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How to Talk about Literature

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CR Dobson

on 20 April 2014

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Transcript of How to Talk about Literature

How to Talk about Literature
In order for us to analyze and talk about literature we have to know some of the elements of literature and which questions to ask.

What do we look for when we read literature?
Personal and Analytical Responses
When you first read a text, you will probably have an emotional reaction.

"I love it!" "I hate it!" "I am confused!"

When you read a text again, you should combine your personal reaction with careful observation.
While you read you can,
praise, reason, evaluate, argue, describe, assess, investigate, analyze examine, question, weigh value
Personal Experience is Important
It is often helpful to compare your personal experiences as a human being to whatever you are reading. Doing so will help you understand the characters, settings and themes in the text.
What happens in the story?
Dramatic Structure
Exposition: Background Information
Inciting Incident: An event that puts the story into motion
Rising Action: Increasingly exciting events
Climax: The most exciting event
Falling Action: The excitement decreases
Resolution: the major problem is solved (good or bad)
Denouement: the minor problems and questions are answered.
"Criticism" isn't Bad
Speaking in literary terms, "criticism" doesn't mean to speak harshly about a text.

Rather, it means to look closely at a text and make judgements from the things you read. By doing so, you will be able to convince others to understand the text the way you understand it. You're not only trying to find faults.
Literature and Decision Making
Analyzing literature will not only train you as a critic
but it will also train you as a decision-maker in general. You will become more confident to give your opinion. Analysis and discussion of any text should help you completely understand what you are reading.
How to Talk about Literature
But you shouldn't just summarize the plot
You should also interpret things such as: plot, theme, characters, point of view, setting, style, structure, tone, symbols, metaphor, simile, mood or atmosphere, and purpose.
How is the text designed? Is it written in verses? Is it a “story inside of a story?” Are there flashbacks? Is it chronological or does it move back and forth through time?
What are the main ideas? Does the author seem to focus on certain ideas over much of the text?
Sometimes an object is more than just an object. It has a literal (dictionary) and symbolic meaning.
Is a rose just a rose?
Comparing two things using “like” or “as.” I ‘m hungry as a horse. She drinks like a fish. A simile is a kind of metaphor.
Internal/external. Person –vs- herself, Person –vs- Person, Person –vs- a large organization, Person –vs- nature
The use of words or situations to indicate the opposite of what is meant or expected to happen.
Situational Irony
A situation (or even a statement) where the outcome is different or the opposite of what is expected. In The Wizard of Oz (1939) Dorothy and her friends search for the Wizard so he can grant them their wishes.
–Dorothy wanted to go home (Ruby Slippers), The Lion wanted courage (he already was brave), The Tin Man wanted a brain (he was already a genius) and the Scarecrow wanted a heart (he had one!)
–“I’m not upset at all.” (I am upset and I’m
trying to hide it.)

How does the author “build” sentences? Are the sentences short and simple? Are they long and complicated? What types of words does the author use? How does the author write the dialogue of the characters?
Directly comparing two seemingly unrelated things. Love is a red, red rose. Metaphors need not even show both points of comparison. Think of the lion, Aslan, from The Chronicles of Narnia. He is compared to the Biblical figure, Jesus, but Jesus is never mentioned in the book.
Point of View
1st , 2nd , 3rd Person. Omniscient (the narrator can see inside the minds of all the characters), Limited Omniscient (the narrator can see inside the mind of one of the characters), Objective (the narrator can’t see inside the mind of any character).
How does the writing make you feel? Is the mood scary? Is it happy? Sad?
How does the author seem to feel about the characters and themes that he is writing about?
Verbal Irony
Verbal Irony is done intentionally
–“What a nice day” (It is actually raining)
–“I’m not upset at all.” (I am upset and it’s my intention to say that I’m upset.)
–“soft as concrete” “clear as mud”

Socratic Irony
Socratic irony occurs when one person pretends not to know something (when he actually does). For example—a teacher pretends to be ignorant in order to make his students think and express ideas they have learned.
Dramatic Irony
The reader knows something that at least one of the characters doesn’t know. The Lion King, Oedipus, Romeo and Juliet, and Titanic.
Cosmic Irony
Cosmic Irony occurs when it seems “God” or “Fate" is interfering/playing with with humanity.

–A man complains because he doesn’t have enough time to read. Then the world ends, and he is the only survivor. With no responsibilities, he has a lot of time to read. He goes to a huge library and takes out a stack of books. Seconds later, he trips and breaks his glasses!

Our brains are iron but our hearts are glass.
Work in your group. Think of one metaphor, one simile, and one symbol.
My love for you is a tiger.
I'm hungry as a hunter.
I feel like a monster
Rose = Passion
"All the world is a stage, and all the men and women are merely players."
from Shakespeare's 'As You Like It' (Metaphor)
River = Change and moving forward
Full transcript