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Introduction to Literature in English


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Introduction to Literature in English

  3. 3. INTRODUCTION The study or appreciation of literature is very interesting and helpful to learners for many reasons. • Literature in English involves the reading and analysis of written materials of different kinds including fiction and non-fiction written works in English. • All learners of Literature in English should be ready to analyze whatever they read critically by the end of the course.
  4. 4. DEFINITION OF LITERATURE It is very difficult to offer a precise definition of Literature, but we shall give a working definition of it in line with what we shall be studying. • Literature can be defined as ‘pieces of writing that are valued as works of art, especially novels, plays and poems’. • (Oxford Advanced Learner’s English Dictionary).
  5. 5. DEFINITION OF LITERATURE • “the body of written works produced in a particular language, country, or age, or the body of writings on a particular subject (scientific, art, etc.)” (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary and Thesaurus).
  6. 6. DEFINITION OF LITERATURE • Looking at the previous Dictionary definitions of Literature, we may define Literature generally as any body of written works that is written and produced in any country, language or age for a specific purpose such as information, education or entertainment to the reader, which can be fictional or non-fictional in nature. • However, in Literature in English as a subject, our main concern is on the first definition above.
  7. 7. IMPORTANCE OF LITERATURE Reading and studying Literature in very important for various reasons as outlined below: • Literature improves your command of language • It teaches you about the life, cultures and experiences of people in other parts of the world. • It gives you information about other parts of the world which you may never be able to visit in your lifetime. (Shimmer Chinodya, 1992:36)
  8. 8. IMPORTANCE OF LITERATURE • It entertains you and provides useful occupation in your free time. • It makes you a wiser and more experienced person by forcing you to judge, sympathize with, or criticize the characters you read about. • It helps you compare your own experiences with the experiences of other people. • It gives information which may be useful in other subjects, for example, in Geography, Science, History, Social Studies, and so on. (Shimmer Chinodya, 1992:36)
  9. 9. IMPORTANCE OF LITERATURE Literature in general is very important to all readers although you may not take Literature in English as an examinable subject at school. Reading is in fact very much part of language learning. This will, among other things, improve your command of the English Language if you read widely. Teachers of the English language should encourage their students to read widely by using their community libraries if their schools have none. Where this facility is not available, make use of your class library or exchange books with your classmates.
  10. 10. KINDS OF LITERATURE • Generally, Literature is divided into two (2) kinds, namely, Fictional and Non-Fictional Literature. • Fictional Literature is imaginary composed writing or work of art that is meant to provide information, education and entertainment to the reader. In other words, fictional literature is based on the writer’s imagination rather than reality. • Non – fictional Literature is factual writing or written work that is gives facts that can be proved as it provides real places, events, characters, times or reality rather than imaginary things.
  11. 11. KINDS OF LITERATURE (CONT’D) • Examples of Fictional Literature include plays, poems, short stories, novels, oral literature, and songs • Examples of Non-Fictional Literature include autobiographies, biographies, essays, diaries and journals, magazines, newspapers, subject text books such as in Geography, History and Civic Education. • In our study of Literature in English, however, we shall concentrate on Fictional Literature as exemplified above. Generally, its main concern is with Drama (Plays), Fiction (stories), and Poetry (Poems).
  12. 12. ELEMENTS OF FICTION (THE STORY) • Generally, fiction is any form of literature that tells about imaginary (invented, made up or unreal) people, places, or events. Short stories, novels, and folk tales are kinds of fiction. • A short story is a short fictional prose narrative built on a plot that includes the basic situation, complications, climax, and resolution. • In contrast, a Novel is a long fictional story that uses all the elements of storytelling, namely, plot, character, setting, theme, and point of view. • Oral or traditional literature has some form of stories often told by word of mouth from generation to generation such as folk tales, legends, and myths which have now been written down as stories for us to read.
  13. 13. ELEMENTS OF FICTION • The Story, whether it is a short story, novel or fork tale, has the following general elements that are used to analyze any written story: Author Setting plot Themes Characters Style Language
  14. 14. ELEMENTS OF FICTION (AUTHOR) Author: This is the writer of any written work of art or fiction. It is very important to not only know the name of the author, but you should also understand and appreciate his or her background. This will help you the reader to understand what, how and why the author writes any story or novel. For example, authors have different writing styles in their works, and they are motivated variously in their writing the story. Once you appreciate these things about the author, it most likely that you shall understand and enjoy the story you are reading and analyzing.
  15. 15. ELEMENTS OF FICTION (SETTING) Setting: • This is the place and time in which the story unfolds or takes place. • Setting is important in understanding the background and impact of the story or incidents in the story. If a story is well told, we will recall the setting later, long after we have put the story aside. Where the setting threatens the characters, it creates the conflict which is as important in fiction writing or literature. • So, in interpreting or reviewing a setting of a story, you may have to ask and answer such questions as: How does the setting or atmosphere influence the work? Where do the events of story take place? When do they occur? What was the mood when the incident took place?
  16. 16. ELEMENTS OF FICTION (PLOT) • This is a series or chain of related events that tells us ‘what happens’ in a story. When a plot is well mapped out, it ‘hooks’ us, that is, it catches our curiosity (interest) about what will happen next. A good plot draws us along after the narrator, just as a fish is hooked and played and reeled in by an expert fisherman. The first thing to recognize about plot is the nature of that hook which pulls us along and keeps us reading. What the hook grabs is our own curiosity, making us wonder about the outcome of a conflict. When a story is strong, you can be reasonably sure its conflict is strong.
  17. 17. ELEMENTS OF PLOT • Let us explore this idea of conflict further because it is a core or basic element of plot in the story. It is conflict or struggle that gives any story its energy. • This conflict can be between one person or animal and another, one person or animal and a group of persons or a whole society, one person or animal and nature, or one person or animal with something in the person or animal such as fear, shyness, homesickness, or just an inability to make a decision.
  18. 18. ELEMENTS OF PLOT CONFLICT • A conflict can be external, as when a person struggles with another person, or with an angry warthog or with a hurricane. On the other hand, a conflict can be internal, that is, it can take place inside a person’s mind or heart. This might happen when a character has to make a hard decision, or struggle against fear, or resist an urge to poke his nose into everyone’s business.
  19. 19. ELEMENTS OF PLOT • More conflicts in a story result into complications that develop as you read the story that require resolutions. In most cases, these complications are full of suspense that builds up as you anticipate what happens next in the story. This leads to a climax in the story, that is, the most emotional moment or the tensest mood of the story (breath-taking). Lastly, every story with conflicts should come to a resolution or an end. Sometimes the story may end in suspense, leaving you to guess what happens at the end of the story. However, most stories especially short stories will often have a resolution or conclusive end. In other words, your questions are answered at the end of the story whether for good or bad.
  20. 20. ELEMENTS OF PLOT • Therefore, in interpreting or reviewing a plot for the story, you may have to ask and answer such questions as: What is the central conflict of the story? Why does the conflict occur? What larger meaning or picture is suggested by the way the conflict is resolved?
  21. 21. ELEMENTS OF FICTION (THEME) • Theme: This refers to the controlling, main idea or central insight in the novel or short story. Theme answers the question ‘What does it mean?’ a story’s theme is often hard to state, but it is what the author means or what the reader perceives to mean by the whole story. • A theme is usually stated in a sentence or statement. This is so because a theme has to say something about the subject rather than just stated as a subject phrase!
  22. 22. ELEMENTS OF FICTION (THEMES) • Mostly, questions are framed in such a way as to let you show that you have learnt one or so lessons from the novel that bear on human interests. These are usually challenging questions because they require you to have a good overview of the text with regard to a wide spectrum of issues raised in the novel or short story. Such questions may be asked and answered as: What central idea or insight into life does the work convey? How do other elements help illustrate or reveal this idea or insight?
  23. 23. ELEMENTS OF FICTION (CHARACTERS) • Characters: These are persons or animals involved in a story in order to show entertain and show us some truth about human experience and ourselves. A good character should be ‘alive’ to help us appreciate the story well. In a story, we can recognize a character by his/her/its appearance, actions and thoughts, reactions of others (what other characters say or do in relation to the character), and direct statement of the author (comments made by the writer of the story as the narrator). • However, the best story is one in which the narrator doesn’t tell much directly about what the character is like. Instead, you learn about the character indirectly by how the character acts and how others act toward him/her, and by noticing what he/she thinks and says.
  24. 24. ELEMENTS OF FICTION • Characterization refers to the kinds of characters the novel or short story has depending on the level of their development and involvement in the story of the book. For example, are the characters flat or round, protagonists or antagonists, major or minor, stars or backers? • So, in most cases, questions come in such a way that you need to compare and contrast, describe, discuss pros and cons of one or more characters with regard to the development of the story or show appreciation of the characters generally. In other words, you can ask and answer such questions as: Why do characters act as they do? What are their motives? Do the characters change? How do they change?
  25. 25. ELEMENTS OF FICTION (STYLE) • This refers to the way the novel or short story is written in order to have a desired effect on the reader or audience. • It also refers to the techniques used by the writer of a literary work such as point of view, humor, fantasy, flashbacks, tone, and so on. • Style of writing if understood and appreciated well, can help you to analyze the story very well.
  26. 26. ELEMENTS OF FICTION (STYLE) • On rare occasions, questions are asked to test your knowledge and skills in these literary devices or techniques based on a novel or story that you have read. The questions that may help you interpret or review a work of literature include: What stylistic devices does the author use? What effects do they have? How does the tone, or author’s attitude, affect the work of art?
  27. 27. ELEMENTS OF FICTION (STYLE) • Point of View: This refers to the style the writer of a story uses to narrate the story. In other words, writers usually chose who should tell the story or who should be the mouth piece in the story. So, you can tell the story from various angles by using points of view. There are three basic points of view often used in narratives: omniscient, third-person limited, and first-person.
  28. 28. ELEMENTS OF FICTION (STYLE) • The omniscient (unlimited) point of view is the point of view of a god-like (all-knowing) being who has created a fictional world and who can tell us everything that is going on in the minds of all the characters. The omniscient narrator is outside the story; he or she is not part of the action at all.
  29. 29. ELEMENTS OF FICTION (STYLE) • The third-person (limited) point of view is where the writer has decided to tell the story from the limited point of view of a single person (participant) in the story. This kind of story reads as if a camera is zooming in on just one character. The writer uses the third person singular (he or she, or the actual name) of the character. This is very close to the omniscient point of view in that the writer still takes a prominent role.
  30. 30. ELEMENTS OF FICTION (STYLE) • And in the first-person (limited) point of view, the narrator speaks as ‘I’, as a character in the story. This character can tell us only what he or she sees and hears and thinks about what is going on. In other words, the narrator is a participant in the story. The writer chooses to tell the story in the name of another fictitious person and uses the first person pronoun ‘I’ as witness and participant in the events that unfold in the story. In this case, the point of view is also limited in that the narrator can only tell what he or she sees or experiences rather than what others do.
  31. 31. ELEMENTS OF FICTION (STYLE) • In order to review the points of view of any story, you may need to ask and answer such questions as: • What is the point of view used in the story? • Is it consistently used? • How does it affect your understanding of the work? • Why did the author choose that point of view?
  32. 32. ELEMENTS OF FICTION (LANGUAGE) • Language is part of style but it stands out to be the most important element of any fiction writing. • Literary language is often used in fiction writing to ‘relish’ the story so that it is more clear, educative, informative, and indeed interesting or entertaining. • Some of these language devices include figures of speech and symbolism such as images, symbols, irony, metaphors, similes, satire, and so on.
  33. 33. ELEMENTS OF FICTION (LANGUAGE) • The questions that may help you interpret or review a work of literature include: What figures of speech have been used? What symbols or images does the work include? What do they mean? What do they suggest about the meaning of the work as a whole? • You shall learn more about literary language later when we deal with poetry.