Thursday 3 November 2011

Literary Blog Hop, November 3-6

Literary Blog Hop

Literary Blog Hop time! Hosted by The Blue Bookcase, it's that one time at the start of each month where I try to say something intelligent about something, but mostly end up sounding thick (probably...) But still, I persevere with the intent that one day I'll say something clever and everyone will go 'WOAH!' We'll see.

Anyway, this month's question is:
To what extent do you analyse literature? Are you more analytical if you know you're going to review the book? Is analysis useful in helping you understand and appreciate literature, or does it detract from your readerly experience?

Firstly, I'd just like to point out that that's three questions... but I like them, so I'm going to let that one go!  So, I've got a GCSE, A Level and Degree in English Literature, so I think it would be kind of impossible for me not to analyse books as I go along. These days, I almost feel like, when I say I don't like a book, it's more to do with the fact that there's nothing to it other than its surface words, and so there's nothing for me to argue about/have an opinion about/ or really even think about once I've finished it. So analysis is actually a big part of what I enjoy about reading, and has been ever since I realised how much I enjoyed reading Shakespeare in a class, and thinking so much more about what the words actually meant, rather than just taking them at face value.

BUT- and this is a big but- in terms of literary criticism, where you take a certain approach to a book and read it only according to those rules rather than just, you know, with your brain; I really hate that. What I mean is, deciding to take just a marxist approach to say Anna Karenina, or just looking at To Kill A Mockingbird from a feminist viewpoint. While I guess these are valid things that can be done (and are done, generally by academics, I guess) I think that deciding to do this early on means that you miss out on so many other subtleties of the book, and your conclusions about it are likely to make me puke a tiny bit. Having said this, I, more often than not, have something to say regarding a feminist reading of a book, but that's a natural part of what I do when I'm reading (and, you know, generally living) but that's never the only thing I'm concerned with when I'm reading/analysing a book. There is a place for this kind of analysis, but I think this is the kind of thing that would detract from my readerly experience.

As for whether I'm more analytical when I know I'm going to review the book- I don't really think I am. I mean, whilst I'm actually reading I don't really add much extra to the book in my brain (unless there's references to other things I know about, and then all my synapses start firing and I get excited [because I'm cool]) but then when I'm reviewing them, I'm often surprised by just how much extra I've taken away from the book, and it pleases me that my English degree wasn't a complete waste! 

So, to sum up- I'm analytical in my own way, which doesn't drive me crazy with having to take notes about the hidden marxist messages in Middlesex, or something, but which also enriches my reading experience more than if I just had the words to focus on, and nothing to orient them with in my brain. Yay analysis!


  1. I agree completely that it drives me CRAZY when people only ever read a book, any and all books, from the perspective of one critical technique. I tend to lean toward historical and biographical criticism first, but I certainly don't restrict myself to them exclusively, nor do I spend all my reading life doing nothing but analysis. It's like a doctor who diagnoses everyone she sees with the same disease, and it's extremely annoying to have someone like that in a discussion class or book group.

  2. I love it when you say that you are analytical in your own way. I think that might be what I was trying to say aswell. I didn't study literature and don't know how to properly analyse a book (if there is a proper way to do it) but I do the best I can within my own ability and I think that by thinking more about what I read, I appreciate the book a little more

  3. I don't mind reading books from one critical school of thought, so long as you're open to reading books from other PoVs as well. One of the interesting things about a book is the way it can completely change depending on what lens you view it through.

  4. I just agree with each word in your final paragraph!
    This discussion going on the blogs participating this monthly event is just great. Glad I've found all of you. :-)

  5. I really like your response here and it makes me realize that I do more of what folks on the Hop are talking about than how I originally understood the question. I was all, "no, no, I do not analyze when I read" because I think I was taking this hop's questions on a more academic level.

    New Follower. I like your blog and its design and the fact that you partially subsist on cake.