SUGGESTIONS FOR READING LITERATURE

1. Keep a reading response journal in which you write all questions that occur to you as you read, noting page numbers. If you have trouble putting your question into words, simple write: “I don’t understand what is going on p.35-38,” or “I wonder what the writer means in the section where…”

2. Also in your reading response journal, record your emotional as well as intecllectual responses to the literature: comments on connections, themes, images, characters, and so on.

3. After each chapter (or long passage), summarize both the plot (what just happened) and the main ideas the writer has developed in that section. If these connect to other passages you’ve read, note this.

4. Highlight or underline words you don’t understand, and look these up in a dictionary. Write the definition in the margin close to the word, if possible. Or keep a special notebook in which you keep definitions of new words, noting where they came from and using them in a sentence next to the definition.

5. Highlight or underline any allusions to historical events, places, people, or things that you don’t recognize, and look these up in an encyclopedia or dictionary or ask the professor in class about them.

6. If you have trouble keeping characters straight, make a character list in which you write the names, relationship to other characters, physical or behavioral traits, and so forth.

7. If you have trouble keeping anything else straight, make maps, charts, diagrams, or whatever else helps you visually understand the progression of events and movement of characters in the work. Remaining confused about the physical details will often prevent you have finding meaning in the work as a whole.