- Paperback: 340 pages
- Publisher: Pearson; 1 edition (October 28, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0130279749
- ISBN-13: 978-0130279743
- Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.6 x 8.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,340,195 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Reading and Writing About Literature 1st Edition
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From the Back Cover
This approachable text identifies eight theoretical approaches to reading and writing about literature. Each chapter provides detailed discussions of how students can use these traditional and contemporary approaches to enhance their ability to analyze, enjoy, and study literature. The text also presents a unique focus on ethics and personal experience in writing about literature.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Reading and Writing About Literature is a text that explores various approaches to interpreting literature. This book is intended to serve students in first-year English classes, introduction to literature classes, and other courses whose primary focus is the interpretation of literature.
There are several features that make this book unique, including the introduction of new interpretive approaches (ethical, civic, and cultural criticism, for example), as well as more established schools of interpretation (formalist, psychological, and deconstuctive schools, for example). Each chapter includes at least two literary readings, detailed instructions on reading and writing strategies, a sample essay, and Internet and library resources. Steps on how to write a research essay are treated in detail in Chapter 10, which also includes a sample research essay and comprehensive Internet and library research methods. Reading and Writing About Literature presents a systematic process and product approach to interpreting literature and composing essays about literature.
READING AND WRITING STRATEGIES
- Reader-Response interpretation focuses on the reader's personal background in approaching a literary text, particularly cumulative life experiences that philosophers refer to as forestructure.
- Formalist interpretation emphasizes the work itself rather than the author's intention, a reader's response, or other outside frames of reference. Formalist criticism searches for ironies and paradoxes within a work that come together to give a text overall unity.
- Ethical interpretation locates the center of meaning in the moral or ethical dimensions of a literary text, as represented in the personal interactions among characters.
- Civic interpretation explores literature for themes of moral values that have significance for individuals as members of communities.
- Cultural interpretation examines situations and contexts that give birth to a literary work. This approach may focus on the life of the author, the context (social, economic, and political) of the time the work was written, and various cultural representations contained within the work.
- Feminist interpretation looks at how patriarchal structures are reflected in literature and analyzes how structures based on dominance and submission affect economic situations, psychological and physical status, and interpersonal relationships.
- Psychological interpretation analyzes literary representations of mind constructions such as the id, ego, and superego, as well as the ways in which literary language represents characters' psychological profiles.
- Deconstructive interpretation investigates literary language for its ambiguities, gaps, silences, supplements, traces, and strategic metaphors, especially those that undermine unified interpretations of works.
- New interpretive strategies presented in accessible language.
- Literary readings selected for readability, diversity, and relevance to chapter perspectives.
- Detailed question and answer analytical exercises on two readings in each chapter.
- Organized sequence of steps in each chapter to assist students in writing interpretive essays.
- Sample essay in each chapter illustrating the respective interpretive approach.
- Internet and library resources in each chapter related to chapter topic and readings.
Reading and Writing About Literature is the result of a long struggle, never over, to learn how better to read literature. I have been reading literature a long time, going back to the days of my youth spent on a summer hammock in Grand Junction, Michigan, fascinated by detective stories about the Hardy boys, my brothers in adventure. Literature has always given me special pleasure, but at no time greater than today when I see literature through the various lenses of so many compelling theoretical approaches. Indeed, today's reader has a copious smorgasbord of critical perspectives to select from. Some readers, like myself, prefer to explore literature with an awareness of the strength in multiple interpretive perspectives. Like a voracious food connoisseur, I find it enriching to sample a little of everything before going back for seconds of those morsels I find most tantalizing.
Times have changed for readers of literature. Students of the new millennium have far more resources available to them for writing formal interpretations of literature than those of earlier generations. Indeed, today's readers are able to locate professional interpretations of nearly any major literary work with the click of a mouse. The ready availability of scholarly readings, however, does not assist today's student in organizing and writing interpretations of literary works. This book is an attempt to provide students with conceptual frameworks that will assist in the exploration, analysis, and evaluation of literary texts.
Many students reading literature soon realize a love for the process, which often grows with each new encounter. Although many readers may not realize it, we have built-in tools of interpretations that are already present in our intellectual and emotional systems. A reader may not be formally trained in psychological criticism, for example, but he or she often recognizes, intuitively, psychological elements at work in literature. Readers of literature are often touched personally by their encounters with literary texts, which sometimes set forth reactions that bring readers closer to their own personal experiences. This reaction is reader-response reading, although the reader may not have formal experience with this school of criticism. Readers are often aware of gender representations in literary texts, the terrain of feminist criticism. All schools of critical interpretation in this book represent, in some way, an outgrowth of intuitive reactions to literature. It is the goal of this book to present conceptual background and interpretive tools to generate responses to literature. Further, each chapter includes step-by-step suggestions to assist in the actual writing of essays about literature. Reading and Writing About Literature endorses both a product and a process approach to interpreting and composing about literary texts.
This book has many dimensions, as implied by its title, and none is more significant than the importance of being open to different ways of reading literature. Indeed, the critical perspectives we select say as much about ourselves and our intellectual constitutions and personal histories as they do about the qualities of a work of literature. For example, there are two chapters devoted to ethics, personal and public, which I consider critical in reading literature within a humanist tradition. The chapter on cultural criticism encourages you to think of multiple contexts in analyzing and evaluating texts. Deconstructive criticism attempts to show you how texts remain ambiguous, heavily figurative, and multi-layered, yet still open themselves up to meaningful interpretations. Formalist criticism offers the strategies of close reading and objective analysis, powerful tools for any theoretical approach. None of these critical tools will force a text to surrender its essential meaning, of course, but each one of them offers you strategies of interpretation. I encourage you to read each chapter with an open mind, willing to work with the tools of the trained reader and writer.
The writing sections of each chapter are intended to go hand in hand with the act of reading. I believe that reading inspires writing and writing is recursive. The more you write, the more ideas you will generate and the more you will want to write. For most writers, the hardest part of any project is getting started. The step-by-step sections on writing your essay are intending to assist you at each critical juncture in the writing process. Writing is difficult and painful, as many professional writers acknowledge, but the intellectual and emotional rewards are significant. And there can even be some fun in composing a literary analysis using the tools of the professional critic.