Literary texts and extracts can provide a stimulating basis for class work on language
appreciation and evaluation. Deepening the students' reading abilities will develop
their awareness of "seeing below the surface". They will enrich the students'
thinking and feeling and result in more effective personal expression.
A wide range of texts from prose, drama, and poetry from different centuries are
available now. They can amuse or be thought-provoking, but all will provide a challenge
and a topic for thinking and discussing. And then, your classes are sure to encourage your
students to explore more literature in English on their own, as well as help them to
develop the skills to read between the lines.
But to begin with, you need to teach the students to recognize the sources of
expressiveness of poetic discourse, to describe and specify the whole range of stylistic
devices found in the language, establish their relevant characteristics and functions and
indicate the interdependence between the latter and the context.
Me as a Reader
There are many different kinds of readers, and many different ways of reading. The more
you know about what kind of reader you are, the more you will enjoy reading.
1. Where do people read?
Write a list of all the places where people might be seen reading. Where do you read?
2. What do you need in order to read?
To be in a good mood / to be a bit fed up / to be in any mood?
A comfy seat / a hard seat / the floor / your bed?
Silence / music / noise / TV / radio?
Plenty of time / a few minutes / it doesn't matter?
Is there anything else you like to have?
3. How do you go about choosing a book to read?
Teacher / friend / parent / family / librarian / other?
By the cover and the blurb on the back?
What attracts you / what puts you off / Do you read the blurb / do you believe it / is
it usually accurate?
Is there anything else you can think of that you do when choosing?
4. How do you read?
| Do you read for a chapter and then stop?
Do you read a whole
book in a short while?
Do you read each page quickly skipping over short words, or slowly?
Do you ever read the end before you've got there?
| Do you read aloud or silently?
Do you ever talk about the book
you are reading to anyone?
Do you ever read with anyone else?
Do you pass on books you have liked to others?
5. What do you look for in a good book?
Unpredictable story? Lifelike characters? A "couldn't-put-it-down" plot?
Characters you can sympathise with? Unexpected endings? New ideas to think about?
A balance of speech, description and action? What else?
6. What happens to you when you read?
| Do you enter the world of the book and forget where you are?
you stand outside it and watch as if through a window?
Do you see images of the places and people in your head? Or even hear noises, and
smell and taste things?
| Do you ever find bits of a book appearing in your dreams?
enjoy film/TV versions of books you have read?
Do you ever laugh or cry, feel happy or sad, for or with the characters?
Do you become one of the characters?
7. Why read at all?
If someone were to ask you why reading is worth reading, what would you say?
And if you are not very keen on reading, what do you think are the reasons?
Have you ever wondered what other people read - especially after they have left
You might be in for some surprises!
With a friend, think up 10 questions to ask people about their reading.
Remember that certain questions will give you Yes/No answers (eg. "Do you read
fiction?") and some will give you more detailed and varied answers (eg. "What kinds of
fiction do you like?"). So, you need to decide what kind of answers you want, and how
you're going to record and display them. Yes/No answers can be counted and graphed, but
are not so varied. Longer answers will need a different kind of write-up, and will be more
You might like to ask questions about
what books they read,
when and how often they read,
where they get the books they read from - libraries, shops, friends,
what types of book they prefer,
what their favourite books are,
what books they don't like.
You need to think about who to ask. You can talk to friends; family; neighbours;
relatives. How many people will you ask?
Before you do your survey, you need to think carefully about how you will record
what people say to you at the time. Next conduct your survey.
Present you results, and write a description of how you went about it, who you asked,
what you asked, and so on.
Write a reflection upon you're your work:
What surprised you?
What interested you?
What patterns and similarities have you found?
What did you find difficult?
What would you do differently another time?
Share your findings with other students.
- Look in a local paper or one of the nationals and see if they have a list of
bestsellers. If not you could try your local bookshop. Working with a partner, compile a
list of the top ten best-selling paperbacks for this month. Why do you think the Bible or
Shakespeare never appear on any bestseller list?
- Compile a list of the five books that you would take to a desert island.
- Think about how you went about choosing, and note down your method. For instance,
did you think about the need to be entertained / to learn new things / to keep memories
alive / to fulfill an ambition / to keep loneliness away / to be cheered up / to be sad /
to pass long hours?
What dangers can you think of in choosing? How could your choice go wrong?
Ways of Telling
It's not what you say; it's the way that you say it!
There are many different ways of telling a story. You must realise that words are
usually combined to create atmosphere, convey mood, arouse emotions, describe places,
create characters, convey dialogue, and so on.
In each case when we are concerned with how the authors have done it, we speak
- Look carefully at the list of words given. How many do you understand? How many could
you use in a sentence? Working with a partner, look up the words you don't understand
and write a sentence or two to illustrate their meaning.
- Consider the book you are reading at the moment. Write down all the words in the list
above that could be used to describe your novel.
- Why do you think the author of your book chose that particular way?
- How would it change the story if it were written in another way or from another point of
view? Would it be possible at all? What changes would have to be made?
- Choose a section from your story - only a page or so - and have a go at rewriting it
in a different way, or from a different character's point of view. How well does it
An abstract word is one that refers to an idea instead of a real object or
thing. Friendship, pride, competition, and kindness are Examples of abstract words.
An allegory is a story in which the characters and action represent an idea of
truth about life; a strong moral or lesson is taught in this type of story.
An allusion in literature is a reference to a well-known place, thing, or event.
-Do you know anything about art?
-Rubens, said Catherine.
-Large and fat, I said.
-Titian, Catherine said.
-Titian-haired, I said. How about Mantegna?
-Don't ask hard ones, Catherine said. I know him though - very bitter.
-Very bitter, I said. Lots of nail holes.
(Rubens is a Flemish painter. "Large and fat" is an allusion to his manner of
painting. People in his pictures are usually big and robust.
"Titian-haired" is an allusion to the fact that women in the pictures of this
Italian painter are generally red-haired.
"Very bitter" and "Lots of nail holes" is an allusion to the subject-matter of
Mantegna's paintings dealing with scenes from Holy Scripture, mainly sad ones, for
example "The Dead Christ", "The Death of the Virgin").
An analogy is a comparison of two or more similar objects; the analogy implies
that since these objects are alike in some ways, they will probably be alike in other ways
Anaphora is the repetition of the same word or words at the beginning of two or
more successive clauses. Example: " Their coats were undone. Their heads were
shaven. Their hands were bound behind their backs with crude rope".
The antagonist is the person or thing fighting against the hero of the story. If
the antagonist is a person, he is usually called the villain.
Antithesis is a structure consisting of two steps, the lexical meanings of which
are opposite to each other. Example: "In marriage the upkeep of woman is often
the downfall of man", "Don't use big words, they mean so little".
Archaic words are old-fashioned words which sound odd to us today.
Archaic: "Hast thou enjoyed thy repast?"
Modern: "Have you enjoyed your meal?"
Chiasmus is a pattern of two steps where the second repeats the structure of the
first in reversed manner. Example: "Mr. Boffin looked full at the man, and the
man looked full at Mr. Boffin."
Elliptical sentence is a sentence where one of the main members is omitted. Example:
-Very windy, isn't it?
-But it's not raining.
-Better than yesterday.
An epithet is a word or group of words giving an expressive characterization of
the object described. Example: " fine open-faced boy, generous and soft in
In a flashback, the author goes back to an earlier time in the story and
explains something that will help the reader understand the whole story better.
Foreshadowing is the writer's hints and clues about what is going to happen in
Hyperbole is an exaggerated statement. It springs from the highly emotional
attitude of the speaker towards the subject discussed and presents a deliberate distortion
of proportions. Example: "I would give the whole world to know", "It's ages
since we met", "That's heaps of time".
Inversion is a broken word order. Example: "The folk kings' former
fame we have heard of".
Irony is using a word or phrase to mean the exact opposite of its normal
meaning. Example: "My favourite pastime is cleaning my room".
Litotes presupposes double negation; one - through the negative particle no
or not; the other -through: a) a word with a negative suffix - "not
b) a word with a negative or derogatory meaning - "not a coward",
c) a negative construction - "not without love",
d) an adjective or adverb preceded by too - "not too awful".
The stylistic function of all these types is identical: to convey the doubts of the
speaker concerning the exact characteristics of the objects in question.
Metaphor is one of the most expressive tropes. It compares two things, which are
quite unlike one another by identifying one with the other or replacing one with the
other. They have one important quality in common and the purpose of the metaphor to
highlight this important quality. Example: "Paris was the golden age of her
life", "Doctor wrapped himself in a mist of words".
Metonymy is transfer of the name of one object to another with which it is in some
way connected. Example: "He made his way through perfume and conversation",
"She was a sunny, happy sort of creature. Too fond of the bottle".
Oxymoron joins two antonymous words into one syntagm. Example: "She was a
damned nice woman".
Parallel constructions (or parallelism) present identical structure of two
or more successive clauses or sentences. Example: "They all stood, high and dry,
safe and sound, hale and hearty, upon the steps of the Blue Lion", "Passage after
passage did he explore, room after room did he peep into".
Personification is a description of an object or an idea as if it were a human
being. Example: "The stars are beginning to blink and peep", "Sunshine, the
old clown, rims the door".
Pun is play on words. Example: "Did you hit a woman with a child? - No,
I hit her with a brick".
Rhetorical question is a statement in the form of a question that needs no answer. Example:
"Why do we need refreshment, my friends? Why can we not fly? Is it because we are
calculated to walk?"
Repetition is observed when some parts of the sentence or sentences are repeated. Example:
"You, sir, are unnatural, ungrateful, unlovable boy".
Represented speech renders the character's thoughts, which were not uttered
aloud. It is a purely literary phenomenon never appearing in oral style. Example:
"He looked at the distant green wall. It would be a long walk in this rain, and a muddy
one. He was tired and he was depressed: Anyway, what would they find? Lots of trees."
Simile is a figure of speech in which two objects are compared, and one of them is
being likened to the other. Example: "I like the language: which melts like
kisses from a female mouth".
Stream of consciousness is a style of writing in which the author records thoughts
and feelings as they come and go. The author writes about whatever is on his mind at the
Excerpts for general stylistic analysis
1. It was a hot July afternoon, the world lay out open to the sun to admit its
penetration. All nature seemed swollen to its fullest. The very air was half asleep, and
the distant sounds carried so slowly that they died before they could reach their final
destination; or perhaps the ear forgot to listen.
The house, too, had indulged itself, and had lost a little its melancholy air. The
summer decked it with garlands, for the still newly-green creepers crept up the walls and
on to the roof, almost high enough to gain the chimney-pots. But the house held them like
hats, carefully out of reach, and the creepers, snubbed, pried into the open windows. The
smooth lawns lay tantalizingly about, just out of the way of the blundering clumsy house
kept prisoner by the chain of gravel. The lawn, a green-clad monster, arched its back
against the yew hedge, and put out emerald feelers all through the garden and turfed
2. If it had not been for these things, I might have lived out my life, talking at
street corners to scorning men. I might have died, unmarked, unknown, a failure. Now we
are not a failure. This is our career and our triumph. Never in our full can we hope to do
such work for tolerance, for justice, for man's understanding of man, as now we do by an
accident. Our words - our lives - our pains - nothing! The taking of our lives -
lives of a good shoe-maker and a poor fish-peddler - all! The last moment belongs to us
- that agony is our triumph!
3. This print represented fifteen sisters, all of the same height and slimness of
figure, all of the same age - about twenty-five or so, and all with exactly the same
haughty and bored beauty. That they were in truth sisters was clear from the facial
resemblance between them; their demeanour indicated that they were princesses, offspring
of some impossibly prolific king and queen. Those hands had never toiled, nor had those
features never relaxed from the smile of courts. The princesses moved in a landscape of
marble steps and verandahs, with a bandstand and strange trees in the distance. One was in
a riding habit, another in evening attire, another dressed for tea, another for the
theatre; another seemed to be ready to go to bed. One held a little girl by the hand; it
could not be her own little girl, for these princesses were far beyond human passions.
Where had she obtained the little girl? Why was one sister going to the theatre, another
to the stable, and another to bed? Why was one in a heavy mantle, and another sheltering
from the sun's rays under a parasole? The picture was drenched in mystery, and the
strangest thing about it was that all these highnesses were apparently content with the
most ridiculous and outmoded fashions. Absurd hats, with veils flying behind; absurd
bonnets, fitting close to the head, and spotted; absurd coiffures that nearly lay on the
nape; absurd clumsy sleeves; absurd waists, almost above the elbow's level; absurd
4. His eyes went on to Hester. A pretty child. No, not pretty, beautiful really.
Beautiful in a rather strange and uncomfortable way. He'd like to know who her parents
had been. Something lawless and wild about her. Yes, one could almost use the word
desperate in connection with her. What had she had to be desperate about? She'd run away
in a silly way to go on the stage and had had a silly affair with undesirable man; then
she had seen reason, came home with Mrs. Argybe and settled down again.
5. He was a tall thin man, with a face rather like Mark Twain's, black eye-brows
which bristled and shot up, a bitten drooping grey moustache, and fuzzy grey hair; but his
eyes were like owl's eyes, piercing, melancholy, dark brown, and gave to his rugged face
an extraordinary expression of spirit remote from the flesh which had captured it.