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Novel Unit (Unit 5)

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“The test of a book lies in its power to map or transform a life.” - Mark Edmundson
“They would not be ‘my’ readers but readers of their own selves, my book being merely a sort of magnifying glass...it would be my book but with it I would furnish them with the means of reading what lay inside themselves.” - Marcel Proust

Introduction

Who are you? Who are you really? What do you believe about the world and society? Philosopher Richard Rorty calls our most fundamental beliefs and assumptions about the world our “final vocabulary,” and it’s like there is a two-way street: our final vocabulary influences the way we see the world, and the way we see the world influences our final vocabulary. Often, we proceed through life without thinking about how our beliefs impact our experiences. Self-awareness includes regular investigation and understanding of our own “final vocabularies.” What about them is good? What about them could change for the better?
Books, if they’re great books, help us to see ourselves and our reality in new ways because they presents characters and a world different from what we know. Books offer an alternate reality. It is up to us, the reader, to weigh this reality in our hands and consider what it might be like to live it. Does the book offer anything promising? If so, how might you refine the way you live or the things you pursue? If you don’t think the book offers anything promising, why not? And if it truly doesn’t, then what laudable things does it reveal about your own life and character?

What We’ll Learn About

How to discern what a book offers.
How books help us consider our own value systems and character.
Practice identifying craft choices that authors make in order to convey meaning (figurative language, motifs, symbols, characterization, etc.).

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