Why do we read literature?
Literature introduces us to new worlds of experience. Literature represents a language or a people: culture and tradition. But, literature is more important than just a historical or cultural artifact. We learn from them. Literature presents a point of view or perspective. We discover meaning in literature by looking at what the author says and how he/she says it. We may interpret the author's message. Whatever critical standard we use to discuss and analyze literature, there is still an artistic quality to the works. Literature is important to us because it speaks to us, it is universal, and it affects us. Even when it is ugly, literature is beautiful.
How to become a Critical Reader
Whether you are reading for pleasure or study, it's important to understand basic structural and content elements about the text you are studying. These questions and idea generators should help you to become a more critical reader. Understand and retain what you read! Read on.
1. Determine your purpose for reading. Are you gathering information for a writing assignment? Are you determining whether a source will be useful for your paper? Are you preparing for a class discussion?
2. Consider the title. What does it tell you about what the book, essay, or literary work is about?
3. Think about what you already know about the topic of the book, essay, or play. Do you already have preconceived notions of what to expect? What are you expecting? Do you hope to learn something, enjoy yourself, be bored?
4. Look at how the text is structured. Are there subdivisions, chapters, books, acts, scenes? Read over the titles of the chapters or sections? What do the headings tell you?
5. Skim the opening sentence of each paragraph (or lines) under the headings. Do these first words of the sections give you any hints?
6. Read carefully, marking or highlighting places that are confusing (or so wonderful that you want to re-read). Be careful to keep a dictionary close at hand. Looking up a word can be an excellent way to enlighten your reading.
7. Identify key issues or arguments the author/writer makes, along with important terms, recurring images and interesting ideas.
8. You may want to make notes in the margin, highlight those points, take notes on a separate sheet of paper or notecard, etc.
9. Question the sources that the author/writer might have used: personal experience, research, imagination, popular culture of the time, historical study, etc.
10. Did the author effectively use these sources to develop a believable work of literature?
11. What one question would you like to ask the author/writer?
12. Think about the work as a whole. What did you like best about it? What puzzled, confused, angered or irritated you?
13. Did you get what you expected out of the work, or were you disappointed?
1. The process of reading critically can help you with many literary and academic situations, including studying for a test, preparing for a discussion, and more.
2. If you have questions about the text, be sure to ask your professor; or discuss the text with others.
3. Consider keeping a reading log to help you to track your perceptions about reading.
All Quiet on the Western Front begins somewhere near the German/French front during World War I. It is told by Paul Baumer, a 19-year-old German soldier. The novel presents vividly the difficulties and hardships of soldiers during WWI.
Number the Stars is told from the point of view of ten-year-old Annemarie Johansen. The story is set in the city of Copenhagen, Denmark in September 1943, the third year of the Nazi occupation of Denmark.
To Kill a Mockingbird tells the story of Scout Finch, a young girl growing up in the Southern US during the Great Depression. Scout’s father, Atticus is a lawyer. The focus of the novel is when Atticus takes on the role of defense attorney of a local black man accused of a crime committed against a white woman.
Fallen Angels tells the story of, seventeen-year-old Richie Perry, a black high school graduate from Harlem, uncertain of his future goals who joins the army and is sent to Vietnam to fight. When Richie leaves basic training for Vietnam, he is uncertain about the war and the army. He confidently believes that the medical profile he has received for a knee injury will be properly processed and prevent him from engaging in combat. He also believes in the flurry of rumors about imminent peace and in the prevalent romantic myths about warfare