How to critique a text
Critiquing a text can be defined as giving a scholarly opinion on a written material. This can be a daunting task to a young mind like you, as this exercise requires a broad knowledge of literature, as well as the author's background. It would play a part on his/her views. (A good example would be the ill effects of the Industrial Revolution, and how a young Charles Dickens witnessed it with his precocious eyes.) There won't be any need to worry about it for nights, even beat yourself before doing it. You must disagree before agreeing on the author's views. Otherwise, there won't be any exercise at all.
What would be the point of it all, you may ask. Aside from being a class requirement, this should put your little gray cells, as Hercule Poirot would put it, to good use. It may be unavoidable to talk about trends (like the most-viewed music videos on YouTube), but critiquing should be a preparation of what could lie ahead. If you're passionate about literature, then might be a springboard for a few years of paper writing. Heavy readers can fall into this category, but those who will pursue an M.A. might have a chance to work on old manuscripts. (Medieval English can be a dream come true for those who truly love the English language.)
Critical thinking is what your teacher will expect from you, which will come in handy later in life. (You'll figure it out when you're weighing your career options, on top of other things.) Lastly, critiquing can be fun at times. As a matter of fact, it might help you decide what cultural events to include in your calendar. (In other words, you don't have to follow every recommendation of critics.) Critiquing a text will involve the following: Finding out the author's themes (or messages); disagreeing or agreeing with it, and citing out references from other published materials (to support your stance).
Steps to Critique a Text
Critiquing a text can be several steps, if not ten (detailed) instructions. But it's more important for you to get the gist of it. Let's start with the three basic steps:
- What is the author's themes (or messages)?
This will be the most interesting part of the exercise, which will show that students won't arrive at the same conclusion. There's a chance that some will do an online research, and they might end up letting the author's personal beliefs affect their judgment. There will be some who will let their personal opinion fit into the author's. It seems to be the easy way. It can be the sensible thing to do. There's no fun in it, right? If you don't have a clue about the author's background, then you simply determine if you like reading the text or not. If you're bored of it, then the genre might not be your cup of tea. This is the time to think about it long and hard.
- Do you agree (or disagree) with the author?
If it's a political view, then you can compare it with the modern era. But a political view won't be good enough. ( Keep in mind that there's are varying degrees of politicking around us. Either you're unaware of it or you don't care about it.) If it's a religious view, then it may be wise to use your personal experience as an example. (A good example will be a Greek intellectual named Nikos Kazantzakis, who let his work experience with the blue-collared folks in Crete reveal his unabashed feelings on friendship in "Zorba the Greek". There would be a religious excursion along the way.) If it would be something else, then it should be better to ask questions. It doesn't mean that you're uncertain about it, as only the author would know the real score. Think of it as an attempt to hit the bull's eye.
- What are your references?
It won't pay to list it down, as you must elaborate on it thoroughly. This can take much of your time, so it will be better to set aside other things for this one. (Those so-called other things can wait, but you must learn to prioritize the urgent ones from the rest.)
Here are Some Friendly Reminders
There's nothing wrong if you agree with the author's views, but it won't make your task easier. You must provide sufficient argument (or information) to prove your case. It may turn out to be more challenging than you think, which doesn't mean that it won't be too late to change your mind. Think hard, spend more time on researching.
Critiquing a text is different from a persuasive essay. This exercise will let you give an objective assessment on a written material. There's a chance that you'll lean on your personal beliefs, but you won't lean too far. Your teacher may sense that yours is good enough, but not the others. It will be better to keep an open mind.
You must read the text. Don't skim it. Don't be selective about the pages that you want to read (and write about it). Don't try too hard to read between the lines.