NOTICE: (Updated March 5, 2010)

Beginning December 19, 2009, Books 'N Border Collies will be posting but only intermittently while I pursue personal goals. I plan to share some reading I'm doing, but there will be no reviews. I will, however, be sharing my exploration of vegetarian cooking and the cookbooks and websites I use to educate myself. I hope you enjoy it!


Saturday, February 28, 2009

Class Notes: Writing About Literature

I spent my early afternoon with Writing About Literature: Step by Step by Pat McKeague. The first chapter is titled "The Elements of Literature", so I probably don't need to tell you I spent some time with a worksheet writing definitions. :-) She also discussed mental operations we engage in when we think and learn (Application, Analysis, Synthesis, Evaluation and Problem Solving), and ways to practice those skills while reading (keeping a journal, making lists of phrases, formulating your own questions, concept mapping, etc.). I took pages of notes! I can feel my brain cells multiplying already!

The information I thought would be the most fun to share was the list of approaches to analyzing literature. "Meaning is one of the primary reasons for reading literature. It helps us clarify our own values and attitudes toward life." (p. 2) In searching for meaning in our reading, we tend to approach it in one of the following ways:

Historical Approach -- Seeing a work as a product of a certain period in history.
Societal Approach -- Seeing a work as a product of a certain set of social standards and conventions.
Biographical Approach -- Seeing a work as the product of the writer's personal attitudes, conflicts or concerns.
Psychological Approach -- Analyzing the motivation of the characters or the author by applying specific psychological theories.
Archetypal Approach -- Analyzing literature by noting the recurrence of certain types of characters, situations or symbols that appeal to our unconscious mind in an instinctive and intuitive way.

Seeing a list set out that way drove home the point that a single piece of literature can be seen many different ways, some more effective than others with regard to a specific work. Also, some approaches are simply more interesting to individual readers, which can effect his or her enjoyment. I know if I go into a read with the wrong attitude or specific ideas of what I want to get out of it, I tend to be disappointed. I'm trying to teach myself to open each new read with a blank slate -- tabula rasa, so to speak. It's hard to do when we have so many preconceived notions about books we've been looking forward to -- or avoiding!

Is there an approach on the list you consciously find yourself usually adopting when you read? Is there a book you didn't enjoy that you may have found more interesting if you had approached it differently?


Shelley said...

I love that you're sharing all this with us! I think I'm most sensitive to societal and archetypal aspects of books. I just finished The Grapes of Wrath recently and it is very archetypal, which might bother readers looking for more character development. It's definitely good to know or determine pretty quickly what your looking for.

Anonymous said...

I am so excited that you are sharing this! I think that I most often use the psychological approach and is a main reason that I love Gothic Fiction. I think that I use each of those options from time to time.

It would be interesting to have our posts analyzed to see for certain. I don't suppose that there is anything out there that can do it, but I'd love to know.

Thanks again so much for sharing!

Lezlie said...

Shelly ~ I'm thrilled that people are enjoying it! I thought maybe it would be boring, but I really felt the need to at least try t use my blogging to assist in the learning process. The interaction with other readers is so important! That's good to know about The Grapes of Wrath. At least a person can then be mentally prepared for that. I found it hardest to adjust to books that were not plot based when I started reading more classics.

Literate Housewife ~ You guys make it so easy to sit down with the textbooks every day! Gothic is so interesting! And I can see where the psychological approach would be great for those. I believe Cambridge has a "Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction" that I've considered picking up. Hmmmm. . . Maybe a good idea for one of my future "classes"!

Honestly, I'm not sure which approach I use, but you can bet I'll be analyzing my own thinking for the next few books at least. :-)


zetor said...

Thanks for sharing all this.

Lezlie said...

Zetor ~ You're very welcome! It helps me, too, to better remember and understand the things I'm reading.


Ladytink_534 said...

I approach a book in quite a few different ways it seems!

Lezlie said...

Ladytink ~ That's probably the best way to do it. Multitasking! :-) I think a second read is required to really focus on a certain approach. The first time around, it's a mental feeding frenzy!