As many of you know, I am a professor of literature and writing. Last week the fall term began with exciting new developments: I am teaching a new course, called Gender in Popular Arab Fiction. I love literature, both reading and writing it, but often am teaching first year composition. The opportunity of developing a writing about reading course is the best of all worlds.
After hearing the course’s title, many mentioned wanting to sit in on the course – which meets at 8:30 a.m. but few (other than those registered) attend. So here’s your chance! This semester we are reading short stories from Beirut 39, as well as Girls of Riyadh, and Finding Nouf. Read along with us. Feel free to test out the elements of literary analysis as well.
If you’ve ever wondered how to analyze fiction, here’s your crash course. Grab any one of these books, write a 100 word post following these directions, and I’ll give you some feedback (if you want it). The most important thing about reading – have fun. Write about an aspect of the text that engages you – or explain why it didn’t.
The premise of this strategy stresses you, as the reader, as central to interpreting a work. There’s no fixed meaning of a story – no right or wrong answer. Rather we create our own meaning, filtering the text through our life experiences, feelings, and backgrounds.
In order to write about your response as a reader to a text, try following these “close reading” tips on how to examine the text of the story.
Close Reading Ins/Outs
- Pay close attention to the language and structure of the story.
- Consider the relationship between the parts of the story that stand out to you (symbol, theme, figurative language, etc.) and the meaning of the whole story.
- Discuss specific details and patterns in order to make a generalization about an overall issue, idea, message, or effect.
- Look for patterns in the text (or across texts)—repetitions, contradictions, or similarities.
- Ask questions about the patterns you’ve noticed—especially how and why. PROVIDE ANSWERS.
Providing answers is the part where we the reader demonstrate our understanding or position on the text.