'll want to make a claim about what the text is doing (your thesis!) and use elements from the text as your evidence to back up your claim (your argument).

Define Your Pericope

What makes this chunk of text a chunk worth analyzing?

What makes this chunk of text its own chunk?

  • Transitional words or phrases (then, when, after, now)
  • Changes in setting (time, location)
  • New characters

Ask & Answer Questions

  • What part does setting play?
  • Who are the characters (including deities)?
    • How do they move, change, grow?
  • What role does the dialogue play?
  • Are there recurring themes and actions
    • Note repetitions, developments etc.
  • How does Imagery/Symbolism function?

Bring it All Together

What is this passage doing?

Can you boil that down to a one sentence statement?

That’s your THESIS!

Basic Plot Structure

Use these elements of plot to analyze a narrative

Exposition: Setting, characters, background, what's at stake

Inciting Moment: What starts the action or initial conflict?

Rising Action: The movement of the narrative toward climax

Climax: Major event of the story

Falling Action: Wrapping up

Denouement: Resolution


Exegesis Paper

CLICK HERE for tips on getting started with exegesis paper writing

More Questions to Ask the Text

  • Who wrote this?
  • What was their context?
  • What conversations did they join?
  • Why did they write it?
  • For whom did they write it?
  • How successful would this text have been?
  • How useful is it now?

Queer Questions, for example

1. Who are the characters?

  • What are their genders?
  • How do their genders seem to influence their roles in the story?
  • Who is missing?
  • Who has the power?

2. What assumptions are made about gender/sexuality?

  • What are women’s/men’s assumed motivations?
  • What hierarchies are at play?
  • Where sexual themes/tensions?
  • How are (/not) bodies involved and treated?

3. How can we play with the text?

  • What happens if you swap the genders of the characters?
  • What happens if you drop or reverse the assumptions?
  • What might this story mean to a queer person (gay, bi, trans, nonbinary)?
  • Where might the queer person see themselves in this story?

4. Other questions to ask

  • How can/has this passage be interpreted in harmful ways?
  • What themes in the passage lend themselves to examining questions of sex, gender, and/or sexuality?