The Well-Educated Mind: reading through the novel

9780393080964_p0_v1_s550x406I have started a new project: I will be reading through the novels (and histories) as suggested by Susan Wise Bauer in her popular book The Well Educated Mind. (I intend on reading through the other categories, too, but later.) I have completed an outline for questions I’m going to ask myself while reading the first book on the novel list – Don Quixote:

Bauer suggests three levels of study:

Inquiry Level 1: Grammar

This is the first read-through, during which I will take important notes from biographies and blurb, and list the characters and relationships to each-other. She suggests dog-earing and underlining the book. Instead, I will take notes in Evernote, and share them here on Saturdays.

Inquiry Level 2: Logic

After reading through the book, she wants me to come up with my own title and subtitle for the book, describing the major event or point. I should also take note of:

👽What is the most central life-changing event?

👽Am I transported? Do I see, feel, and hear this other world?

👽Can I sympathize with the people who live there? Do I understand their wants and desires and problems? Or am I left unmoved?

👽Is this a fable or a chronicle?

If the novel is a chronicle, how are we shown reality: Physical? Mental?

If the novel is a fable, what was the intent? Is it an allegory? If not, is it speculation?

Is the novel realistic with a few fantastic elements? If yes, it’s not simply a fable. What is the phenomenon being described that can not be described in real terms?

👽What does the central character want? What is standing in his or her way? What strategy is pursued to overcome this block?

👽Who is telling you this story? Is this person reliable?

Is it first person? Second person? Third person limited? Third person objective? Omniscient?

👽Where is the story set?

Is it natural or human constructed? If natural, does nature reflect the emotions and problems of characters? Or is the universe indifferent? If human constructed, do those constructions set a mood?

👽What style does the writer employ?

👽Images and metaphors

Are there any repeated images? If so, is this a metaphor, and if so, what does it represent?

👽 Beginnings and endings

Does the beginning sentence/scene come with meaningful imagery that represents where the story is going?

Does the end have a resolution or a logical exhaustion?

Inquiry Level 3: Rhetoric 

👽Do you sympathize with the characters? Which ones, and why?

Did the author choose characteristics to make a statement about the human condition?

👽Does the author’s technique give you a clue as to her argument: her take on the human condition? 

👽Is the novel self-reflective?

👽Did the writer’s times affect him?

👽Is there an argument in this book? If so, do you agree?


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