I am a student of English literature, but not living in America. Can anyone tell me how to memorize an English literature subject in an easy way to remember themes, symbolism, diction and all...

I am a student of English literature, but not living in America. Can anyone tell me how to memorize an English literature subject in an easy way to remember themes, symbolism, diction and all things like that about a book? 

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The only things that you need to memorize and be sure that you understand and know the definitions of are the elements of plot, such as

  1. exposition
  2. rising action
  3. climax
  4. falling action
  5. resolution, of denouement

Other terms you need to know are symbolism, imagery, characterization (dynamic, static characters), motifs, conflict (internal, external), and theme.

If you are concerned about having to analyze a short story or a novel which you have read, you can read informative essays under the topic of your choice.  For instance, if your exam is on The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, type in the title in the black-bordered box and click on the red Search that are located in the right-hand upper corner.  On the left-hand side there are various pages that you can see; these are listed in blue.  Click on the "Essays and Criticisms" and you will find critical essays on the novel. By reading them, you will gain insight into the novel.  In addition, you can read about the theme and the characters, as well as style, which explains what techniques the author uses such as symbols, imagery, doubles, etc.

Another good source for evaluations and interpretations of literature is Contemporary Literary Criticism.  This is a series of references.  If you are in a college library, they are probably a bound set of books in the Reference section.  If not, you may be able to find them online. But, they contain many professional essays that analyze some aspect of a literary work; these are extremely enlightening. If you will read these critical essays, you will gain understanding and insight on whatever literary work you choose to study. Of course, there are innumerable sources at your university library. Often if you choose to look under the title of a particular work on Enotes, there will be essays from Contemporary Literary Criticism on the left side bar that you can click and read.

Do not be afraid to reread the literary texts on which you will be tested--if you have time.  So often the student gains a better understanding of a text on the second reading since, knowing the plot, the student can seek other elements in the narrative.

William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It shouldn't be necessary for you to memorize things for an English exam unless the professor requires this, which is unlikely. I think most professors at the graduate level, and even at the undergraduate level, are mostly concerned about your own thoughts and feelings. Too many students think that studying for an exam consists of memorizing a lot of material from texts and class notes. Then they "regurgitate" what they have memorized and immediately forget everything.

There is no easy way to memorize anything. It would probably be just as hard for the typical native English speaker to memorize a lot of data as it would be for you. You say that it is diffiicult for you to understand all the themes if you only read the material one time. That is true for anybody. It is true for me. Instead of trying to memorize any material, I would spend the time reading it two or three times and focusing on understanding rather than memorizing. If you can put some of your own ideas in your own words on your exam paper, you will probably do as well as possible. You obviously need to learn a lot more about English. This can best be done by reading a lot of good writing, even reading a good newspaper like the New York Timeson a daily basis. 

You can save yourself a lot of time and anxiety by referring to eNotes, which offers all kinds of explanatory material on a whole range of subjects. You can see what kinds of questions people ask and what kinds of answers they receive.

Wiggin42 | Student

Memorizing things won't help you pass lit exams. Lit exams are usually writing based. You'll have to have a deep understanding of the given work to write an essay that adequately defends your opinion. Reading enote summaries and analysis can help you formulate your own opinion.

sweeeetheart | Student

it is very hard to memorise for me and my english is not so gud that one time read and understand all themes.. plz can anyone help me to sort out my problem?? i m very much confused and my exam is too near.