How to Read like a Cambridge Graduate
This course offers a new way to actively build literary skills. It focuses upon the Cambridge University approach to practical criticism as a form of deep textual reading. This analytic process is the foundation of the study of Literature. A sequence of carefully staged assignments helps you through a worked definition of practical criticism and a critical example using a question and answer approach. This investigative approach is then extended to the three literary forms of fiction, poetry and drama to help you build a technical vocabulary that provides a critical tool-kit you can apply to every text you encounter for the rest of your life.
This course will benefit all people who love books and especially literature students preparing for essays or textual analysis exams.
If you actively participate in this course you will develop a specialised skill-set essential to the formal study of Literature. If you watch for entertainment or general interest you will discover a new way of reading and polish your critical thinking skills.
By the End of this Course you Will be Able to:
• Understand and apply the critical concepts of
• point of view, character, structure, language and imagery
• to analyse the meaning revealed by the artistic relationship between form and content
• in fiction, poetry and drama.
I have selected a poem, novel and play that all share a common theme – W.B. Yeats’s ‘The Second Coming’, Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita and Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming. Yeats, Nabokov and Pinter explore how the power of imagination transforms our relationship to ourselves and to our world. Each artist is concerned with the meaning we create through love and life. Each one of them also confronts the absence of this meaning in their time and culture.
To give you an insight into how their various forms construct imaginative enquiries to help us view meaning differently we will first answer the question ‘what is practical criticism?’ through a concrete example from another great writer, William Blake. We will see how Blake inverts the Proverb form through one of his infamous Proverbs of Hell. I will then ask you to apply what you have learned from this example to four critical questions on another Blake poem – ‘The Sick Rose’. I will offer my responses in a later video to stimulate a critical dialogue. This questioning process is the key to critical thinking and it guides the structure of the course. The more you can engage the more you will learn. As you progress the questions deepen alongside your critical thinking skills.
In The Second Coming we explore Yeats’s development of specific images throughout the poem to reveal a secret story that contains the poem’s theme. We then build a map of the images in the poem to reveal how Yeats’ themes all interconnect to create a deep work of enduring power. Finally, we explore how Yeats uses and breaks the classic sonnet form to express a modern truth the old form cannot hold.
The Lolita assignments explore how and why Nabokov structures his novel around three male points of view – Dr John Ray in the Foreword, Humbert Humbert in the text itself and Nabokov himself in his ironic afterword – to tell the story of a girl. This threefolded male narration raises questions about the status and reality of Lolita as a person, a book and a symbol trapped inside three male perspectives.
The Homecoming assignments explore Pinter’s use of dramatic status, power and staging, we will look at how he employs the silent pauses he is famous for and we will complete a scene analysis together. Character speech patterns are analysed in detail and extended into dramatic character web of the key conflicts in the play. These key conflicts lead into and reveal the themes of every play.
I hope to transform the way you read. If you take this course and understand how form expresses theme I will have succeeded. If you take this course it will be because you are interested in reading – it is a pleasure to meet another person who loves books. I hope you enjoy the ride.