Monday, May 13, 2013

How to Read Literature by Terry Eagleton

As you can see my the title, I'm in the "I'VE FORGOTTEN ALL MY LITERATURE HELPPP" sort of mood. Yeah, it pops up every now and then now that I no longer have literature as a class (I know, I'm weird).

So this book is a sort of refresher course. It's divided into five parts: "Openings", "Character", "Narrative", "Interpretation" and "Value". Of the five parts, I liked the last two the best. Why? Because it was something that I hadn't really considered before. The first three..... well, it would be useful if this is your first exposure to Literature, but if you've studied it before, you might find what he says to be a refresher.

Let's think about "Interpretation". We (my lit classes), used to joke that as long as you give enough supporting evidence, you could argue anything for a piece of text. And Terry Eagleton does exactly that. He interpreted the nursuary rhyme "Baa Baa Black Sheep" into a poem that depicts a power struggle very well, assuming that there are two speakers. If you didn't grow up singing the rhyme, you would probably think "hmmmm he's got a point." If you're like me and have three younger siblings, you'll probably have listen/sung the rhyme so much the first reaction is "yeah right". So which response is right? Well, he spends the rest of the chapter debating the subject. That alone would make the book worth recomending, but he adds on the "Value" chapter.

"Value" looks at the age-old question "What makes a book literary?" This question is way more important than you think, because face it, would you consider Harry Potter literary? (Especially if you think that the Narnia series does). What about Twilight or any similar books?

Lastly, writing style. The author, I think he's trying to be funny. I don't know because his type of humour is not my type of humour. I can see when he's being funny, and I can imagine people laughing, but my reaction is ".... ok". It's really a personal preference thing.

For the discussion in those two chapters alone, I'd recommend the book to Literature students. However, if you're a total beginner, I'd recommend "How to read Literature" or "How to read a Novel" because the writing style is more accesible.

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