1. How to use the web space?

2. Why study literature?

3. How to study literature?

4. How shall we cooperate?

5. How to read a poem?

6. How to study a novel?

7. How to read a play?

8. Approaches to literature

How to use the web space?

1. Syllabus is about the aim and means of the course.

2. Study Guide is about why and how to study literature.

3. Reference offers a list of main reference books.

4. History offers a brief introduction to the history of British literature, in which you can find links to introductions to specific writers and their writings.

5. Discussion offers answers to questions for classroom discussions, full of students’ insights.

        6. Further Exploration encourages writing about literature, literary criticism and literary translation.

        7. Questionnaire is for you to give opinions about the course.

Return to Top

Why study literature?

        As English majors, you aim to improve your language skills such as listening, speaking, reading, writing and translation. To prove your language proficiency, you prepare for tests, such as TEM or CET or BEC or GRE or TOEFL or IELTS, etc., to get certificates. It seems that literature has nothing to do with language learning. Then, why are we here today to study literature?

1. It improves your language proficiency.

It’s reported that there’re more demands for good readers and writers in business.

Why?------ Most people go into the world of business after a short period of language training. They are familiar with the languages used in business routines. But they know nothing about what is good English.

“All that is best in a language finds expression in its literature”. (Liu Bingshan, 1927) Many literary works and writers have had a great influence on the English language, for example, the  Bible, William Shakespeare, Milton, Swift, Defoe, Dickens and Bernard Shaw.

To become good readers and writers, we cannot study the English language without learning English literature which has woven itself into the whole texture of the English tongue.

2. It enriches your knowledge about foreign culture.

Literature is the study of human beings. It reflects every aspect of the society. And learning a language means more than learning its language. English majors need to know something about the culture, the society. You have learned the course of British and American cultures. In reading literary works, you’ll find something more vividly shown about the cultures of the people described.

3. It helps you explore the nature of human beings.

Sometimes there’re something philosophical in some literary works, from which you can learn something about life, something about humanity. Then you can distinguish good from bad.

4. It gives you spiritual and psychological relief.

        As human beings, we all have emotions and feelings. Sometimes we need to get some relief from the pressure of life, or find expression of our feelings. In literary readings, we can easily find it.

“No one can promise that your study of literature will result in cash profit, but at least the kind of wealth that literature provides is immune to fluctuations of the Dow Jones average.”

How to Study Literature?

        There’re so many works of art in the history of English literature that we cannot read all of them. That’s why we start with a brief history of literature and selected readings.

English literature has a long history and contains much wealth. To learn it well, we need to pay attention to the following points:

1. Historical Development (Periods of English Literature)

        Historical Development will help you remember things, because each period is characterized with its own historical and artistic features.

2. Historical background:

    Historical background helps us understand the theme of works, the characters' personality, etc.

3. Characteristics of a period and individual writers and works (their themes, characters , contents , artistic features and so on)  

    These are the main elements of literary reading.

4. Literary terms: Literary terms may help you  form your own literary taste.

5. Read the original if possible: After a period of random reading, you can make your own choice among the various schools of authors and study the classics------universally acknowledged good works of literary art, the highest contribution made by the English language to the treasury of human culture. .

Return to Top

How Shall We Cooperate?

1. In-class lecture & discussion: My part & your part

2. After-class reading & research: Dictionary, notes, library, internet

3. Assessment: :Classroom oral presentation 20%; Final exam (paper) 70%; Writing 10%

I hope that by reading, you can improve your reading; by discussion, you can improve your oral English and thinking; by doing research, you can be prepared for your graduation thesis and future work.

Return to Top

How to Study a Novel?

1.    Method

There isn't a single formula or a secret recipe for the successful study of literature. But to do it seriously you should be a deep and attentive reader. This means reading, then re-reading. It also means making an active engagement with the book. And it means making notes.

You can read the novel quickly first, just to get an idea of the story-line. Then you will need to read it again more slowly, making notes. If you don't have time, then one careful slower reading should combine understanding and note-taking

2.  Taking notes

Make two types of notes - some written in the book itself, and others on separate pages. Those in the book are for highlighting small details as you go along. Those on separate pages are for summaries of evidence, collections of your own observations, and page references for study topics or quotations.

1) Notes in the book

Use a soft pencil - not a pen. Ink is too distracting on the page. Don't underline whole paragraphs. If something strikes you as interesting, write a brief note saying why or how it is so. If you read on the bus or in the bath, use the inside covers and any blank pages for making notes.

2) Separate Notes

You will definitely remember the characters, events, and features of a novel more easily if you make notes whilst reading. Use separate pages for different topics. You might make a record of


chronology of events

major themes

stylistic features

narrative strategies

3) Characters 

Make a note of the name, age, appearance, and their relationship to other characters in the novel. Writers usually give most of the background information about characters when they are first introduced into the story. Make a note of the pages on which this occurs. Note any special features of the main characters, and  what other characters (or the author) thinks of them.

4). Chronology of events

A summary of each chapter will help you reconstruct the whole story long after you have read it. The summary prompts the traces of reading experience which lie dormant in your memory.

A chronology of events might also help you to understand a complex story. It might help separate plots from sub-plots, and even help you see any underlying structure in the story - which might be called the "architecture of events".

5) Major themes

These are the important underlying issues with which the novel is concerned. They are usually summarized as abstract concepts such as  marriage, education, justice, freedom, and salvation. These might only emerge slowly as the novel progresses on first reading - though they might seem much more obvious on subsequent readings.

Seeing the main underlying themes will help you appreciate the relative importance of events. It will also help you spot cross-references and appreciate some of the subtle effects supposed by the author.

6) Stylistic features

These are the decorative and literary features of the writer's style - which usually contribute mainly to the way the story is told. The style might be created by any number of features:

                    choice of vocabulary

                    imagery and metaphors

                    shifts in tone and register

                    use of irony and humor

3. Quotations

If you are writing an essay about the novel, you will need quotations from it to support your arguments. You must make a careful note of the pages on which they occur. Do this immediately whilst reading - otherwise tracking them down later will waste lots of time.

Record page number and a brief description of the subject. Write out the quotation itself if it is short enough. Don't bother writing out long quotations.

4. Bibliography

If you are reading literary criticism or background materials related to the novel - make a full bibliographic record of every source. In the case of books, you should record - Author, Book Title, Publisher, Place of publication, Date, Page number.

If you borrow the book from a library, make a full note of its number in the library's classification system. This will save you time if you need to take it out again  later.

In the case of Internet and other digital sources (CDs, websites, videos) you may look at a guidance note on referencing digital sources

5. Maps and diagrams

A diagram or map may help you strengthen your "visual "memories and  remember or conceptualize the "geography" of events.

6. Chapter summaries

Many novels are structured in chapters. After reading each chapter, use one sentence to summarize  what it's about. This can help you remember the events at a later date. The summary might be what "happens" in an obvious sense (Mr X travels to London) but it might be something internal or psychological (Susan realises she is "alone").

Deciding what is most important will help you  digest and remember the content of the novel.

7. Making links

There are significant links between events or characters , even though these links are revealed many pages apart. Make a note as soon as you see them - because they will be very hard to find later.

8. Using a dictionary

Some novelists like to use unusual, obscure, or even foreign words. Take the trouble to look these up in a good dictionary. It will help you  understand the story and the author, and it will help to extend the range of your own vocabulary. If you need to choose a good dictionary for studying, have a look at the guidance notes on the subject:

Return to Top

How to Read a Play?

1.Drama for Performance  

Speaking, acting, singing, dancing, designing of scenes (props, setting, music, etc.)

2.The foundation of drama: the Play (the script) written for the stage (stage directions)

3. Theme

4. Plot

 Beginning (origin) --> middle (growth) --> climax (sharpening) --> end (closing of contradiction)

5. Acts and Scenes

 Romeo and Juliet (5acts)

6. Characterization

 protagonist and antagonist (by means of conversations, soliloquy and actions)

Return to Top

Approaches to Literature

   1. Text-oriented Approach

    Close analysis and attention to words and their contexts;

   Analysis of tone, theme, plot, and character

   2. Author-oriented Approach

   Author’s life, time, culture (historical and biographical research)

   3.  Reader-oriented Approach

   Reader of different time, different sex, different nationality, different race may react in different ways.