How to read imaginative literature

The same rule that we apply to reading expository works can be applied to imaginative literature with little revision. By imaginative literature we mean novels, plays, and lyrics. These are concerned primarily to convey the experience whereas expository works tries to covey knowledge about the common experiences we share in the world. In expository works we were really active in reading, examining the thought and the argument of the work. However, in imaginative work, we don’t deal with logical flow or argument but with the plot of a story.

  • How not to read imaginative literature
    • We shouldn’t criticize it for not being true
    • The terms can be highly unambiguous and you shouldn’t be offended by this
    • You should let it have effect on you
    • Don’t look for terms, propositions, and arguments
  • General rules for reading imaginative literature
    • What is this particular imaginative literature about?
      • Clarify the kind of imaginative literature
        • Prose
          • novels and plays
            • they have complicated plots with many characters and with their actions and reactions and their thoughts and emotions
        • Verse
          • song, poetry, lyric
            • this kind is about a single emotional experience
      • Grasp the unity of the whole
        • Expository work
          • the problem it tries to solve and answers to it
        • Imaginative work
          • plot in a brief narration
      • Reduce the whole to its parts
        • the details of characters, incident, and all the sub-divisions of the plot
    • How do we understand as we interpret and understand the expository work?
      • First: elements of fiction (equivalent of terms)
        • episodes, incidents, characters, thoughts, speeches, feelings, and actions
      • Second: total scene or background (equivalent of propositions)
        • imaginative world where characters “live, move, and have their being”
      • Last: the unraveling of the plot, unfolding of the narrative (equivalent of argument)
        • how the story is unfolded and the pulse of the plot
        • the beginning, middle, climax, and the end of the plot
    • Criticizing
      • Don’t criticize until you fully appreciate what the author has tried to make you experience
      • You should judge its beauty (not truth as in the case of expository work)
      • It’s like appreciating art.
        • How can you fully appreciate art when you don’t understand about it? When you know the art, you can appreciate it better!
  • Tips for reading any stories (novels or anything like story)
    • Read it quickly and intensely as you can!
      • You have to read it quickly to grasp the unity of the story
      • intensely to catch the details of the story (its characters and incidents)
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