This week’s readings (see required reading pages and click on link to see it below) focus on analyzing fiction and Imaginative texts. Which one (1) piece of advice did you find most helpful? Take this piece of advice and apply it to a work of literature you have read previously. How will it help you to better understand that text? Give full details. Use spellcheck and grammar check. Do not plagiarize. Response should be at least 300 words minimum. Follow all directions. Use this as your guide:
Adler and Van Doren, pgs. 198-228
Additional info to keep in mind while writing your response: As humanities students, you are probably most familiar with reading literature, which is why we are starting here for in-depth look at different genres. Although the study of literature may be most comfortable to us, Adler and Van Doren provide several excellent tips and keys for better approaching these texts.
The first, and possibly most important tip is: “Don’t try to resist the effect that a work of imaginative literature has on you.” (pg 200) Literature is meant to be enjoyable, and a good text will elicit a range of emotions from the reader/viewer. A common mistake many make is to view the act of critiquing as negative. Don’t be afraid to look at the positive attributes in a text. If you laughed or cried or even thought about throwing the book across the room, the author has evoked a strong emotion from you. By starting with acknowledging the emotions felt when reading, you will be better suited to understanding the text as the author intended.
Secondly, Adler and Van Doren instruct us to not “look for terms, propositions, and arguments in imaginative literature.” (pg 201) In literature, we are reading for understanding, not information. Can we learn a lot about 19thcentury whaling techniques from Moby Dick? Absolutely. But if we focus on the science or technology presented, we will miss the larger messages and themes of the work.
Next, Adler and Van Doren state: “Don’t criticize fiction by the standards of truth and consistency that properly apply to communication of knowledge.” (pg 202) If we spend our time deciding if something reflects the real world closely enough, we will miss the larger truths that text is sharing. This is especially true for genres that lend themselves to fantasy, such as historical fiction or science fiction. If we focus too much on what Bradbury or Huxley got wrong about the future in terms of setting, we may miss the larger messages of their stories.
One of the most important elements of literary criticism is unity, or looking at a text as a whole. Make sure that you are evaluating an entire work, not just a few lines of poetry or a small excerpt of a novel. If we focus on one small piece, we may miss the point of the larger work entirely. Likewise, identifying the larger themes can help us to determine just why some of the smaller pieces were included. A specific metaphor, setting, or scene will make more sense when compared to the whole rather than viewed separately. An important element of unity in reading novels is to separate a character’s words from the author’s.