Use of present tense in academic writing

I’m a graduate theology student, and I’m having some trouble with verb tenses. In my first chapter I explore the life and work of the author who is the subject of my study. I am often narrating in the past, but I also talk about particular things he wrote. I find myself saying things like:

“He published one of his most significant articles in 1944. In it, he writes…”

Would it be better to just put everything in the past tense (e.g., use “wrote” instead of “writes” above)?

My second chapter is almost all textual analysis and much less concerned with biographical details. There, I’m inclined to use the present, which would certainly be more conventional.

I appreciate any help. My advisor is great, but English is not his first language, so he’s a little limited in his ability to help me in this area.


It’s a well-established convention to write about literary works and works of art in the present tense. It’s called the literary present tense.

Source : Link , Question Author : Brad , Answer Author : Benjamin Harman

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