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Learn How To Read Literature: Elements of Fiction

Get better grades, save time and money, and increase complex cognitive brain function with critical reading skills.
4.0 (8 ratings)
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253 students enrolled
Created by Tricia Foster
Last updated 2/2015
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  • 2 hours on-demand video
  • 2 Supplemental Resources
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Certificate of Completion
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Do you need to write a literary analysis or participate in a book discussion, but you don't know where to start? How do others read a piece of fiction and understand it so much better than you do? Most likely, they have training and practice. With this course, you can, too. Colleges across the US require students to take courses in English Literature because it improves crucial critical thinking skills.

Research at Michigan State University has proven that close reading of literature engages complex cognitive brain functions. The benefits of cognitive development include increased intelligence, reasoning, language development, memory, problem solving and decision making.

Designed by a college instructor, this course can help you understand the fundamental elements of fiction and help you read and analyze literature at the college level. Save money on expensive tutors or get a jump start on those college English courses with over 20 videos filled with key terms, concepts, and examples.

This course is also beneficial to book lovers, book bloggers, and book club members who want to discuss literature with confidence and authority. You don't have to pay for an expensive college education to read fiction like a college graduate. Books are for everyone, and so are cognitive brain functions. Rise above the ordinary and engage your brain!

Who is the target audience?
  • This course is designed for advanced High School and College Freshman as well as book lovers who would like a deeper appreciation of fiction. This course is intended for students who want to read and analyze fiction at the college level.
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What Will I Learn?
Identify the five stages of plot and the two pivotal moments in a work of fiction
Distinguish between the author and narrator in a work of fiction
Identify the method of narration in a work of fiction
Identify the three elements of setting in a work of fiction
Identify descriptive language in a work of fiction
Identify the four methods of characterization
Distinguish between direct and indirect characterization
Distinguish between flat and round characters
Distinguish between static and dynamic characters
Identify symbolism in a work of fiction
Identify allegory in a work of fiction
Identify theme in a work of fiction
View Curriculum
  • Student should have at least a ninth grade reading
Curriculum For This Course
Expand All 27 Lectures Collapse All 27 Lectures 01:52:33
4 Lectures 14:51

In this lecture, you will meet your instructor, discover what makes this course unique, and receive a brief overview of the content in this course.

Preview 02:13

In this lecture, you will learn the six elements of basic literacy:

    1. Decoding symbols (the alphabet)

    2. Symbolic representation of words

    3. Relationship between words

    4. Understanding sentence structure: how words in a sentence relate to each other.

    5. Relationship between sentences

    6. Literal Comprehension of the text: how all these sentences relate to each other to create a cohesive message.

Literacy is more than just the ability to read and write. Before we begin analyzing literature, it is important to understand literacy. Understanding what our brain does automatically will help us become better critical readers.

Preview 04:26

In this lecture, you will learn an expanded definition for literacy to include critical reading. Critical reading requires three levels of thinking:

    1. Literal level

    2. Interpretive level

    3. Critical thinking

You will learn how these three levels of thinking are different and how you can use them to approach any text critically.

Preview 03:16

In this lecture, you will learn the difference between passive and active reading. You will also learn the three requirements for for active learning:

    1. motivation

    2. engagement

    3. interaction

I will address three ways you can prepare for active reading:

  1. environment
  2. comfort
  3. Tools

I will provide you with six concrete tips that will help you become a better active reader.

Preview 04:56
Plot vs Story
4 Lectures 23:17

In this lesson, you will learn the difference between plot and story. I will illustrate the difference between plot and story by examining variations of the "Cinderella" story as told by both Disney and the Brothers Grimm.

The Difference between Plot and Story

In this lesson, you will learn about the five stages and two pivotal moments of plot structure:

    1. Exposition

    2. Inciting Moment

    3. Rising Action

    4. Climax

    5. Resolution

    6. Falling Action

    7. Denouement

Plot as Structure

In this lecture, you will hear an alternate version of "The Story of the Three Bears." (Download the text to follow along.)

The Story of the Three Bears

In this lecture, you will learn how to diagram the alternate plot of "The Story of the Three Bears." Downloadable plot diagram included in this lesson for use in this exercise and for your personal use later.

Plot Diagram | The Story of the Three Bears
Author vs Narrator
3 Lectures 24:36

In this lecture you learn the difference between the author and the narrator. We will discuss and author's distinguishable style, individual bias, and literary objective. I will illustrate these concepts with examples from Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse and Ernest Hemingway's "The Snows of Kilimanjaro."

The Difference between Author and Narrator

In this lecture, you will learn about the three elements of point of view:

    1. Person (Perspective)

    2. Distance (Vantage Point)

    3. Tone (Attitude)

Methods of Narration

In this lecture, you will learn how biographical information can sometimes cause confusion and how to avoid it.

Biography, Autobiography, and Memoir
4 Lectures 08:15

In this lecture, you will learn the three elements of setting:

  • Time
  • Place
  • Nature of the environment

You will also learn how setting can facilitate or shape the action or the characters in a story.

Three Elements of Setting

In this lecture, you will learn how authors use descriptive language to engage the five senses.

    1. Sight

    2. Taste

    3. Hearing

    4. Touch

    5. Smell

We will analyze the use of descriptive language in the opening stanza of "The Eve of St. Agnes" by John Keats.

Descriptive Language

In this lecture, you will learn how setting contributes to the mood of a story. Here we will return to the opening stanza of "The Eve of St. Agnes" and examine how the descriptive language creates a specific atmosphere or mood within the story telling enviornment.

Mood or Atmosphere

In this lecture, you will learn how setting contributes to characterization. Using examples from Jack London and Flannery O'Connor, we will discuss how environmental factors contribute to the attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of the characters within a setting.

Setting as Context for Characters
5 Lectures 17:55

In this lecture, you will learn how to identify the four methods of characterization:

    1. Physical attributes

    2. Speech and behavior

    3. Internal thoughts and feelings

    4. Reactions and opinions of others

In this lecture I define each of these methods and provide original examples.

Methods of Characterization

In this lecture, you will learn how an author uses direct and indirect characterization to develop a character. Using examples from Flannery O'Connor, this lecture will demonstrate the difference between characterization that is explicitly stated and characterization that must be inferred.

Direct and Indirect Characterization

In this lecture, you will learn how to identify flat and round characters. Using examples from the alternate version of "The Three Bears" and Shakespeare's Hamlet, we will discuss the complexity of characters.

Flat and Round Characters

This lecture will discuss the difference between static characters and dynamic characters. In literature, some characters change and some do not. If characters change, there is a reason. Here you will learn how and why characters change.

Static and Dynamic Characters

Character Analysis Sheet
1 page
Symbolism and Allegory
4 Lectures 12:42

The subject of symbolism is usually the most frustrating and intimidating to my students. They often view symbolism as a ridiculous treasure hunt sponsored by their over intellectual instructors, or as a secret language they are not privy to. Neither of these is true. In this lecture, we will discuss public and private symbols.

What is Symbolism?

In this lecture, you will learn why writers choose to include symbolism within their writing, and how readers benefit from this decision. We will discuss how symbols:

    1. have emotional impact

    2. make writing more memorable

    3. convey multiple layers of meaning

Why Do Writers Use Symbols?

In this lecture, you will learn how to locate and investigate symbols within a work of literature by noting:

  1. repetition
  2. correlation
  3. juxtaposition
Identifying Symbols

In this lecture, you will learn the definition of figurative language, the difference between metaphor, simile and allegory. We will also discuss the purpose of allegory and look at an example. A downloadable copy of Everyman is included in this lecture.

2 Lectures 07:57

In this lecture, you will learn what a theme is and the four areas of human experience that can be depicted within a theme:

    1. The nature of humanity

    2. The nature of society

    3. Nature of humankind’s relationship to the world

    4. Nature of our ethical responsibilities

What is Theme?

In this lecture, you will learn how to identify theme in a work of literature.

Identifying Theme
Additional Resources
1 Lecture 00:00
Recommended Reading: Further Resources
2 pages
About the Instructor
4.0 Average rating
8 Reviews
253 Students
1 Course
Reader, Writer, & Public Speaker

Creative Director of Crafting the Message, LLC, Tricia M Foster has a Master's degree in English Literature and uses her experience in publishing and higher education to help others discover and tell their own stories.

Her publishing credentials include Arden Literary Arts Journal, Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, and Mslexia.

Stay connected for ongoing course development and future publications.

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