Thursday 3 April 2014

C... is for Critical Analysis

I have read for as long as I can remember. We are a family of bookworms on my Mum's side, Mum, Gran, Greatgran, all are avid readers. Also, because I'm an only child, Mum set me with books whenever she had work to do and I was being a pest. However, at the time, until I was much older, I never analysed texts critically, I didn't know what that meant. Last year, however, I took a MOOC on Coursera called 'English Composition I: Achieving Expertise'. It was conducted by Duke University and I learnt quite a bit from it. Although it was aimed at writing, it also taught us how to read critically. This proved to be a boon when I had to submit a 20,000 word dissertation for my Masters in Edinburgh.
Reading critically is the first step to being a good writer. It isn't enough to read and understand. It is important to look at undertones, if any, and link various parts of the text to a set of themes that are usually revealed right at the onset. Character analyses are far easier, because writers tend to pan them out in a way to create a succinct image in the readers' minds. But theme-wise breakdown of a play or novel is quite challenging.
Added to that, is the task of sifting through piles of what crappy critics think the author meant to say. For example, I was reading a criticism of Wuthering Heights where the critic claimed that Mr Lockwood's progression from his landlord's living room, to kitchen, to guest bedroom reflects the opening of various layers of the plot! What rubbish, I say! Isn't that how guests enter people's homes every day!? What has that got anything to do with layers or whatever...
Anyway, critical thinking comes with experience and practice. I'm trying to cultivate it little-by-little.
This is the third post for the April A-to-Z Blogging Challenge 2014.
Previously, Archaism, British literature


Tony Laplume said...

Sometimes I read too critically. What am I saying? I tend to dive deeply into the text...

Anonymous said...

OMG! I feel the exact same way! I also read books just non-critically as enjoyment, but I really want to be more critical and gauge things more. Let me know if you find resources to do this sort of thing.

martine said...

Thanks for the course recommendation, I have done quite a few on Coursera and this one sounds like it has interesting things to offer.

Anonymous said...

Visiting on day 3 of the #atozchallenge with all my fellow writers. I appreciate all the hard work it takes to participate. I hope you make many new blogging friends. Hope you don't mind me saying the blue type face on the dark blue background VERY hard to read. A discouragement you would rather not have. Just a thought.

Unknown said...

Wasn't it Stephen King who said 'If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.'

Good post :) Good luck with the rest of the challenge x

Unknown said...

That course sounds interesting. I know what I like and don't like, but I often can't put my finger on exactly why. I'll hop across and see if they are repeating that course anytime.

Udita Banerjee said...

@Tony: Ah, you have a gift!
@Su: Will remember and pass on any pearls of wisdom I find
@Martine: Do check if it is being offered again
@Stepheny: Thanks for the feedback, check it out now. Better? :)
@Vikki: Thank you!
@Ann: Do so, good luck :)