The Literary Blog Hop is a monthly meme hosted by the gals at The Blue Bookcase.
This month’s question:
To what extent do you analyze literature? Are you more analytical in your reading 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?
I like this question but I’m not completely certain how to answer it. Earlier this year I read an introduction to literary theory that gobsmacked my ideas about what I do and how I approach literature. I was previously unaware that there were so many different facets of literary analysis – so many isms – structuralism, deconstructionism, new historicism, formalism, feminism. How little I knew was suddenly reaffirmed.
I don’t know that I’m ready to take on literature in those realms and I’m okay with that. I’m a work in progress. Each step of my literary journey broadens the scope of my understanding. Since the birth of my classics exploration in late 2009, I’ve tried to reach beyond the plot to uncover themes, authorial intent, and to put what I’m reading into some kind of historical context. Each new author propels my thinking one step further. Each new work teaches me something that I didn’t know before. Hardy is teaching me to pay attention to setting. Flaubert reminds me to consider narrative perspective. Through Nabokov, I’ve become more sensitive to style and figurative language.
I think of each novel that I read as a piece in a larger literary puzzle. What I learn from one work enlightens the next and with each I push the boundaries of my understanding. My hope is that it has a cumulative effect. As I get further along in my literary journey I can reach deeper and deeper into what I’m reading. I can fit more pieces together. Connections are made more easily.
I’ve recently become drawn to the idea of honing in on individual authors. After reading Thomas Hardy’s major novels and a biography followed by a collection of his poetry, I relish in being able to pick up on his subtleties. I love that I know little tidbits of his life and his personality, which also serves to strengthen my grasp of his work. I believe there’s value in that. I aim to become just as intimate with other authors.
Whether or not I’m going to write about a novel makes no difference in my approach to it. I read everything with the objective of broadening my understanding of life and literature. I always intend to write about about a book even if that doesn’t always get accomplished. I don’t read “for entertainment” but reading entertains me. In my experience, thinking deeply about a text is entertaining. If there’s nothing to grapple with, that’s when I get bored.
I see what I’m doing now as more of a survey of literature rather than an analysis of it. At least for me, this seems like a necessary step before advancing to a deeper, narrower focus – before treading into all of the literary isms.
Click the button at the top of this post to see what other LBH participants think about literary analysis.