Does Fiction Have the Power to Sway Politics
Active reading is to read while taking notes in order to better understand what you are reading. Annotating means summarize and mark up your reading. You will be doing a lot of active reading and annotating in your college career. You will annotate articles and chapter readings. In this class, you will annotate every article you read. You will need the practice, so you will become better and more critical readers.
- Read and take notes over the the two handouts attached: Active Reading and Annotating Sources.
- Download the annotation assignment (in a Word document) over the essay “Does Fiction Have the Power to Sway Politics” below.
- Read and annotate the article “Does Fiction Have the Power to Sway Politics.”
- Save your completed assignment to your computer.
- Submit your completed assignment as an attachment by clicking on the link below for your Writer’s Notebook 1.1.
Ten Steps for Active Reading
When you read scholarly articles (see the handout Scholarly Articles verses Popular Articles for more information about scholarly articles) or college textbooks, it is important that you are an active reader and annotate your sources. Annotating is the art of taking notes about and on an article. Annotating an essay proves to your instructor and yourself that you fully understand the concepts within the essay or chapter. Annotating is the first step in learning and comprehending a subject.
This handout will guide you through the steps you need to take before, during, and after reading an article.
- Before reading the article, read the title and respond.
- In the margins or in a notebook, respond to the text based only on the title. i. What do you think the article is about?ii. What do you expect the author to address in the article?
- In the margins or in a notebook, formulate questions based only on the title.
- Then look up and read the author’s biography (don’t read the article yet). Sometimes the biography follows the title or is at the end of the article. If you cannot find the biography on the actual article, Google the author and read his or her biography.
- Skim the article.
- Read any section headings or bolded words. If they are short, read the introduction and conclusion.
- In the margins or in a notebook, write down your first impressions. What do you understand? What do you not understand?
- Read the entire article.
- While reading, in the margins or in a notebook, summarize the point of every paragraph in only 3-5 words. If shortening a paragraph into 3-5 words is too difficult, write an entire sentence. The point here is to show that you understand the main idea of each paragraph before you move onto the next.
- While reading, keep a dictionary handy and look up all unfamiliar words You can download the Dictionary.com app onto your smart phone for free. Write the definitions of words you do not know in the margins and create a 3X5 notecard to help you learn the new word. Keep notecards in the front flap of your notebook. That way you will stay organized by topic and class.
- After reading the article, annotate the text by highlighting, underlining, or circling important terms, phrases, or ideas. Be sure to underline the thesis or main point. Use color to connect similar ideas or arguments. Do not simply underline or highlight everything. Be
Handout created by Justine White (if you are actively reading this handout, you will look up what judicious means) with your annotating, so it will be helpful when studying, researching, or writing. See the handout Annotating Sources for more help with how to annotate.
- After reading, in the margins or in a notebook, write down the author’s argument, supporting ideas, purpose, tone, and audience. When you can identify these items, you know that you fully understand the article.
- Does knowing the author’s biography help you to understand the author’s argument? In the margins or in a notebook, write down any connections between the author’s biography and the claim.
- Finally, when you complete a reading, in the margins or in a notebook, write down the title and author of other readings from the same or a different class that relate to the text. Write down ideas and/or arguments that are similar to or different from the text to help you make connections across genres and disciplines.
During the research phase of writing a research paper, you will come across numerous sources that can eventually provide support for claims in your research paper. In order to understand your sources and be prepared to write, you must take excellent notes or risk having to constantly reread those sources. Annotation is the process of writing useful notes in the margins of a document. If the text doesn’t belong to you or you can’t write on it, you can take notes in a separate notebook or on a set of index cards.
How to AnnotateWhile there are numerous approaches to annotating a source, the following step-by-step method is a tried-and-true way to get the most out of your note taking. If you develop a different method, it is a good idea to include a key at the top of your first document, so you can remember what the different symbols and actions mean.
- As you read, in the margins or on post-it notes, index cards, or a separate notebook, summarize each paragraph in one sentence. Don’t use complete sentences, just jot down the main idea. If you use abbreviations for words that you may not remember, be sure to include these in your key at the top of the document. When you annotate a longer text, group paragraphs together that cover the same subject and summarize these collectively instead of each paragraph on its own.
- Read the entire document without a highlighter in your hand. Just summarize each paragraph as you read. You’ll begin “marking up” the text after you read it.
- After you have read the text, number each paragraph. This will help you make quick references to various parts of the text without having to write out sentences or paragraphs in your notes.
- Once you have numbered your paragraphs, use a highlighter to mark the thesis for the entire text. Please see the handout Reading Comprehension for further information on identifying thesis statements.
- Draw a box around any counterarguments you come across. If you are unsure how to identify a counterargument, please see the handout Counterargument and Refutations for additional information.
- Underline supporting details in pen or pencil or highlight these in a different color highlighter than you used to identify the thesis.
- If you have trouble understanding any portion of the text, write a question mark beside that section, so you can ask questions in class or with a tutor.
- Circle any vocabulary words you do not know and write down their definitions.
- Respond to the text in the margins or on a sticky note next to the appropriate section.Also, if part of a text reminds you of another text, make note of this as well.
10.When a text presents a complex argument, you may find it helpful to develop a “road
map” of the text by using a squiggly-line under the topic sentences for each paragraph or sections of paragraphs to trace out the argument. You will have a visual depiction of how the text connects (you can follow this approach in a notebook by using paragraph/line numbers).
Handout created by Topher Garay & Justine White for AnnotationWhenever you set out to annotate a text, you should make sure you have the necessary tools in order to take effective notes. The following list contains useful items for annotations:
- Different colored pencils, pens, or highlighters. Be sure to identify what each color represents in your key at the top of the document or the top of your corresponding notebook.
- Post-it notes or reference tabs. These are especially helpful when you need to annotate a library book or some other document that you cannot write in. Instead of highlighting, place an appropriately colored reference tab next to the part you would otherwise underline or highlight. You can also write down summaries, questions, and other comments on post-it notes and place these next to the corresponding parts in the text.
- A notebook. Keeping a notebook dedicated to a specific research project can help you to keep your notes organized. This can also be helpful when the margins of the text do not provide enough room to write your summaries, questions, and other comments. Use the paragraph numbers to identify where your notes in the notebook would fit.
- Index cards. If you come across difficult vocabulary, use index cards to write down the definitions of these terms. You can later use these index cards to refresh your memory of the definitions of these terms and begin to make them your own.
- Symbols and shapes. Another approach to specifying what each part of your notes mean is to use different shapes or symbols to indicate certain types of annotations. For example, you could use a triangle beside or around text to indicate key statistics or other forms of data.
- Read and take notes over the article “Does Fiction Have the Power to Sway Politics?” (link above).
- Review and take notes over the handouts Annotating Sources and Ten Steps for Active Reading that are above.
- Complete the annotating activity in your next Writer’s Notebook assignment below.
Does Fiction Have the Power to Sway Politics?
By Mohsin Hamid and Francine Prose
- Feb. 17, 2015
Each week in Bookends, two writers take on questions about the world of books. This week, Mohsin Hamid and Francine Prose debate literature’s influence on politics.
By Mohsin Hamid
Fiction can say publicly what might otherwise appear unsayable.
Mohsin HamidCreditIllustration by R. Kikuo Johnson
The line between fiction and nonfiction is more blurry than many people like to admit. Sometimes, political writing that claims to be nonfiction is actually fiction. The political power of such fiction-as-nonfiction is undeniable: “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” stoked the fires of European anti-Semitism in the decades before the Holocaust; American news coverage of the Gulf of Tonkin incident facilitated the escalation of American military involvement in Vietnam; supposedly true accounts about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction contributed to the disastrous invasion of that country 12 years ago.
The power of fictions that admit to being fiction, such as novels, may seem to pale in comparison. There are exceptions, of course: In popular lore, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” is said to have hardened opposition to slavery, thereby helping set in motion the war that led to slavery’s abolition.
Most novels aren’t directly credited with starting wars. Yet fiction still instigates change. Fiction can say publicly what might otherwise appear unsayable, combating the coerced silence that is a favored weapon of those who have power. In Pakistan, for example, where numerous hatreds — including of Hindus, of atheists, of supposed sexual transgressors — have been actively promoted by the state for purposes of social control, we have seen Hindu characters, nonbelieving characters, sexually transgressive characters being humanized in fiction.
Over half a century ago, Saadat Hasan Manto lampooned religious and nationalistic bigotry in Pakistan, opening up political and creative space for so many Pakistani writers, myself included, to enter. Reading his acerbic, wanton, irreverent short stories for the first time, I thought: “Wait, you can write that?” It was an electric experience for me, like reading James Baldwin and Toni Morrison would be, like reading Chinua Achebe would be.
I encountered Achebe in my final year of high school in Lahore, the sole African writer on our syllabus. “Things Fall Apart” forced me to grapple with how infantilizing the experience of colonialism must have been — how it killed off the adulthood of generations of parents, made children of them, made the colonizer into the adult, the colonized into the children of children. It was the only assigned novel I can remember my friends and myself talking about incessantly after school.
Politics is shaped by people. And people, sometimes, are shaped by the fiction they read. After Manto, I was more aware of the dangerous social desiccation being imposed in the name of religion around me in Pakistan. After Achebe, I was more concerned with agency, the notion that we Pakistanis needed to take responsibility for solving our own problems, because blaming the outside world, even when partly justified, served only to perpetuate our own sense of powerlessness.
I also read George Orwell’s “1984” around this time. The Berlin Wall fell the year I graduated from high school, and so it seemed to me that Orwell had gotten things wrong, that his dystopia, no matter how believably chilling, could never be humanity’s future. I associated “1984” with life behind the Iron Curtain. Only later, living in London in the noughties, an era of Bush-Blair doublethink and perpetual “war on terror,” did it occur to me that Orwell’s novel was set not in Russia but in Britain, and that perhaps the only reason his terrifying vision of society had been prevented from coming fully into existence was that he had already warned us — for otherwise the tendencies to slip into his nightmare were everywhere to be seen.
Does fiction affect politics? Yes, inevitably. So is all fiction political? To my mind, yes again. Fiction writers who claim their writing is not political are simply writers who seek to dissociate themselves from the politics furthered by their writing. Making up stories is an inherently political act. Like voting is. And like choosing not to vote is, too.
The Itsy-Bitsy, Teenie-Weenie, Very Litigious Bikini
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Where 518 Inmates Sleep in Space for 170, and Gangs Hold It Together
Mohsin Hamid is the author of three novels: “Moth Smoke,” a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award; “The Reluctant Fundamentalist,” a New York Times best seller that was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and adapted for film; and “How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia,” a winner of the Terzani Prize. His latest book is an essay collection, “Discontent and its Civilizations.”
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By Francine Prose
Perhaps the clearest case of literature effecting political change is Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle.”
Francine ProseCreditIllustration by R. Kikuo Johnson
Poetry makes nothing happen, Auden wrote, but occasionally fiction can get things done. Sadly, it’s easier to chart the ways in which literature has changed politics for the worse than to make a case for its positive effect on the course of human events. “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” and “The Turner Diaries” have confirmed bigots in their bigotry and made new converts to the cause of racism and intolerance. The sacred texts of most religions (let’s call them narratives and leave others to debate the question whether they are fact or fiction) have been used to justify unspeakable violence.
But can fiction change history for the better? Many of us have heard how Abraham Lincoln asked Harriet Beecher Stowe if she was the little lady whose big book started the great war. But the story is most likely apocryphal: a literary urban legend. Doubtless Stowe’s popular novel helped persuade its readers that slaves were human beings with feelings like those of their masters. But neither Lincoln nor Stowe could seriously have believed that her novel had functioned as an actual call to arms. Interestingly, I know of no similar stories about the authors of celebrated antiwar novels; apparently no one imagines a world leader telling Stephen Crane or Erich Maria Remarque that he would surely have declared war if not for “The Red Badge of Courage” or “All Quiet on the Western Front.”
Perhaps the clearest case of literature effecting political change is that of Upton Sinclair’s 1906 novel “The Jungle.” Its disgusting portrait of the meatpacking industry rapidly led to the passage of the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act. So what if Sinclair had hoped that his work would end the oppressive conditions under which industry workers labored rather than merely improving the quality of the protein on middle-class tables?
But while it’s difficult to trace the direct — the quid pro quo — impact of literature on politics, it’s encouraging (certainly for writers) to suggest that our books can change how readers interact with their fellow humans. Fiction can (though by no means is it required to) enable us to see the world through the eyes of people unlike ourselves and view them more empathetically; such changes may make us more likely to favor the creation of a more humane society. A 2013 study reported in The New York Times found that “after reading literary fiction, as opposed to popular fiction or serious nonfiction, people performed better on tests measuring empathy, social perception and emotional intelligence.”
Though the novels of Charles Dickens failed to radically improve the lot of poor children in Victorian England, they did raise public awareness of the Oliver Twists and Little Dorrits whom readers might otherwise have ignored: children suffering the humiliations that Dickens endured when, as a child, he worked in a boot-blacking factory and his father was sent to the debtors’ prison. In an essay on John Ruskin, George Eliot wrote that “in making clear to ourselves what is best and noblest in art, we are making clear to ourselves what is best and noblest in morals; in learning how to estimate the artistic products of a particular age, . . . we are widening our sympathy and deepening the basis of our tolerance and charity.”
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Certainly George Eliot can make us more charitable and patient. My long literary acquaintance with the Rev. Edward Casaubon, Dorothea Brooke’s pedantic husband in “Middlemarch,” has made me far more forgiving of the handful of Casaubons I’ve met in life. I always think, “Hey, that guy’s not just a pompous idiot, he’s a sad, self-deluding mess, like Edward Casaubon!” Medical students have been advised to read works such as Tolstoy’s “The Death of Ivan Ilyich” on the theory that these masterpieces will help them see “cases” as “people” and treat them accordingly. After reading Chekhov, I feel, however briefly, that we are all suffering humans, deserving of sympathy and tenderness. Who knows how our social and political lives might change if we were all persuaded to read at least one Chekhov story each day?
Francine Prose is the author of 20 works of fiction and nonfiction, among them the novel “Blue Angel,” a National Book Award nominee, and the guide “Reading Like a Writer,” a New York Times best seller. Her new novel is “Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932.” Currently a distinguished visiting writer at Bard College, she is the recipient of numerous grants and awards; a contributing editor at Harper’s, Saveur and Bomb; a former president of the PEN American Center; and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Please complete the following steps to annotate and submit the attached reading assignment.
- Download the Microsoft Word file (or PDF if you want to hand annotate or see the original version).
- Annotate the article. Turn on Track Changes in Microsoft Word under the Review tab first.
- Complete Step 1: Predict and Preview before you read.
- Read a paragraph and then summarize (paraphrase) it in one sentence. In Microsoft Word, highlight the last word in the paragraph, and then click the Comment box and type your summary in the box.
- Define all vocabulary words you don’t know. Type the definition directly in the sentence next to the word.
- Highlight the main ideas in the text and underline the supporting details or interesting quotes/facts (annotate).
- Complete the reading questions at the end.
- Save your file onto your computer with the completed questions and annotations.
- Resubmit your completed assignment by clicking on the link above and attaching your file.
You have two choices when completing this assignment. You can use the Track Changes in Microsoft Word to answer the questions and annotate, or you can download and print the PDF and hand write directly on the article. Be sure you also download the Word file, so you know what the reading questions are at the end of the article. Then you can take a picture of your annotations and submit them when you are finished.
- Pre-reading 10
- Summaries 40
- Vocabulary 10
- Annotating 20
- Two post questions 20
- Total 100