- Gebundene Ausgabe: 232 Seiten
- Verlag: Yale University Press (26. April 2013)
- Sprache: Englisch
- ISBN-10: 0300190964
- ISBN-13: 978-0300190960
- Größe und/oder Gewicht: 21,7 x 14,9 x 2,1 cm
- Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: 3 Kundenrezensionen
- Amazon Bestseller-Rang: Nr. 98.972 in Fremdsprachige Bücher (Siehe Top 100 in Fremdsprachige Bücher)
How to Read Literature (Englisch) Gebundene Ausgabe – 26. April 2013
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"This is Eagleton at his most charming and an excellent guide for literature students early in their education or those seeking a refresher course."-Publishers Weekly Publishers Weekly "A genial guide to exactly what the title promises... This short book benefits from a conversational, even humorous tone... Includes a very funny exegesis of 'Baa Baa Black Sheep' and an interpretive linkage of Dickens and Harry Potter."-Kirkus Reviews Kirkus Reviews "Part of the fun of the book is the way in which Eagleton prompts, provokes and at times infuriates. How to read How to Read Literature?...as an ideal introductory guide to critical analysis, and a thoroughly enjoyable reminder of Eagleton's own skill and subtlety as a reader."-Felicity James, Times Higher Education Supplement -- Felicity James Times Higher Education Supplement "A pleasingly readable overview of what we talk about when we talk about books... Incisive and honest."-Michael Washburn, Boston Globe -- Michael Washburn Boston Globe "How to Read Literature is a lively and engaging primer on basic strategies for appreciating literature, a kind of English 101 in a book."-Washington Post Washington Post
Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende
Terry Eagleton is Distinguished Professor of Literature, University of Lancaster, UK, and Excellence in English Distinguished Visiting Professor, University of Notre Dame. One of the most influential literary critics in the English-speaking world, he is the author of more than 40 books on literary theory, postmodernism, politics, ideology, and religion, among them his best-selling Literary Theory: An Introduction. He lives in Northern Ireland, UK.
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Wie lese ich Literatur? Der Autor will uns das erklären. Er will zeigen wie man liest und wie man analysiert und dann auch kritisiert.
Dabei macht er uns klar, dass alles Geschriebene Fiktion ist. Charaktere sind vom Autor nur angelegt, nur mit groben Umrissen skizziert, nie komplett entwickelt. Diese Entwicklung der Figur, die Wandlung von der Skizze zum komplexen Bild geschieht in der Fantasie des Lesers, natürlich ganz unterschiedlich, je nach dem persönlichen Hintergrund des Lesers selbst. Es gibt so viele unterschiedliche Bilder der gleichen Figur wie es Köpfe, sprich Leser gibt. Daher ist ein verfilmtes Buch für den in einen Roman tief involvierten Leser meist eine Enttäuschung. Er sieht die Bilder eines fremden Kopfes.
Spannend ist die Analyse des ersten Satzes verschiedener Werke. Der erste Satz scheint extrem wichtig. Im ersten Satz kann vieles angelegt sein. Einige erste Sätze sind genial. Eagleton führt Beispiele an.
Im weiteren Verlauf bespricht der Autor verschiedene Werke. Besonders ausführlich beschreibt er Great Expectations" von Charles Dickens, das er analysiert, in seine Einzelteile zerlegt, den Aufbau offenlegt. Der Unterschied zum sogenannten Bildungsroman wird dargestellt. Wenn man diese Analyse gelesen hat, möchte man das Buch selbst zur Hand nehmen, zumal man jetzt tiefe Zusammenhänge erkennt, auf die man sonst als herkömmlicher Leser nicht gekommen wäre.
Er zeigt u.a. wie Charles Dickens die Welt sieht: Eher schlecht und böse als gut und friedlich. Seine Sympathien liegen bei den sogenannten Bösen, wie Dieben und harmlosen Betrügern.Lesen Sie weiter... ›
"To narrate is to falsify. In fact, one might even claim that to write is to falsify" (107). Sich auf ein literarisches Werk einzulassen bedeutet immer auch, sich den Tricks, Finessen und Fallen einer Erzählung auszusetzen. Können wir dem Erzähler vertrauen, oder führt er uns bewusst in die Irre, so wie Humbert Humbert, der Meister der Manipulation aus Nabokovs "Lolita"? Wird ein Charakter eher als eindimensionale Stereotype dargestellt, oder als vielschichtiges Wesen in all seinen Facetten?: "Stereotypes reduce men and women to general categories, whereas types preserve their individuality but lend it to some broader context" (57). Was offenbart uns ein Erzähler und was verschweigt er bewusst oder unbewusst? Erzählungen sind immer trickreich und manchmal auch heimtückisch und arbeiten so wie "hired assassins" (101), immer bereit, plötzlich und brutal in den Lauf der Ereignisse einzugreifen.
Doch was macht nun gute Literatur aus?Lesen Sie weiter... ›
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Mr. Eagleton, who has the ability to sling Theory with the best, here tones himself down for the Freshman undergrad and writes with admirable clarity and glimmers of wit (which frequently fall flat but one appreciates the effort nonetheless). He defines Literature in its broadest sense: novel, poetry and drama are included and, this being a very brief book, he can only make quick stabs at covering the territory. He demonstrates a sharp ear at analyzing various Openings of literary work in his first chapter (A Passage to India, Macbeth, the Bible, Pride and Prejudice, Keats, Milton) with acute observations. Of the Bible he writes:
"Perhaps whoever wrote [the first three words of the Bible] imagine that time began at a certain point, and when it did so God created the universe. But we know today that there would be no time without the universe. Time and the universe sprang into being simultaneously"(p.19).
He then goes on to analyze various characters in literature and how different literary movements (Classicism, Romanticism, etc) changed the nature of the literary character. He comes to an amusing defense of virtuous characters such as Richardson's Clarissa and provides an in-depth analysis of what motivates Hardy's Sue Bridehead (in a rebuttal to the published opinions of his younger self). In doing so, he provides models of acute, compassionate literary criticism.
He was able to finally clarify for me the difference between Plot and Narrative (EM Forster's attempt confused me for life). It was only in his chapter on Interpretation that I found him beating a dead horse, that an author's intentions are only one, and not necessarily the most valid, way to interpret a literary work. This argument, making up a large part of the lengthiest chapter, goes on far too long.
The last chapter, on literary value, is the one I found the most ...er... valuable. What makes a literary work great? What causes it to last? While he points in various directions he realizes that a single prescriptive answer is impossible. Which makes it a fitting end to this thoughtful, enlightening work.
Eagleton packs a great deal of information into his two-hundred-page book. He makes us question some of our long-held assumptions about the nature of literature, teaches us how to appreciate literary works, and offers criteria for judging their value. In addition, Eagleton piques our interest with thought-provoking and provocative observations on such works as "Paradise Lost," "Othello," "Jane Eyre," "Great Expectations," "Jude the Obscure," "A Passage to India," and even "Harry Potter."
Professor Eagleton suggests what we should be looking for when we examine a work of literature: How does the author begin? What mood does he create? Are the characters and plot realistic or fanciful? What, if anything, does the work teach us about the human condition? How does the author's use of language, symbolism, irony, and imagery create a desired effect on the reader? From whose point of view is the story told, and is he or she a reliable narrator?
When Eagleton discusses fiction vs. reality, realism vs. modernism, and neo-classicism vs. romanticism, his prose becomes so technical that some laymen will find it difficult to grasp. Eagleton's ideas are more accessible when he focuses on particular characters, passages, or images. For example, he points out that in Shakespeare's "The Tempest," Prospero urges his audience to applaud and release him from the play's spell. Only by "freeing" Prospero can the spectators return to reality and apply whatever lessons they have learned to their own lives. In another fascinating chapter, Eagleton weighs in on one of the most beloved heroines in English literature, Jane Eyre. He tells us that she is "self-righteous, moralistic, and mildly masochistic," but quickly explains why she cannot be blamed for having a few disagreeable traits. No one can accuse Eagleton of shying away from controversy.
The bottom line is that there is no universal standard of excellence when it comes to judging literature. Over the years, times and tastes have changed. This being said, a savvy reader can make a good start at evaluating a work's merit by determining whether a novel or play displays "imaginative vision," "verbal inventiveness," "moral complexity," and "depth of insight." Delving into literary works requires concentration and discernment. The chief reward of close reading is a "heightened sensitivity" to literature's infinite richness.
I expected How to Read Literature to have a lot in common with his earlier book Literary Theory. Evidently, however, literary theory and literary appreciation or, if you prefer, literary criticism, have less in common than I had imagined. Literary Theory, apparently, has more to do with the nature of language, and literary criticism emphasizes aesthetic criteria that govern how language is used in producing novels, short stories, poems, and other fictional forms. Theory and criticism, nevertheless, certainly have a substantial conceptual overlap.
How to Read Literature, thus, may generate minor but annoying confusion as to the very nature of literature as a distinct creative activity. For example, in Literary Theory Eagleton made much of the once prevailing admonition that "a poem should not mean but be." Since poems are constructed of words, and words take their meaning from their relationships with other words, and words are the building blocks of language and literature, the distinction between literary theory and literary criticism becomes even harder to make with confidence. However, if an author such as Eagleton chooses, in a particular instance, to emphasize one over the other, it seems reasonable to overlook the artificiality of a hard and fast break between the two, at least for the time being.
How to Read Literature is, for the most part, readily accessible, and it's not unduly difficult to follow Eagleton's discussions of openings, character development, the variable nature of narratives, and other pertinent topics. Nevertheless, Eagleton does not pander to the reader by choosing only easy examples with which to make his presentation. If anything, he shows off just a bit, displaying his impressive erudition and demonstrating the depth and complexity of his thought, sometimes to the point of contrivance for just this purpose. In truth, Eagleton fairly often over-interprets literature of varied genres. This is the sort of complaint that is often heard from mystified Freshmen enrolled in their first course in English composition, but toward the end of the book Eagleton acknowledges that patterns of alliteration, clusters of sumptuous words, instances of well-timed understatement, and other happy locutions attributed to an author's brilliance are very often produced unself-consciously. This does not rob them of their literary value, but it does undercut the claim that they were intentionally invoked to produce admirable literature. This, I think, has the salutary effect of making the writing of fiction seem less like industrial engineering and more like art.
Furthermore, one need not agree with every judgment that Eagleton offers. Sometimes he seems to be simply wrong. This is conspicuously true of his analysis of what the takes to be misguided uses of empathy in understanding and explaining characters. If I understand him, Eagleton claims that empathy has no place in the production of fiction. His reasoning has an odd and, I think, demonstrably false basis, namely that if one is empathizing -- putting yourself in the place of another person -- by becoming that person you deny yourself the opportunity to observe him or her and gather material for use in your writing.
This claim, however, seems absurdly wrong. George Herbert Mead's masterful Mind, Self, and Society gives a conspicuous place to taking the role of the other, in other words to empathy, in the development of social and communicative competence. This is how we learn about each other and acquire the ability to interact,
Much more recently, in Adam Begley's biography Updike, the biographer very effectively describes John Updike as always maintaining an essential detachment from himself, enabling him to observe and record what he did and felt just as he was doing it. Updike was adept at empathizing with himself and thereby accumulating raw material for his writing. This, according to Begley, was a primary reason why so much of what Updike wrote is autobiographical.
Even the smartest and most learned among us occasionally make some pretty consequential blunders. In this instance, I think that Eagleton became entangled in an overwrought convolution of his own making and outsmarted himself. It's ironic, moreover, that Eagleton rejected empathy but endorsed the use of sympathy, thereby risking spilling over into sentimentality.
This review is a lot more unfavorable than I wanted it to be. Eagleton's discussions of classical realism, romanticism, and modernism are very informative and useful. His failure to give more attention to post-modernism is consistent with choices he's made in some of his other books, such as After Theory. He pays tribute to post-modernism in the abstract, but seems averse to celebrating it concretely. In Why Marx Was Right he gives the distinct impression of being pretty much fed up with it. In fact, Eagleton goes so far as to judge modernism, not post-modernism, to be the most important development for literary and cultural studies in the 20th Century.
Eagleton, whatever his errors in judgment and penchant for self-aggrandizement, alerts the reader to important aspects of literature that are often overlooked or discounted. He is indeed endorsing "slow reading," and to do that as insightfully as Eagleton must be exhausting, something that is mastered over time through repeated applications.
No, Eagleton never comes right out and says "here is a list of the attributes of all fine literature," and he acknowledges that individual taste has a legitimate role in evaluating what we read and how much we enjoy it. More compelling, though, are his repeated acknowledgments that literary criticism unrelated to time and place is something that cannot be realized. That he puts so much emphasis on context, including social organization and relationships, as essential factors in evaluating literature is very much to his credit. Eagleton may be a bit of a showoff, but he's also an extraordinarily capable writer who rarely lets his ego render his work inaccessible to unspecialized readers.
What I had hoped to find in this book, and what I am very happy to report that I found, was a wide range of thoughtful, good humored, pointed, creative and entertaining observations about reading and appreciating literary works. If you are at all interested in character, plot, syntax, symbolism, narrative structure, and the like, or if you would like some grounding in the various "isms", you will be interested in what Professor Eagleton has to say about these topics. And, it is easier to pay attention if you have some guidance as to what you should be looking for. (Also, I now know what "parataxis" is, so I'm already in the plus column on this book.)
So, this isn't a textbook; it's more like a companion reader. You can browse or read closely, and either way you will be entertained and benefited in equal measure. What a pleasure.
Please note that I received a free advance ecopy of this book in exchange for a candid review. Apart from that I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.