In my AP Lit class we have socratic circles on the books we read and we need to come up with and answer 2 discussion questions. Anything related to themes, symbols, archetypes. The big question for my teacher is WHY? I would perfer not to use the same simple minded, on-the-surface questions everyone else in the class will also have. Thank you for the help!
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First of all I would say that if you aren't ultimately talking about theme then you are very likely to be off topic. If you want to get more creative then I suggest you get more specific. Look at a specific scene, passage or line and then ask about or talk about how the literary techniques in the selection relate to one another and to the meaning of the work as a whole. That is what the AP Literature exam is asking students to do: relate the parts to the whole.
Discussions about anything are an integral part of understanding. Given that in literature everyone typically latches onto a different idea from the novel, discussions are important so that light may be brought to symbols, themes, or messages one might have missed during their own personal reading.
For example, if discussing a poem (given poems have different meanings for different people based upon personal interpretation) one reader states that the meaning of the poem is one about death another person may have thought the message was about life. The purpose of the discussion helps each reader to open their eyes not only to opposing or alternative meanings, but also allows them consider the text in a different way. This also helps others to, perhaps, "see" something they missed.
This being said, the importance of a Socratic circle is to fill in the chunks of information for everyone so as to create a complete understanding of the text as a whole. It is much like a math problem. While there may be one main message of a text, normally there are many underlying messages that add to the meaning as a whole. So where one person may have read a text and come up with a "formula" for the text, others may have the necessary pieces to complete the act of the "formulation." It takes many different point-of-view to create a whole.
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