When you begin a work. you should read not only silently to yourself but also aloud -- the whole work if it is not too long. In addition to checking footnotes. look up words and references you do not know. You should be able to paraphrase the work so that you account for the important words and ideas. The following are some questions that you will find useful to ask when reading a work of literature. Although answers to the questions can most certainly be wrong, you will realize that such questions do not have neat "right" answers.
The section headed "Poetic Forms and Literary Terminology" in volume I of the Norton Anthology (pp. 2584-2598) contains brief discussions of these and other critical terms you may encounter. For fuller accounts. see M.H. Abrams. A Glossary of Literary Terms, and C. Hugh Holman. A Hand book of Literary Terms (copies of both are on reserve for English 200 in the library).
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Call 315-859-4363 or stop by the Writing Center (K-J 152).