01 Sep 2010 [ Prev | Next ]

How To Read Literature...

Introduction, Chapters 1 & 2

These are very short chapters. You've already heard me say in class that I'm not asking to see any plot summary in the papers that you write. Each chapter in this book suggests one way to think about (and write about) literature, other than restating the plot in your own words.

In the comments at the bottom of this page, post a quotation from the reading that you think is worth talking about in class, and briefly explain why.

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9 Comments

Patrick Schober said:

"Whenever people eat together, it's communion."

This is a very interesting quote, and a more interesting chapter. I've never looked at meals in literature in this way before.

Alexi Swank said:

"The real reason for a quest is always self-knowledge."

I know that I've heard about stories of self-discovery in literature, but I did not think that this could tie into other literary works than those with the more obvious "knight-in-shining-armor" and "damsel-in-distress" plot lines.

Michael McCullough said:

A quote I liked from chapter 2 was "The thing we share is our death...Next to our mortality, which comes to great and small equally, all the differences of our lives are mere surface details."

As much as the other notable and bold quotes in the first two chapters, this topic - the subject of death and human demise - is something that is common to everyone. We never know our time, and most of us fear death itself, as well as the thought of what may be after our demise. 50 people could be given the topic of death and all write something different. It's remarkable.

Stefanie Wiegand said:

"Always" and "never" are not words that have much meaning in literary study.

This quote is interesting and also completely true. As soon as a statement with "always" or "never" appears, it is immediately disproven. I like the fact that there is uncertainty in literature. Things can change or even be completely done away with. As long as one has legitimate support, a stance can be made.

Valerie Susa said:

"Once you figure out quests, the rest is easy."
This quote comes at the end of chapter one. Since a quest is a pursuit or search of something, it only makes sense that once you figure the quest out, everything else should fall into place.

@Stephanie -- what I love about that quote is that he doesn't say "never use never" or "always avoid always." It is great mental exercise to try out an unusual approach, but it also takes some discipline to know when you're clinging to an alternate interpretation just to be ornery.

  1. There are unsupported interpretations that are pretty easy to reject.

  2. There are weakly-supported interpretations that will do until something better comes along.
  3. There are well-supported arguments (that are the better things that come along, and that are often tempting stopping points.
  4. And then there are the even-better-supported interpretations -- the kind of essay that's so well done that it can make you seriously reconsider your own interpretation.
Michael McCullough said:

Just crosslinking this. Made a previous comment about it.

http://blogs.setonhill.edu/MichaelMcCullough/2010/09/htrlap-chapters-1-2.html

Crossroad Demons...

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Peaches Ostalaza on How To Read Literature...: Crossroad Demons...
Mary Jane Stano on How To Read Literature...: Forgot to link this one http
Michael McCullough on How To Read Literature...: Just crosslinking this. Made a
Dennis G. Jerz on How To Read Literature...: @Stephanie -- what I love abou
Valerie Susa on How To Read Literature...: "Once you figure out quests, t
Stefanie Wiegand on How To Read Literature...: "Always" and "never" are not w
Michael McCullough on How To Read Literature...: A quote I liked from chapter 2
Alexi Swank on How To Read Literature...: "The real reason for a quest i
Patrick Schober on How To Read Literature...: "Whenever people eat together,
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