The online adventure continues, as I’ve completed week 2 of the online course How to Read a Novel from The University of Edinburgh. If you’re interested in reading how I experienced week 1, you can check it out here.

week 2 readers high tea

The main theme of the second week was characterization. I’ll get straight to the point and share with you the most interesting things I found out during this week:

§ Names and appearances: these are the most superficial tools authors use to present their characters. An example given here is the Victorian novelist Charles Dickens, who used to name his characters after certain important aspects of their personality – for instance, schoolmaster Thomas Gradgrind and teacher M’Choakumchild.

This lesson greatly reminded me of the Romanian literature classes during high school, especially Caragiale‘s characters (Romanians will understand 🙂 )

middlemarch readers high tea

§ Olympian perspective: a fancier name for what we also know as “omniscient narrator” – who can “drift freely in and out of each of the character’s heads“. This way, readers are given access to characters’ minds, knowing more than what is observable from the outside. A good example here of a God-like narrator is Middlemarch by George Eliot.

In contrast, a first-person narrator offers a narrower and less trustworthy description of characters, like it happens in The Great Gatsby by Scott Fitzgerald.

§ Stream of consciousness: this is a very intriguing technique that lacks the narrator layer and “gives the impression that the reader has direct access to a character’s thought stream, complete with its free associations and only half-formed ideas“.

readers high tea teded james joyce ulysses

The example given during the lecture was the final chapter of Ulysses by James Joyce, where there are 40-ish pages of Molly Bloom’s thoughts, divided into just 8 unpunctuated and hypnotic sentences …

This section was especially interesting for me, as at the moment I am reading “As I Lay Dying” by William Faulkner, a novel that is based only on streams of consciousness.

what belongs to you readers high tea

The book proposed to better understand the above-mentioned techniques is “What Belongs to You” by Garth Greenwell. According to the course professors, this novel has plenty examples of descriptions, first-person narrations and flashbacks.

Now I am looking much forward the third week of the course! 🙂 If you want to join the online course, you can sign up here for free.

‘Till next time … happy reading!


PS: If you’re celebrating the Orthodox Easter this weekend, I wish you a happy and sunny Easter time! 🙂

Images: | | |Cover picture by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

4 thoughts on “Learning to be a better reader: How to Read a Novel (online course) #week2

  1. That sounds like a very interesting course. I might give it a go when I have some more free time. In the meantime I’ll look forward to your summaries 🙂


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