How to Read Literature Like a Professor

Topics: Literature, Fiction, Linguistics Pages: 6 (1227 words) Published: May 12, 2014
How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster (Notes)

Introduction: “How’d He Do That?”

Part of reading is:
oKnowing conventions
oRecognizing conventions
oAnticipating results
When a person introduces a topic, then digresses onto other topics it doesn’t matter what examples, as soon as you see a couple of them you recognize a pattern. oYou know the author is coming back with an application of those examples to the main topic. Conventions in stories/novels:

oTypes of characters
oPlot rhythms
oChapter structures
oPoint-of-view limitations
Separation of professional reader from a crowd:
“Professors read and think symbolically.”
oEverything is a symbol of something until proven otherwise. Literature is full of patterns.
oLife and books fall into similar patterns.

Foster’s Chapter: “Every Trip Is a Quest (Except When It’s Not)” (Ch. 1; pg.1)

What does a quest include?
oA Knight
oA dangerous road
oA Holy Grail
At the least:
oOne dragon
oOne evil night
oOne princess
A quest consists of five things:
oA quester
oA place to go
oA stated reason to go there
oChallenges and trials en route
oA real reason to go there
“The real reason for a quest never involves the stated reason.” oMore often than not, the quester fails at the stated task. oQuesters go on the quest because of the stated task, mistakenly thinking that it is their actual mission. A quest is educational.

“The real reason for a quest is always self-knowledge.”
oThat is why a quester is generally is always young, inexperienced, immature, and sheltered.

Foster’s Chapter: “Nice to Eat with You: Acts of Communion” (Ch. 2; pg. 7)

What is communion?
oWhenever people eat or drink together.
Most readers relate communion to Christianity but nearly every religion has ritual involving the coming together of people to share a meal. Not all communions are holy or have religious meanings.

oLiterary versions of communion can be interpreted in various ways.

Real World
oBreaking bread with others is an act of sharing and peace, because you’re breaking bread instead of heads. oCommunion is normally taken with those who close are to you. Why?
o“The act of taking food into our bodies is so personal that we really only want to do it with people we’re very comfortable with.”

Foster’s Chapter: “Now, Where Have I Seen This Before?” (Ch.5; pg. 28)

There’s only one story.
oStories grow out of other stories.
oPoems grow out of other poems.
Influences from other literary works.
oDirect and obvious
oIndirect and subtle
oThe ongoing interaction between poems and stories
oDeepens and enriches reading experience
oBrings multiple layers of meaning to text
Picking up on elements in a literary work such as parallels and analogies will cause your understanding of the novel to deepen, become more complex and meaningful.

Foster’s Chapter: “It’s Greek to Me” (Ch. 9; pg.64)

Kinds of myth?
oFolk/ Fairly tale
These three kinds of myths work as:
oSources of material
oSources of correspondences
oSources of depth for the modern writer
oEnhancers and enrichers to the reading experience
Biblical myth covers the largest range of human situations oEncompasses all ages of life
oAll relationships
oAll phases of the individual’s experience
Myth is a body of story that matters.
“Greek and Roman myth is so much a part of the fabric of our consciousness, of our unconscious really, that we scarcely notice.” Example: Homer used primal patterns known to humans.
Four great struggles of the human being:
oWith nature
oWith the divine
oWith other humans
oWith ourselves

Foster’s Chapter: “Is That a Symbol?” (Ch. 12; pg. 97)

oPeople expect symbols to mean one something in particular. oSome have a relatively limited range in meaning.
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