How to Read Lit Crit
For my English degree I had to read a lot, so I developed some strategies to up my sluggish read-speed.
My favourite trick: scan a reading and flag parts that seemed important without dwelling on them too much, then go back to them.
I keep a little jewellery box of sticky note flags in my backpack (Spell check says “bookbag” isn’t a word. We definitely used to call it “bookbag” in lower school right?) and mark passages liberally. When I finish the reading I go back to take notes on the parts I flagged. Sometimes they are significant, sometimes they aren’t, but I find it much easier to get the gist of the article before rereading for the nitty gritty arguments that are at the same time super important. At the end I stick the flags back in the box and reuse until they are no longer sticky. It’s also a lovely way to use a special box (the container for my penguin necklace Christmas present!) that would otherwise sit around uselessly. Nice to have something like that on a long library day.
Not long ago I wrote about what to do with magazines. I love magazines to the extent that I’m doing a masters degree in them next year (uhh surprise! more on this to come, promise.). I subscribe to British Vogue and love to file the issues chronologically on my shelf. But I know that soon I’ll have to pack up my room, and well, they’re heavy and take up space. And to be honest, I rarely refer back to them, even though I took copious notes on my first readings.
I’ve started to employ my lit crit-reading technique to magazine reading as well, only this time a bit more violently… It took some practice, but now I find tearing pages from magazines therapeutic instead of sacrilegious. Check out my new version of Vogue’s September issue, with the pages I chose to keep on top of it:
I tore out all the articles I plan to read (judged in a split second) and all the images that struck me with inspiration (again, in a split second). I love a beautiful fashion ad (clearly), but often they repeat across issues. And some parts I just don’t love at all (especially the Promotions articles! Can’t stand those.). As I tore through the year’s archives (pun intended) I kept going oh yeah I forgot about this article – and it would have remained forgotten if I had had to go digging through the intact magazine to find it. Now I keep a plastic file of all the torn out pages for when I feel like reading a pre-selected article or when I have the urge to collage and beautify my old notebooks.