The Art of Literary Writing...
...are the things you will spend a great deal of time discussing throughout your Literature course. They are, ultimately, the components that define the books you read as literary texts, as opposed to - say - ones that are purely transactional or informational: a letter to your head teacher, or the instructional manual for a new phone, for example.
In all areas of the course, but perhaps particularly in reference to practice for Paper 1, you will spend significant time exploring the means through which literary writers use specific tools in order to generate meaning. Here, for example, is the English literary critic, Terry Eagleton, talking about the opening to a poem written by an author who frequently makes an appearance in Part 2: John Keats:
'Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness'.
From Ode to Autumn, by John Keats
What strikes one about the line is the sheer opulence of its sound-texture. It is as scrupulously orchestrated as a symphonic chord, full of rustling 's' sounds and murmuring 'ms'. Everything is sibilant and mellifluous, with scarcely any hard of sharp consonants. The 'fs' of 'fruitfulness' might seem an exception, but is is softened by the 'r' which is pronounced along with it. There is a rich tapestry of sound here, full of parallelisms and subtle variations. The 'm' of 'mists' is reflected in the 'm' of 'mellow', the 'f' of 'of' is echoed in the 'f' of 'fruitfulness', the 's' sounds of 'mists' is picked up again in the 'ness' of 'fruitfulness', while the 'e' of 'Season', the 'i' of 'mists' and the 'e' of 'mellow' form an intricate pattern of sameness and difference.
The sheer packedness of the line also arrests the eye. It manages to cram in as many syllables as it can without it becoming cloying or sickly sweet. This sensuous richness is meant to evoke the ripeness of autumn, so the language seems to become part of what it speaks of.
From How to Read Literature, Terry Eagleton (Yale, 2013), p. 26
Notice here how his first paragraph is very much exploratory and analytical in its feel - making sense of the way the music of the words operates in a technical capacity. Then, in the second paragraph, he goes on to make some comment on its effect or impact - where skills of interpretation come to the fore. These 'thinking' strands can therefore be described as follows:
When you stop thinking that there is some kind of underlying meaning, some kind of ultimate message, or one main 'point' that you need to try and decode or find, that you will start operating in the right way. Literary analysis is, in many ways, simply an exploration of the way in which a text invites you to think or to feel. The more rigorous you go about this process, and the more self-aware and sensitive you become about how texts work their magic, then the more likely you are to do well.
Key 'Literary Features'
There are of course hundreds, if not thousands of terms used to describe the way in which literary writing works, and you will undoubtedly learn a considerable number of them as you study your texts. Below is a list of the more important, or certainly ones that you will be likely to use most often. Clicking on the icon in the right hand column will provide you with an example and/or explanation of what they mean.