The Art of Reading : The Great Courses: English Literature

  • by The Great Courses
  • Narrated by Professor Timothy Spurgin
  • Series: The Great Courses: English Literature
  • 12 hrs and 36 mins
  • Lecture

Publisher's Summary

Artful reading - the way we read novels and short stories - is less about reading for specific information and more about reading to revel in the literary experience. Learning the skills and techniques of artful reading can improve your life in many ways, whether you're a fiction reader, an aspiring writer, a book club member, or a student.
And the best part: These skills are not difficult or unwieldy; rather, they are well within your reach. This entertaining, 24-lecture course gives you a veritable toolbox of knowledge and methods to approach even the most daunting reading experience with increased confidence.
You'll learn the definitions and characteristics of terms such as authorship, master plot, and genre. While some of these nuts-and-bolts concepts may be familiar to you, Professor Spurgin examines them from multiple angles, revealing hidden meanings that can escape even experienced readers.
Practical tips and techniques will maximize your effectiveness as an artful reader. You'll see why holding an initial reading session will acquaint you with the author's writing style and the characters, making the book easy to return to even if you take a few days off.
You'll also discover the benefits of "pre-reading" - exploring a book's organization and structure - and how to constantly ask questions to become more deeply involved with the characters and their stories.
Throughout the course, a host of literary "case studies" will refine and elaborate on the concepts of artful reading. Literary examples show how you can finally approach works that, in the past, might have seemed intimidating - making your future reading experiences both more engaging and more enlightening.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Practical for Readers and Writers

If you're a writer or a literary-minded reader, this set of lectures is insightful and immeasurably practical. The idea is teach styles and literary devices through example of works of great literature. Many of the examples used were not necessarily in my wheelhouse of normal reading, but the lessons still came across easily.

Prof. Spurgin is, on the whole, a good educator. His presentation is clear and well-constructed. I was often distracted, however, his delivery. It came. Across. At times like. William. Shatner. Should have. Been speaking. Ok, perhaps it wasn't quite as bad as all of that, but once noticed, it cannot be unnoticed. If you try this title out, apologies in advance for ruining that for you.
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- Troy

Deepens my reading

Excellent! A charming, humorous teacher and many tips about how to see more in the fiction I'm going to read anyway. This is basically an introductory course on literary analysis, I'd say, and I loved the concepts of watching for the initial destabilizing event, and the two "master plots" --- a stranger comes to town, or the hero takes a journey. I liked the free indirect voice, the narrator voice that slides over into the psyche of the main character in descriptions. I liked a lot of the examples, most of which I was familiar with. I skipped the Russians and the experimental fiction of the early 20th century such as Ulysses and Virginia Woolf's stuff -------- because sometimes in life you have to make an executive decision not to bother with yucky stuff that's more a puzzle than a good read. Same with his discussion of Portnoy's Complaint: I bought that long ago because the New York Review of Books said to, and halfway through stared at it in dismay and distaste and realized something important: I was out of school, and never never never in my life ever again had to read anything disgusting because some poseur said I had to. (And I never renewed the NY Review of Books, either.) So none of our prof's "must reads" actually are musts, after all, because we are grown up. We can apply his tips to the books we like to read.

Also, I was puzzled at the prof's topic of "metanovels," novels about novels. Good, I thought, because there are a LOT of novels and short stories about writing, or books, or somebody stealing another person's writings, and I like thrillers with that topic. But it turned out to be a lecture on some wildly experimental fiction that sounded to me like "magical realism," that school of writing which bitter British writers say is simply fantasy by writers who happen to live in South America. However, I figure a lit prof is inevitably going to drag in some books nobody actually reads and short the popular ones: it's inevitable. He did NOT drag in Ahab and That Hated Whale, but he did have a good general lecture on descriptions, short or long.

Quick and light lecture series, I recommend it. I'm going to see if he's done any others.
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- Phebe

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-08-2013
  • Publisher: The Great Courses