Questions to Ask While Reading Literature
- Who is speaking? To whom? In private or in public?
- What is the speaker’s attitude toward the matter he or she is relating?
- What does the writer think of the speaker?
- Does the speaker undergo any change or growth? Do any other characters?
- What is the effect of the way that the work begins? Of the way it ends?
- What are the principal recurring elements in the work?
- What kind of world (setting, society, cosmos) is portrayed or implied in the work?
- How does the work resemble other works you have read – both in this course and elsewhere? How does it significantly differ?
- In what ways is your paraphrase an inadequate restatement of the original?
- How is the way the work is written related to what is written about? The implications of the metaphors? The effect of meter, rhyme, alliteration?
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.
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