Syntopical Reading This aims to compare books and authors to one another, to model dialogues between authors that may not be in any one of the books.
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Reading is an active activity, not a passive one. First, inspect a book to understand what its main argument is and how it’s organized. Next, as you read the book, analyze how it develops its arguments. Finally, only after you understand the book, critique the author by agreeing or disagreeing, but always give reasons
A good book usually summarizes itself as its arguments develop. An orator’s great trick is to leave certain things unsaid that would be challenged if they were made explicit. Find what things the orator says must be assumed, what can be proved, and what need not be proved because it is self-evident.
There is no book so good that no fault can be found with it. Reading a book is like a conversation. Your obligation as a reader is to talk back, even though the author isn’t there. We’ve been conditioned to think that teachable students are those who passively swallow knowledge without independent judgment.
Until you’ve completed your understanding, you don’t have the right to say I agree, I disagree, or I suspend judgment. Much like a conversation, you need to give the author the chance to express herself fully before passing judgment. If you interrupted the author at each sentence to say she’s wrong, you’re not having a
Inspect all of the books on your bibliography to decide which are relevant to your subject, and to better define the subject. As you research, you may find that your subject is more difficult to define than you imagined. Imagine love, which has been attributed to everything in the universe. Do we speak of love etc
Bring the authors to terms with each other.Authors in different fields may use entirely different terms that mean the same thing, and the same terms in different fields may mean entirely different things. You must establish the controls and bring order to the chaos. This is in some sense like translation
Example of the author’s syntopical reading on the subject of progress: Coming to terms: progress is used primarily to indicate change for the better, though a minority referred to is as negative changes. The authors then had to refer to the latter as “non-meliorative advances” rather than progress, thus changing the