Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Educational Use of the Blog

After another insomnia filled night, I finally came up with a way to update this blog on a more regular basis. I love to read but like many people I often do not read critically. In fact, I have not read critically since I took two literature courses during my freshman year in college. I also feel that, though some might consider me well read, I do not. I have big gaps in my literature education and I am making a resolution to fill them.

I will begin my education with The Russians. My parents got my book of plays by Anton Chekhov for Christmas. There are 6 of them and I will read one per week. I will then write a reflection (500 words) and post it on this blog. The reflection will be an interpretation of the reading based on the guidelines presented by an MIT Open Courseware "Introduction to Fiction" class.

GUIDELINES (courtesy of E. Fox)

Close reading is the analysis of passages from in terms of diction, figurative language (metaphors, similes, names, etc.), tone, characterization, strategies of narration, plot, topics, “place” of the passage in the text as a whole, and theme. Like any kind of analysis, closer reading examines the ways that the parts of a text (in this case, parts of a passage) work separately and together to contribute to the text as a whole. Note that analysis differs from summary in answering the “why?” and “so what?” question, while summary answers questions about “who?” “what?” “when?” and “where?” In examining passages, aim to explain the significance of a passage, not just the meaning. For example, “Bingley says that he did not know that Elizabeth was a ‘studier of character’(38),” remains plot summary: it tells what happened, stating who said what. In contrast,the following sentence and paragraph analyze the statement by explaining its significance in the novel as a whole:

When Bingley calls Elizabeth a “studier of character” (58), he names one of the major activities and concerns in the novel: evaluating people. While the book opens with an evaluation of Mr. Bingley in terms of his marital status, sex, and money, Elizabeth focuses on deeper qualities. When Bingley says that it “must be an amusing study,” his language emphasizes that Elizabeth needs to entertain herself in a small community with somewhat limited diversions. The word, “study,” however, underscores the importance that both Elizabeth and the narrator give to this activity. In fact, the novel’s title includes two character traits that play important roles in the story, so Bingley’s quick response holds much more significance than first appears.

The topic of “intricate characters” provides an opening for not only Bingley and Elizabeth but also Darcy and Mrs. Bennet to reveal more about their characters. . . .

First Assignment is due by the end of next Tuesday (02/02).
Play: Ivanov

I've also been trying to organize a comprehensive Russian literature course for myself, based on other course outlines that I found on the web. Here's a list of books I will study.

Leo Tolstoy: Anna Karenina
Fyodor Dostoevsky: Crime and Punishment
Ivan Turgenev: Fathers and Sons
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
Mikhail Bulgakov: The Master and Margarita

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