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Studying Forster: some ideas to get you started

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Part of the How to Study Literature book series

Abstract

Working on a novelist for a course or exam is not the same as reading for simple enjoyment although, hopefully, a good deal of lasting pleasure can be derived from studying fictions as ‘literary texts’. Still, whatever other motives a serious author may have, novels are written with entertainment in mind. Novelists don’t want to be dreary and dull, and don’t set out expecting their work to be put on examination syllabuses, so I think the best way to start is by reading your text through once, carefully but not too solemnly, as you would any other novel, and then try to record your own reading experience as honestly as you can. Studying a book is a rather different process from reading for pleasure because you have to keep at it longer in a systematic way and be prepared to go beyond first impressions — but first impressions are still important. There will always be critics around to tell you what they think but, right from the start, try and get into the argument yourself, however inadequate you may feel, before becoming too influenced by other people’s ideas. Let us suppose, then, that you have just finished reading the Forster novel that you have to study; try and make some assessment of the experience you have had by jotting down your first impressions.

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© Nigel Messenger 1991

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