Diaries Magazine

How to Survive a Literature Course

Posted on the 16 June 2012 by Alwayslivingfree @xoalicat

Or how to enjoy literature as professor says you should

I was not a science major nor a math major, I hold a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Language Arts, and for this reason, I found literature courses to be some of the most difficult to sit through, yet they were some of the most rewarding. Nobody should be afraid of an English course because of the amount of reading or writing, instead, if they use these five simple tips, they will excel and thrive in the course–or in any reading or writing they do for pleasure.

1. Always read with a pen in hand. Record your thoughts in the book, or in a notebook, while you read. Underline quotes you find interesting and want to recall later, or quotes that you disagree with, then write in the margins why you disagree. When you re-read the book, or need to reference it again later, you’ll find it much easier to remember why you found that particular quote or passage intriguing. It also promotes a conversation with yourself–you can see how much you’ve changed.

2. If you feel your reading schedule is overwhelming, break up the reading into smaller chunks over the course of the day and the week. Don’t leave two-hundred pages to be read the night before. Don’t Sparknote anything either–be honest with yourself and recognize whether you read slowly and dilligently or if you’re a fast reader. Once you recognize this, you’ve won half the battle and can plan accordingly.

3. When you have writing to do, start early and don’t wait until the last minute. Write your first draft as soon as possible. Then walk away from it for a few days. The mistakes you are able to catch and faults in your argument appear vividly clear once you aren’t so invested in the work. From here you can shred the first draft to pieces and rebuild a more solid argument.

4. No matter how overwhelmed you feel, don’t give up. Professors are a great resource, and if you’re reading a book for pleasure and you feel lost, find a friend that has read the book that you can discuss the book with to help bolster your understanding. Even if you do understand the book, find someone that has read it, or an article online, to expand your view and comprehension of the book. Someone may have a view or insight that you never would have thought of that can change how you see a particular situation.

5. When writing, don’t be afraid of the first draft. Nobody will see it, and it’s best to get it out without thinking too much about it. To have even a few pages written is better than nothing at all, and if you’ve started early then you have time to make as many edits and changes as you want, as well as asking other people to read it over for you to help your argument along.

Overall, when you sit down with your next book, grab a pen, and scribble in the margins, have a conversation with yourself. You’ll realize just how smart you are.

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