Publisher: Yale University Press
Genre: Nonfiction, critique of reading literature
Rating: 4 stars for very good
How To Read Literature is written for readers who want to understand how to analyze a work of literature.
In five chapters, Terry Eagleton, organizes the book.
Chapter One: Openings
Chapter Two: Character
Chapter Three: Narrative
Chapter Four: Interpretation
Chapter Five: Value
Eagleton's explanation of a "literary work...is one in which what is said is to be taken in terms of how it is said. It is the kind of writing in which the content is inseparable from the language in which it is presented." Page 3.
I've read and reviewed long enough to discern certain elements while reading a work of literature. For example: symbolism, character development, external and internal conflicts, point of view, believability, and clarity.
How To Read Literature gives examples through works of literature in showing five ways of analyzing. Eagleton uses classic literature examples to show his point: Wuthering Heights, A Passage to India, Jane Eyre, Macbeth, the Bible, Pride and Prejudice, and Great Expectations.
One of the first interesting things I learned is "Literary works quite often know things that the reader does not know, or does not know yet, or will never know." Page 14. I've never considered this thought. In future literature books I read, I plan to take action in looking for what the work might know and has not revealed.
A favorite chapter in the book is on characters. I love strong characters. I don't have to like them, I just want them to be strong in either good or bad points. Jane Eyre is used as an example of an "agreeable heroine." She is a character who has hidden agendas that even she might not be aware. Jude the Obscure analyzes the characters: Jude, Arabella, and Sue. Jude the Obscure is a story I read recently and had already discovered Sue's unusual and fickle persona. She is a conflicted person. Eagleton reminded me the reader "sees her through Jude's eyes."