Studying reading

Writing Desk

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While on my Blog Hop this week I came across  blog Keeping up with Mr Jones. While looking around to see if it was a blog I would want to follow I came across a list of books he had never read (this is some pages back if you’re looking for it), top of the list was Hamlet. Now this got me thinking about reading in school and more specifically reading plays at school (which is the only time I’ve ever read a play).

I’ve always been of the opinion that plays are meant to be watched or preformed, but not read. When it comes to Shakespeare there may be an advantage to studying a play before you watch it, so that you can understand it, but that wasn’t the reason he  wrote them, and if the play is preformed and/or directed well the language shouldn’t really matter. I understood Romeo and Juliet well enough to enjoy it before studying it, but I didn’t understand some things which would have been understood in that time period- so studying it means I’ve gained an extra element to my enjoyment of it.

This made me think about studying books in general. I’ve often heard it said that studying a book brings all the joy out of reading it, that it’s a bit of an over analysis that spoils the enjoyment of the actual story. Now in some ways that’s true.  I always tried to read a book before we started studying it in class, partly because the speed of chapter by chapter is far too slow for me, and partly because I wanted to enjoy the story for itself first. However sometimes it takes some thinking to really appreciate a book, and studying a text can help that. I can’t say I enjoyed Jane Eyre when I first read it, but after studying it I came to appreciate it, and even enjoy it in retrospect. I kind of felt the same way about Wuthering Heights, even though I didn’t study that one. Is retrospective respect really enjoyment though? Studying Jane Eyre really had an effect on me. I loved the whole gothic element of Jane Eyre and I’ve put some of it into my own writing. I can ertainly say it had an effect on me, and  my writing, but does that mean I enjoyed it?

So what do you all think? Does studying a novel spoil it or improve it? And should we really be studying plays?


Filed under Musings

6 responses to “Studying reading

  1. Thanks for stopping by my blog. My favorite “method” of enjoying Shakespeare is to read the play and then see the performance. That’s just my personal preference. I think we can learn a lot about ourselves in reading Shakespeare. (Of course this is not my experience with Hamlet, as I have seen the play, but not read it) Shakespeare is the only playwright I do read, now that I’m long out of school. Though there were some plays that I enjoyed reading in school…I always found it irritating, however, to read a play that the teacher had no intention for us to see performed – either via video or on field trip to a theatre.

    Having said all that, sigh, I do have a collection of David Rabe’s plays about Vietnam that I do intend to read, and will likely never see performed.

    Thanks again for stopping by.


  2. BTW, I couldn’t figure out how to follow a wordpress account, so I subscribe to email notices. You seem to share reading DNA with my wife, so I’ll let her know about your blog as well.


  3. lucybirdbooks

    I’m not sure if you can follow it on blogger but you can add the RSS feed to a reader, that’s how I follow all my blogs. And of course the e-mail. 🙂


  4. Very interesting topic Lucy. I often ponder about how much we learn at school affects our reading methods later on. I don’t think the stuff learned at say high school or college is so damaging. But University really does put you in a pigeon hole! I noticed that I wasn’t enjoying my books as much as I used to. Everything seemed broken down into tiny building blocks of theory.

    But reading with a class or a group does have it’s advantages. People come up with different ways of ‘reading’ the text. I always enjoyed listening to otehr people’s POV. But literary theory is a bit of an overkill – it does tend to colour things.


  5. lucybirdbooks

    Yeah it is good to hear other perspectives. I just don’t like looking for meaning in every single word!


  6. Pingback: Hopping about « Lucybird's Book Blog

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