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or authors and to show that your enjoyment was increased by an informed appreciation of the writer’s craft . Therefore, - a real sense of personal involvement with the text(s) should emerge from your writing - you should demonstrate an awareness of the skill of the author in one or more areas of the work - you should demonstrate an ability to examine that skill using the language of literary criticism The most successful specialist studies convince the examiner that he must read or re-read- the text(s) which you have chosen. But first of all you should demonstrate that you understand what the central concerns of the text are because they will influence every choice that the writer makes. Areas to consider while reading A. Novel - consider the GENRE - this will determine the effect that the author hopes to have on the reader. - e.g. the ripping yam, the psychological thriller/ the romantic novel/ the social document, the detective novel/ the sci-fi novel, the work of fantasy, the comic/humorous/satirical novel, the allegory etc. - connected "with this is the writers purpose - does he/she intend merely to entertain, or to teach/ or to warn, or to prophesy, or to cause you to reflect and evaluate...or more than one of these ? – this, too, will affect his/her priorities when writing 1. PLOT STRUCTURE The most interesting feature of the novel may be its structure: look for the following types, n.b. the list is not exhaustive a. linear/episodic novel -initial situation -a complication (the arrival of another character/a change of setting/a -dramatic experience) which alters the lives of the characters -development of a new set of situations which lead to a -crisis or climax - the resolution/denouement/closure - where the events of the novel are resolved and the fates of the characters decided or implied This structure exploits narrative curiosity and hopes to generate suspense through incidents and the reader's involvement with the characters. b. Flashback - this novel begins at- or close to - the chronological end of the novel. The rest of the novel then explains everything that leads up to this resolution of events. Here, narrative curiosity is satisfied in Chapter 1. The author hopes that the reader will focus on why and how such things come to pass. Suspense and uncertainty are sacrificed to encourage reflection. c. Symmetrical Structure - such a novel may be written in 2+ books between which clear parallels can be drawn - perhaps the events of the first half foreshadow the events of the second. In such cases a clear understanding of Book One is essential for a full appreciation of the second book. d. Variety of parallel narratives held together by a central common situation. These require a clever juggling act on the part of the author. Such novels tend to demonstrate that truth is in the eye of the beholder and the
reader is left to form a composite picture of reality while gaining an insight into different characters. e. Structure determined by setting in time. Currently, many authors are fascinated by the notion of time as a continuum and the structure - and success - of the novel depends on the juxtaposition of quite different periods in the various chapters .and sections of the novel, [see setting later] 2. SETTING - in place (i)- real locations Settings which the reader can recognise often exploit our preconceptions: some settings can expected to be hostile to some characters, benevolent to others. The novel may then go on to confirm or contradict our expectations. (ii) -created worlds - sci-fi/fantasy novels Such settings make demands of the author- They have to be different, but credible; strange, but identifiable to such an extent as allows us to make important comparisons with our own world. There may be exaggerations or distortions for serious or comic purpose depending on the author's intentions : savage satire, dystopic novel/ humorous entertainment. Examine the credibility of this world; look for the parallels; decide what purpose lies behind the writing - and enjoy the smug feeling that you are clever enough to recognise all the allusions to the present. (iii) - contrasted settings The juxtaposition of different geographical locations obviously invites comparison and reflection on the differences. How well does the author keep both locations firmly in your mind? How well does he imply the comparisons? Setting - in time - in past or present again/ as with certain locations, specific moments in time have proved hostile to the fortunes of some characters - again, the novelist may confirm or challenge our preconceptions, while, at the same time, deepening our understanding of another era. -very contemporary fiction can offer a critique of our present society and force us to reflect on its values and attitudes - in the future setting in time and place are inextricably linked in the futuristic/fantasy novel and reflect the writer's purpose. - double/ multiple time scheme such settings make real demands of the writer who has to make each period real and believable for the reader while enabling him/her to move between periods (characters/places and/perhaps/narrator's voices) without confusion. Such novels examine the influence of the past on the present and may examine how things change or demonstrate that they never really change at all. 3. CHARACTERISATION What is of interest to the examiner is not that you know what the character is like but, rather, that you understand how he is created by the author and how the author manipulates your response to the character. The success of the novel depends on vour involvement with the characters and the author will be at pains to make you admire some and dislike others- He may also deliberately mislead you about the real nature of a character until the end of the novel. Your impression will be formed by examining all the aspects of character: - appearance - which may influence the fate and fortunes of the character in the novel - 'background’ - which may influence language/behaviour, attitudes/ fortunes - the opinion of others - hostile or friendly- will build up the picture of the character
- the various roles which the character performs in the novel may reveal a different persona for each. Remember that the character has been deliberately created by the author and is a composite of Qualities that the author has observed in those around him. As such, while the character has his own 'existence' in the novel, he also represents a type about whom the author wants to make a point. Identify the type. Similarly, the things which the author causes to happen to that character will reveal something about the author's understanding of the world. Does he believe that we have control over our lives? Or are we the victims of our situation, or of the manipulative forces around us? Are we helpless puppets controlled by neutral/malign/benevolent forces? 4. NARRATOR - consider the benefits - and the dangers - of the omniscient narrator/the first person narrator/ the use of multiple narrators 5.STYLE -The novel of your choice may be written in a very individual style: stark, lyrical, complex, allusive, satirical, ironic, reliant on dialect or on a created language. In each case, the language should be appropriate and add to the quality of the novel. It should not become a curiosity which distracts the reader from the real issues of the novel. This is true of all prose in novels : language should be a window which allows you a clear View of the novel's ideas or themes. It should not obscure. Remember, the style will be dictated by the chosen genre - sci-fi, fantasy, Romance, whodunnit, humorous, satirical novel and each must be analysed and assessed by the criteria appropriate to each - e.g. what are the elements of comic / ironic writing style? How does a writer make us laugh? And, as he manipulates our emotional responses, how does he make us cry? hope? despair?love?loathe? 6. THEMES These should emerge from the novel. The author's understanding of human beings and their destiny is embodied in his characters and in the 'events' and outcome of the novel. Plot, characters, setting etc. are merely vehicles for the expression of this world view. 7, AUTHORIAL STANCE AND TONE Again, this will be directly related to the writer's purpose and will emerge from a close reading of the text. (AUTO) BIOGRAPHY If you choose non-fiction, there will be some similarities and some differences from the criteria for assessing fiction. i - the characters and events are real and not imaginary, however, ii - the author can ' create' the characters by his manner of presenting them and control our understanding of events by his method of reporting. So, while the work is strictly non-fiction, it is still a construct which reflects the author's purpose and the effect which he hopes to produce in the reader. Consider the following: Which events are selected ; which are given strong emphasis ; which are underplayed? How are events ordered and structured to ensure emphasis? In terms of style : how are events reported ? how are characters presented? – is the style matter of fact or clearly biased. Remember, "there is no truth, only the moody perception of witnesses" and the author's' truth' will depend on his purpose for writing. Revenge, ego–trip, sensational revelations, setting the record straight, celebration? What impression is formed of the author? Is he to be trusted? Is there a clear gap between his perception of events and yours as reader. Points for consideration Knowledge of text Patterns of style Relationships between chapters and characters Criteria: Genuine personal involvement in the work Detailed knowledge of the text Awareness of effective techniques
An ability to demonstrate a mature literary vocabulary An ability to substantiate Plot: brief synopsis of the story Is the story linear Does the author use flashback techniques Is symbolism used? Are there important scenes or incidents in the story which highlight some aspect of a character? What did the incident do to your understanding of the work? Who tells the story? Is it an omniscient author? (non-present author who writes in the third person) Is it one of the characters? Did this influence your understanding of the work? Does the setting matter? What does the setting do for the piece? How does it affect the characters, their behaviour, and their fortunes? Were you influenced by the choice of setting? Give a short physical description if you feel that the character’s appearance is deliberately formed to provoke an emotional response. What is this response? Did the author control your feelings? How? Comment on character interaction Were there foil characters? What happens to the character and why? What is the importance of the character to the story as a whole? What can you conclude about the character and how did you reach this conclusion? What techniques did the author use to develop his character? Are there any points or ideas the author wants to make about the world or humanity? Is there an issue? What does he have to say about it? How does he use character and setting to make his point? Do you agree with him? If so, why? Are there any recurring images or underlying meanings? Is it amusing, horrific, poignant, satirical? What makes it so? What techniques does the author employ to create suspense, confusion, surprise? Is the piece contrived? How? Does the author use imagery, syntax, punctuation…etc to create a desired effect? How effective is direct speech, dialogue, dialect? Are his techniques successful? How? Did they influence your understanding or appreciation of the work? Explain, in depth; personal contribution and reactions are essential!
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