How to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines by Thomas C. Foster In Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Red-Headed League," Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson both observe Jabez Wilson carefully, yet their differing interpretations of the same details reveal the difference between a "Good Reader" and a "Bad Reader." Watson can only describe what he sees; Holmes has the knowledge to interpret what he sees, to draw conclusions, and to solve the mystery. Understanding literature need no longer be a mystery -- Thomas Foster's book will help transform you from a naive, sometimes confused Watson to an insightful, literary Holmes. Professors and other informed readers see symbols, archetypes, and patterns because those things are there -- if you have learned to look for them. As Foster says, you learn to recognize the literary conventions the "same way you get to Carnegie Hall. Practice." (xiv). Note to students: These short writing assignments will let you practice your literary analysis and they will help me get to know you and your literary tastes. Whenever I ask for an example from literature, you may use short stories, novels, plays, or films (Yes, film is a literary genre). If your literary repertoire is thin and undeveloped, use the Appendix to jog your memory or to select additional works to explore. At the very least, watch some of the "Movies to Read" that are listed on pages 293-294. Please note that your responses should be paragraphs -- not pages! Even though this is analytical writing, you may use "I" if you deem it important to do so; remember, however, that most uses of "I" are just padding. For example, "I think the wolf is the most important character in 'Little Red Ridinghood'" is padded. As you compose each written response, re-phrase the prompt as part of your answer. In other words, I should be able to tell which question you are answering without referring back to the prompts. Concerning mechanics, pay special attention to pronouns. Make antecedents clear. Say Foster first; not "he." Remember to capitalize and punctuate titles properly for each genre.
Introduction: How'd He Do That?
How do memory, symbol, and pattern affect the reading of literature? How does the recognition of patterns make it easier to read complicated literature? Discuss a time when your appreciation of a literary work was enhanced by understanding symbol or pattern.
Chapter 1 -- Every Trip Is a Quest (Except When It's Not)
List the five aspects of the QUEST and then apply them to something you have read (or viewed) in the form used on pages 3-5.
Chapter 2 -- Nice to Eat with You: Acts of Communion
Choose a meal from a literary work and apply the ideas of Chapter 2 to this literary depiction.
Chapter 3: --Nice to Eat You: Acts of Vampires
What are the essentials of the Vampire story? Apply this to a literary work you have read or viewed.
Chapter 4 -- If It's Square, It's a Sonnet
Select three sonnets and show which form they are. Discuss how their content reflects the form. (Submit copies of the sonnets, marked to show your analysis).
Chapter 5 --Now, Where Have I Seen Her Before?
Define intertextuality. Discuss three examples that have helped you in reading specific works.
Chapter 6 -- When in Doubt, It's from Shakespeare...
Discuss a work that you are familiar with that alludes to or reflects Shakespeare. Show how the author uses this connection thematically. Read pages 44-46 carefully. In these pages, Foster shows how Fugard reflects Shakespeare through both plot and theme. In your discussion, focus on theme.
Chapter 7 -- ...Or the Bible
Read "Araby.” Discuss Biblical allusions that Foster does not mention. Look at the example of the "two great jars." Be creative and imaginative in these connections.
Chapter 8 -- Hanseldee and Greteldum
Think of a work of literature that reflects a fairy tale. Discuss the parallels. Does it create irony or deepen...