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How to Read Literature Like a Professor: A…
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How to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide… (2014)

by Thomas C. Foster

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 61 (next | show all)
This is a great guide for all of us who love to read but whose education was at the other end of the campus. His style is informal, chatty and humorous -- now that he has the cautiously curious in his room, he doesn't want to scare us off with concepts that seem dry or irrelevant. He wants to show us how to apply these ideas so that our deeper understanding of the book will take our enjoyment of it to a new plane. "Reading literature is a highly intellectual activity, but it also involves affect and instinct to a large degree. Much of what we think about literature, we feel first. Having instincts, though, doesn’t automatically mean they work at their highest level. Dogs are instinctual swimmers, but not every pup hits the water understanding what to do with that instinct. Reading is like that, too. The more you exercise the symbolic imagination, the better and quicker it works."
He illustrates his ideas with numerous works of different types, and doesn't restrict them to the classics. Popular modern books (eg Inspector Banks) are as easily discussed as the traditional classics and are mixed in with occasional movies too.
"... when writers send characters south, it’s so they can run amok....Conrad’s visionaries, Lawrence’s searchers, Hemingway’s hunters, Kerouac’s hipsters, Paul Bowles’s down-and-outers and seekers, Forster’s tourists, Durrell’s libertines—all head south, in more senses than one".
For instance, vampires and other monsters are explained in terms of "...exploitation in its many forms. Using other people to get what we want. Denying someone else’s right to live in the face of our overwhelming demands. Placing our desires, particularly our uglier ones, above the needs of another." The vampire/monster thinks, ' In order to remain undead, I must steal the life force of someone whose fate matters less to me than my own.' Foster says, "I’ve always supposed that Wall Street traders utter essentially the same sentence. My guess is that as long as people act toward their fellows in exploitative and selfish ways, the vampire will be with us."
You can't go wrong with someone who can so easily link vampires with Wall Street. ( )
  TheBookJunky | Apr 22, 2016 |
Boooooring.
  mirikayla | Feb 8, 2016 |
Reading between the lines (pun intended) he seems a little dismissive of "non-literature." E.g., he basically dismisses world building, so that wipes out huge swathes of sci fi and fantasy. Also seems to not consider mysteries on the same level as literature, though he enjoys them.

As far as being successful in what he set out to do, then he was, because now I'm thinking about his approaches while doing my other reading. ( )
  encephalical | Dec 19, 2015 |
This was a really great book for anyone to read , If you don't understand literature this will help you. For those who do understand it , Its still an excellent book to get into and to see what you already understand. I would recommend this book to everyone for some great reading. ( )
  LizzyRachel | Sep 16, 2015 |
In a lifetime of avid reading, I honestly never put much thought into what anything meant beyond the basic story itself. Not even the required English courses in high school and college provided me with the tools to search for symbolism or allegories or the like. I'm sure that teachers dutifully brought up the question of "so, what does this story mean?". Whether it was their fault, or mine -- my curiosity was never sparked enough to go beyond the surface layer of a story (be it a short story, a play, poetry, literature or a novel).

How to Read Literature Like a Professor (note: I read the first edition, not the new revised edition) was an eye-opener for me. While it's not the be-all/end-all resource for literary concepts, it has been a very good introduction to the topic. I will probably be reading literature with a new eye from now on. It doesn't mean, though, that henceforth all books I read will be discussed in this way.

As Professor Foster does point out by quoting Freud's statement "sometimes a cigar is just a cigar", yes sometimes a story is just there for the sake of story-telling. That's fine. However, Foster convinces me that one's reading can be enriched otherwise when looking beyond the basics; it's like unlocking a treasure box.

Not only does Foster touch upon varied devices such as symbolic references to Greek mythology, he also gives a good reminder: "don't read with your own eyes" (p. 228). What does the latter mean? It means that we need to try to read the work as it was intended by the author. He gives the example of "Sonny's Blues" by James Baldwin -- we need to try to read it as it was meant to be read back in 1957, and especially not from the perspective of whether addiction is good or bad, because it was meant to be about a relationship between two brothers.

I plan to pick up his other book, How to Read Novels like a Professor (and I'm sure he'll discuss the difference between "novels" and "literature"). ( )
  ValerieAndBooks | Sep 8, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 61 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Thomas C. Fosterprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
de Vries, DavidNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gubkin, Sarah MayaDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Taylor, JarrodCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For my sons, Robert and Nathan
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Preface
The amazing thing about books is how they have lives of their own.
Introduction
Mr. Lindner? That Milquetoast?
Okay, so here's the deal: let's say, purely hypothetically, you're reading a book about an average sixteen-year-old kid in the summer of 1968.
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This is NOT the "For Kids" edition.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 006000942X, Paperback)

What does it mean when a fictional hero takes a journey?. Shares a meal? Gets drenched in a sudden rain shower? Often, there is much more going on in a novel or poem than is readily visible on the surface—a symbol, maybe, that remains elusive, or an unexpected twist on a character—and there's that sneaking suspicion that the deeper meaning of a literary text keeps escaping you.

In this practical and amusing guide to literature, Thomas C. Foster shows how easy and gratifying it is to unlock those hidden truths, and to discover a world where a road leads to a quest; a shared meal may signify a communion; and rain, whether cleansing or destructive, is never just rain. Ranging from major themes to literary models, narrative devices, and form, How to Read Literature Like a Professor is the perfect companion for making your reading experience more enriching, satisfying, and fun.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:15 -0400)

What does it mean when a fictional hero takes a journey?. Shares a meal? Gets drenched in a sudden rain shower? Often, there is much more going on in a novel or poem than is readily visible on the surface -- a symbol, maybe, that remains elusive, or an unexpected twist on a character - and there's that sneaking suspicion that the deeper meaning of a literary text keeps escaping you. In this practical and amusing guide to literature, Thomas C. Foster shows how easy and gratifying it is to unlock those hidden truths, and to discover a world where a road leads to a quest a shared meal may signify a communion and rain, whether cleansing or destructive, is never just rain. Ranging from major themes to literary models, narrative devices, and form, How to Read Literature Like a Professor is the perfect companion for making your reading experience more enriching, satisfying, and fun.… (more)

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