There isn't a single formula or a secret recipe for the successful Study of literature. But to do it seriously you should be a deep and attentive reader. This means reading, then re-reading. It means making an active engagement with the book. And it means making notes.
You can read the Novel quickly first, just to get an idea of the story-line. Then you will need to read it again more slowly, making notes. If you don't have time, then one careful slower reading should combine understanding and note-taking
Make two types of notes - some written in the book itself, and others on separate pages. Those in the book are for highlighting small details as you go along. Those on separate pages are for summaries of evidence, collections of your own observations, and page references for Study topics or quotations.
Notes in the book
Use a soft pencil - not a pen. Ink is too distracting on the page. 't underline whole paragraphs. If something strikes you as interesting, write a brief note saying why or how it is so. If you read on the bus or in the bath, use the inside covers and any blank pages for making notes.
Studying Fiction is an introduction to the basic concepts and terms you need for studying prose fiction. It explains the elements of literary analysis one at a time, then shows you how to apply them. Contains stories by Arthur Conan Doyle, Katherine Mansfield, Thomas Hardy, Joseph Conrad, D.H. Lawrence, and Charles Dickens. All of them are excellent tales in their own right. Very popular.
You will definitely remember the characters, events, and features of a Novel more easily if you make notes whilst reading. Use separate pages for different topics. You might make a record of
•chronology of events
•narrative strategies Characters
Make a note of the name, age, appearance, and their relationship to other characters in the novel. Writers usually give most background information about characters when they are first introduced into the story. Make a note of the page(s) on which this occurs. Note any special features of main characters, what other characters (or the author) thinks of them. Chronology of events
A summary of each chapter will help you reconstruct the whole story long after you have read it. The summary prompts the traces of reading experience which lie dormant in your memory.
A chronology of events might also help you to unravel a complex story. It might help separate plots from sub-plots, and even help you to see any underlying structure in the story - what might be called the 'architecture of events'. Major themes
These are the important underlying issues with which the Novel
is concerned. They are usually summarised as abstract concepts such as - marriage, education, justice, freedom, and redemption. These might only emerge slowly as the Novel
progresses on first reading - though they might seem much more obvious on subsequent readings.
Seeing the main underlying themes will help you to appreciate the relative importance of events. It will also help you to spot cross-references and appreciate some of the subtle effects orchestrated by the author. Stylistic features
These are the decorative and literary hallmarks of the writer's style - which usually make an important contribution to the way the story is told. The style might be created by any number of features:
•choice of vocabulary
•imagery and metaphors
•shifts in tone and register
•use of irony and humour Quotations
If you are writing an essay about the novel, you will need quotations from it to support your arguments. You must make a careful note of the pages on which they occur. Do this immediately whilst reading - otherwise tracking them down later will waste lots of time.
Record page number and a brief description of the subject. Write out the quotation itself if it is short enough.
't bother writing out long quotations.
Studying the Novel
explains the difference between 'story' and 'plot', between a symbol and an image - and between 'tone' and 'mood'. Defines 'realism', 'modernism', and 'postmodernism'. Revised, expanded, and updated fourth edition of a Study
that is readable and entertaining without being simplistic. Structured approach with chapter summaries and information on Study
skills, plus suggestions for further reading. Bibliography
If you are reading literary criticism or background materials related to the Novel
- make a full bibliographic record of every source. In the case of books, you should record - Author, Book Title, Publisher, Place of publication, Date, Page number.
If you borrow the book from a library, make a full note of its number in the library's classification system. This will
you time if you need to take it out again at a later date.
In the case of Internet and other digital sources (CDs, websites, videos) you need to look at our guidance notes on referencing digital sources. Maps and diagrams
Some people have good 'visual' memories. A diagram or map may help you to remember or conceptualise the 'geography' of events. Chapter summaries
Many novels are structured in chapters. After reading each chapter, make a one sentence summary of what it's about. This can help you remember the events at a later date. The summary might be what 'happens' in an obvious sense (Mr X travels to London) but it might be something internal or psychological (Susan realises she is 'alone').
Deciding what is most important will help you to digest and remember the content of the novel. Making links
Events or characters may have significant links between them, even though these are revealed many pages apart. Always make a note as soon as you see them - because they will be very hard to find later. Use a dictionary
Some novelists like to use unusual, obscure, or even foreign words. Take the trouble to look these up in a good dictionary. It will help you to understand the story and the author, and it will help to extend the range of your own vocabulary. If you need help choosing a good dictionary for studying, have a look at our guidance notes on the subject