Guidelines for Reading and Analyzing Literature
STEP I: WHAT IS YOUR FIRST IMPRESSION OF THE LITERARY WORK? 1. What expectations or preconceptions do you have before you begin reading? •
Do you have any prior knowledge of the author or this work or similar works?
2. Do you enjoy reading this work?
Why or why not?
What motivated you to read through to the end, or reread it (besides the fact that it may be required for a class)?
3. What is your initial impression of the work's purpose?
Is it entertaining, informative, didactic (teaching a lesson), philosophical, argumentative, or some combination of these? •
Do the title, division headings, and opening lines give precise indications of the purpose or subtle or symbolic clues, or misleading impressions of the whole work? •
Try to begin reading with an open mind and attempt to understand the work on its own terms before judging its worth or quality.
4. Is this work difficult to read?
If so, why?
Did you look up unfamiliar words in a dictionary?
Do foreign or outdated words or unusual sentence patterns make reading difficult?
5. Do your first impressions change between your reading of the beginning and end? •
If so, why?
STEP II: WHAT TYPE OF LITERARY WORK IS IT?
Literature is classified by genre. Although critics disagree on how to define and label different genres, the three basic forms of literature are prose, drama, and poetry. •
Nonfiction prose includes history, biography, autobiography, religious and philosophical writing, literary criticism, political tracts, travel literature, and essays on many other subjects. •
Prose fiction has been divided into the novel, the novella or novelette (a story of intermediate length), and the short story. Predecessors of these genres include fables, parables, and tales of various kinds. •
Drama may be written in prose or poetry. Most drama is meant to be performed, but closet drama is designed to be read rather than...
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