ANALYSING UNSEEN TEXTS1. What is the text about? This may seems obvious, but it provides a broad startingpoint. Look at the title; sometimes that gives you a way in, but be careful, because sometitles can be deceptive. You should also look at the writer´s name and the date ofpublication, as they may also be helpful.2. where is it set? What country? It is set inside or outside? In a town or in the country?3. when is it set? Is it in present, the future or the past? The date of publication can help,but the text could be set in a different period, so be careful.4. who is the speaker? Is the speaker the same as the writer? Are there other charactersin the text? Who are they?5. why has it been written? What are the underlying themes or messages?6. STRUCTURE: what is the overall structure of the piece? How many paragraphs orstanzas or chapters? Does each one deal with a different aspect? Are layout andmeaning closely related? Look ate the sentence structure. Are the sentences long orshort? How do they contribute to the meaning?7. VOCABULARY OR DICTION: what do you notice about the words that the writerhas chosen? It the diction simple or complex? Are technical or scientific or archaicwords used? Are there words, or types of words, that recur? Are there words that areunexpected or seem out of place?8. IMAGERY: Does the writer use similes or metaphors? How do they affect themeaning of the text? Are there patterns of images? For example, are there words thatsuggest darkness or light?9. TONE AND ATMOSPHERE: it is often very difficult to decide on the tone, mood,or atmosphere of a text. It requires considerable experience and it may b better to waituntil you have read enough before trying to decide. Sometimes the tone may be soobvious that it is worth identifying, but if you are not sure, leave it out.
ANALYSING PROSEThe following are aspects of PROSE that you need to examine: Point of view: First Theme: General or Syntax: Short or ir third person? specific? Obvious long? Simple or Centred on one or hidden? complex? Varied person? or monotonous? STYLE Language: Simple or complex? Poetic Imagery: visual or everyday? Sound: Harsh or Formal or or other senses? mellifluous? Rhythmic? informal? Is there rhyme? Varied Vivid or subtle? Emotional or or monotonous? Original or objective? conventional?STYLE can also be viewed as the expression of a writer´s personality andpreoccupations. The ways in which writers experience the world and the things whichare most important to them are bound to affect how and what they write. Most writinginvolves thinking but it is not just a cerebral activity. Although all good writers “craft”their work carefully, even when they wish to convey emotional or sensual experiences,there can be unconscious influences, especially for writers who use more intuitive orfree-ranging techniques, allowing their words to flow without controlling themcarefully.STUDYING NOVELS The penguin dictionary of literary terms defines the novel as: “a form ofstory or prose narrative containing characters, action and incident, and perhaps a plot”. Jane Austen (1775-1817) one of England´s greatest novelists, commentedthat a novel could be a “work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, inwhich the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of itsvarieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the bestchosen language”. Although there are earlier novels, the history of the English novel reallybegins with the publication of Daniel Defoe´s Robinson Crusoe in 1719. The late arrivalof the novel in the literary scene tells us something important about the genre: IT IS,ABOVE ALL, A FORM OF LITERATURE WHICH LOOKS AT PEOPLE INSOCIETY. The development of the novel reflects a move away from an essentially
religious view of life towards a new interest in the complexities of everyday experience.Most novels are concerned with ordinary people and their problems in the societies inwhich they find themselves. The other major characteristic of the genre is that novels tell a story.Novelists frequently focus on the TENSIONS BETWEEN INDIVIDUALS AND THESOCIETY in which they live, presenting CHARACTERS AT ODDS with that society.A lot of novels have young people as the main characters, for it is often THE YOUNGWHO FEEL THEMSELVES TO BE MOST AT ODDS WITH CONVENTIONALSTANDARDS. Some novels, such as Tolkien´s The Lord of the Rings, have animals ascentral characters; but even these novels are dealing indirectly with man in the socialworld. Novels are long works with a great amount of detail on every page. Theeffect of this detail is that we come to recognize the complex reality of a character orevent in the story. There are several aspects that can be found in most novels: 1. STORY AND PLOT: E.M Forster, in his work Aspects of the Novel, defines a story as “a narrative of events arranged in their time sequence” while a plot is “also a narrative of events, the emphasis falling on causality”, the example he gives is : “the king died and then the queen died”, is a story. “the king dies and then the queen died of grief”, is a plot. It is necessary to look at structure and time sequencing. Is it organized chronologically? Are there flashbacks? Is the development linear or circular? How dos the structure affect the reader´s response? 2. POINT OF VIEW: Who tells the story – the writer, a persona outside the story or one of the characters? Is it told from a list – or third- person perspective? Why does the writer choose to write from this viewpoint? 3. CHARACTERS: Does the writer concentrate on a few characters or is there a cast of hundreds? Are the characters presented in great detail so that you know more about them than you would about almost anyone you know in real life? Or are there caricatures who always appear the same? Do the characters change throughout the novel, and if so what factors make them change? How are they presented? Negatively, positively, objectively? Do you empathize with them, and if so why? Does the author openly tell you what they are like or do you have to work that out by interpreting their speech and actions? 4. THEME: What is the author trying to tell us about people or life? What messages are conveyed through the characters and the events? Themes often concern the relationships between characters and the societies they live in. 5. SETTING: where is the novel set? Is the setting a vital element, or would it not matter where the work was set? 6. LANGUAGE: A book can be written in a formal or informal style. The language can be poetic, complex or very basic. It can be designed to make you laugh or weep or make you angry or sentimental. You need to consider the effects caused by the choice of one writing style instead of another.
SOME USEFUL TIPSWHERE TO BEGIN:With a long text like a novel, we need to learn to find our way around it easily so wecan locate important passages or incidents failry quickly. Here are some strategies thatwill help you gain familiarity. If you have time, read through the novel fairly quickly before you begin to study it. This gives you the opportunity to gain an overall impression of the novel and to read it, as it was intended, just for enjoyment. It will also help you see how different aspects of the novel fit together when you study it in depth. The first read will give you an idea of how the plot is constructed and of the type of novel it is. Do some research, especially if the novel is set, or was written, in the past. Knowing something about the historical and social background and about the conventions and beliefs of the time can help you to understand things which may otherwise seem strange and incomprehensible. Keep a separate journal or “log” (or blog) for each text. Try dividing a notebook into sections, one for each important aspect of the novel. As you study the novel, jot down your observations about each aspect in the appropriate places. Include important quotations and page references. Then when you need the information for a discussion or for writing an essay, it will be easy to locate. If you have your own copy of the text it is helpful to annotate it by marking significant passages so that it is easy to find them again.