This topic has been on my mind lately after thinking about the differences between English teachers’ I’ve had and how some can make analyzing seem constructive and illuminating, while other make me never want to analyze a book again. However, this topic is by no means limited to the classroom. It applies any time a novel is analyzed whether it be by critic or in a casual setting such as a book club.
There are definitely two distinct camps when it comes to how much you analyze. Some only look for deeper meaning in metaphors and complex philosophical passages, or search for quotations on specific themes or characters. They analyze only as much as is necessary for understanding. Then there are the people who analyze everything. To them, each word has meaning and there are complex subtexts to be found in novels. Both have their faults. On the one hand, sometimes books need deep analysis, on the other hand, over analyzing cloud or confuse the message of the novel.
Then there are the two ways of finding meaning in the book. There are some people who try to stick to the quotations and not read anything into the book. They don’t search for any extra meaning beyond the literal understandings of the words in the book, or the simplest and most logical explanations of similes. Then there are those who don’t care what the words literally say and insert their own meaning into the book. They don’t even care if they can prove their ideas with textual evidence and are only concerned with their interpretation. Again, both have faults. Sticking too closely to the text loses the personal connection necessary when reading and lacks room for individual interpretation. Not sticking the the text opens up room for twisting the novel until it says something else entirely.
I vote for something somewhere in between. I love analyzing literature; it’s part of the reason I started this blog. I like taking a book and delving into it, going from total confusion to understanding. But everything in moderation.
What is your opinion on analyzing literature? I’d love to hear from you!