Ever wondered how reading great works of literature is different from everyday reading? How about how meaning is achieved in poetry, how Edgar Allan Poe defined the short story, or what makes Tony Kushner’s Angels in America such a crucial work in contemporary drama?
If any of these questions pique your interest, The Handy Literature Answer Book: An Engaging Guide to Unraveling Symbols, Signs, and Meanings in Great Works may be for you.
“Our hope is that this guide will help you to better understand what makes literature and each literary genre so distinctive, and that you will not only know how to read literary works but also will have a greater appreciation of what you are reading. Then, any resistance to the challenge of reading literature will shift to active engagement and understanding of literature’s greatest gift in the discovery of our humanity and our mutuality, write authors Deborah G. Felder and Dr. Daniel S. Burt in the introduction.
“The good news is that literature is patient, awaiting your activation of a dialogue between ‘the best that has been thought and said’ and you,” they continue. We hope that we have anticipated the questions that you would have asked and provided the answers to make the dialogue both lively and meaningful.”
After the introduction and an opening chapter titled “Why Read Literature & How Not to Read It,” the authors delve into how to read specific genres of literature, including poetry, short stories, drama, literary nonfiction, and the novel. After covering the genre as a whole, they take a closer look at major works within the genre, such as “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” (poetry) “The Gift of the Magi” (short stories), The Woman Warrior (literary nonfiction), Beloved (the novel), and Fences (drama).
Burt and Felder also cover common critical approaches to analyzing literature before concluding with a helpful glossary of literary terms and a hefty list of recommended works of literature that spans from ancient works (Homer, the Bible) to the 21st century (Jhumpa Lahiri, Colson Whitehead).
While the book would be a natural addition to any classroom or English major’s bookshelf, it’s also a useful, accessible primer for any writer looking to deepen their knowledge of the classics.Originally Published