Read How to Read Literature Like a Professor Revised: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines by Thomas C. Foster Online


A thoroughly revised and updated edition of Thomas C. Foster's classic guide—a lively and entertaining introduction to literature and literary basics, including symbols, themes, and contexts—that shows you how to make your everyday reading experience more rewarding and enjoyable.While many books can be enjoyed for their basic stories, there are often deeper literary meaninA thoroughly revised and updated edition of Thomas C. Foster's classic guide—a lively and entertaining introduction to literature and literary basics, including symbols, themes, and contexts—that shows you how to make your everyday reading experience more rewarding and enjoyable.While many books can be enjoyed for their basic stories, there are often deeper literary meanings interwoven in these texts. How to Read Literature Like a Professor helps us to discover those hidden truths by looking at literature with the eyes—and the literary codes—of the ultimate professional reader: the college professor.What does it mean when a literary hero travels along a dusty road? When he hands a drink to his companion? When he's drenched in a sudden rain shower? Ranging from major themes to literary models, narrative devices, and form, Thomas C. Foster provides us with a broad overview of literature—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 a shower—and shows us how to make our reading experience more enriching, satisfying, and fun.This revised edition includes new chapters, a new preface, and a new epilogue, and incorporates updated teaching points that Foster has developed over the past decade....

Title : How to Read Literature Like a Professor Revised: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines
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ISBN : 20922255
Format Type : Kindle Edition
Number of Pages : 371 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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How to Read Literature Like a Professor Revised: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines Reviews

  • Will Byrnes
    2018-12-11 07:03

    I have read more than a few books of this sort. This one stands above the crowd. While the material may not be particularly novel, it does pull together core truths about how literature can be understood, and communicates that information in a very accessible manner. It has made a world of difference in my approach to reviewing. I made my teenagers read this, back when they were actually teenagers. Revised and re-released - May 16, 2017

  • Riku Sayuj
    2018-11-27 09:02

    Read literature like a Pro: A Cheat-SheetFoster comes across for the most part of the book as Captain Obvious, or rather Prof. Obvious and maybe even as Dr. Condescending, M.A., Ph.D., etc.But no matter how frustrated with the book I was at times, Foster does have a language that reminded me constantly of all my english professors and since I have always loved my literature classes and the teachers, it was easier to swallow. The book treats only very obvious and surface level things like 'if he almost drowns then he is symbolically reborn' etc. He takes us through a variety of such things ‘hidden’ in literature that we should be on the lookout for to truly enjoy any reading. The only problem is that he never goes deep enough to let help a reader think analytically of what can be considered challenging literature.But sometime obvious things are worth restating too and sometimes they help us develop a pattern of thinking that will eventually evolve by itself into what is really required. And that in the end might be the real goal of the book. In that case Foster can consider it a reasonable success.So here is a quick list of easy things to watch out for when you read literature:1) Every time a character in the book takes any journey/trip of any sort, start looking for tropes like gatekeepers, dragons, treasures etc. Chances are high that it is a mythic Quest of some sort.2) If you come across a scene involving the characters eating together, especially if a whole chapter is dedicated to it, possibly it is being used to explore their relations and it is an act of Communion with all that the word implies.3) Vampires exist, even when they don't. If it is not Twilight, chances are that it has literary significance. And if it does, the vampire figure is probably being used to hide a lot of sexual and societal undertones about chastity and selfishness. And even when a book has nothing to do with vampires, it would serve you well to identify vampires who suck others' blood to survive.4) Sonnet is the most used type of poetry? - Frankly I am not sure why this chapter came in and how it helps the readers in anyway except to recognize when they meet a sonnet - they look square.5) You will meet historical figures like Napoleon, Caesar and Gandhi in many guises even when the situation does not seem to indicate it. If you do recognize this hidden historical aspect of the character, then the story will acquire a new dimension6) References and quotations from Shakespeare and Bible, including situations and entire plots abound in literature. (Duh)7) Fairy tales form an important part of literature too and you might want to have a look-out for Hansel and Gretel's witch anytime people get lost in unfamiliar territory.8) Greek symbolism and myths crop up everywhere and be ready for your author being a Homer in disguise trying to tell a modern version. And most of western literature taps this well-spring9) Weather is always symbolic and Rain, Spring, etc. have deep rooted meaning which authors exploit consistently. If it is raining and things look gloomy, that might be irony or they might have heard of London (Foster doesn't seem to have).10) When violence is used in a text, it is probably a plot device. So start thinking about why did he have to hit him with a baseball bat and not with a table lamp and why the character had to climb that mountain to die.11) Almost everything that is repeated can be symbolic, even events and actions. There is no way to list them out so get in the habit of being paranoid.12) Politics of the day inevitably seeps into any work and knowing that helps in understanding any prejudices which might not be acceptable today and also in understanding the real motivations. Who can read and understand Hemingway without knowing of his history?13) Christ figures are everywhere and anytime anyone is even slightly noble be on the lookout for christ archetypes like disciples and sacrifice and betrayal.14) If anyone flies or falls for too long, Icarus and his imaginary cousins are probably being invoked.15) Lot of things can stand for sex and it is important to understand the meaning of tall buildings. If they write about sex when they mean strictly sex, we have another word for that - pornography.16) If anyone gets wet in a book, they might change their life after that. They might be baptized into another life in short17) Geography is probably the most important part of any novel. Geography and Season - think about why the author used that setting and the motifs of the novel will become clearer.18) There is only One Story - whatever that means.19) If any character has a scar (lightening?), it usually is a means to set him/her apart and the nature of the scar is symbolic. It could be scar/defect or ever a mild skin coloration - but it is a device to set up for greater things.20) If a character is blind, ask what he is blind to or what others are blind to. It certainly is not just about physical sight.21) Whenever any sort of illness comes in, it is usually a metaphor - especially if it is heart disease, TB (consumption), AIDS, Cancer or mysterious in some way. In literature disease is never caused by microscopic mundane things - it is caused by society and character. 22) Read any work from the time frame in which it was written. 23) Irony trumps everything else. If the author defeats your expectation with any symbol, he is so ironing you. This can work at many levels of course, he might defeat your expectation of being subject to irony by using the actual meaning and so on.So. Long list? Not if you read a lot. You can see all this in three days of light reading. In fact I am tending to be lenient in this review mostly due to that wonderful last chapter where he gives an example short story and analyses it. That one chapter makes the whole book worth reading. The reading list at the end is also useful and I have reproduced it here.But getting back to the means of analyses listed above.Were they too obvious? Or are you not confident that you will start spotting them from tomorrow? Either way, it might help us get into the habit as I said earlier and that is what really matters.The only way to catch on to all these devices and symbols is to be familiar with them. And the only way to do that? Read, of course. Read a hell lot.So you can see that you need to have read a lot. I mean a lot. And be very conversant with all the tropes and history of literature and myth to fully enjoy or critique serious works - that is, you need to have had a life dedicated to reading to enjoy reading. In other words, to read literature like a professor you need to be a professor of literature. Bingo. InsightPS. Of course the iterative growth in the pleasure of reading is known to every bookworm - we are addicted to books as it keeps getting better with every new book we read - the connections, the intertextuality and the by-lanes all become clearer and more and more FUN.PPS. Susan Sontag makes another arbitrary appearance, haunting my reading list.

  • Hannah Greendale
    2018-12-03 07:27

    Click here to watch a video review of this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend.How to Read Literature Like a Professor offers an extensive introduction to literary analysis for the purpose of finding deeper meaning in one's everyday reading. One of the central precepts of the book is that there is a universal grammar of figurative imagery, that in fact images and symbols gain much of their power from repetition and reinterpretation. Memory. Symbol. Pattern. These are the three items that, more than any other, separate the professorial reader from the rest of the crowd. Chapters are divided into relatively similar page counts and, while each chapter explores a topic and provides helpful examples from literary works, the length of each chapter allows for digestion of information in small bites. Citing folklore, religious dogmas, and Greek mythology, the author delicately introduces varied or contrasting belief systems for interpretation of literature in an unoffensive and unbiased manner. Every reader's experience of every work is unique, largely because each person will experience various elements to differing degrees, and those differences will cause certain features of the text to become more or less pronounced.While this book provides a thorough examination of theme, symbols, and contexts, the author freely admits that it is by no means a complete compilation; one could hardly fit all elements of literary assessment, all interpretations of symbols, or all references to venerable lore into just one book. The writing is consistently comprehensive and entertaining, occasionally infused with Foster's personal quips and moments of charming self-deprecation. His points, whether serious or silly, are stated with eloquence.The author's examination of various classic works are liable to tantalize readers to pick up new reads, and a long list of recommended reads at the back of the book further encourage the accumulation of TBR books. Before the book reaches its end, the author tackles a difficult question: should we really give so much credit to writers by interpreting their works in such a special and meaningful way, especially when he/she hasn't been proven to be a good writer? His answer is illuminating and his conclusions ultimately encourage the examination of literature and the sharing of books and conversation such that we might all bring new perspectives to our shared experience. How to Read Literature Like a Professor is a highly recommended resource for unearthing the hidden meaning interwoven in books (and film).

  • Meagan
    2018-12-10 09:24

    Awesome. Simply awesome. I'd recommend it for any student who has ever asked the eternal question after being assigned some obscure piece of literature in an English class - "why the HELL DO I HAVE TO READ THIS?!" Trust me. Thomas C. Foster is your friend. He feels your pain. And he's here to help.As an English major, I have an intense love for books, obviously, even the classic texts that even I find a little hopeless and empty at times. But these essays help you to find the deeper meaning behind the words and point out the little hints and signs that you can look for in order to makeOroonoko orMrs. Dalloway seem a little less pointless. Furthermore, even as an English major with an intense love for literature, I am also a teenager, and I am fully aware that not every student in the world particularly wants to spend time reading a book about...books. But the thing with Foster is that he's funny, and he explains things with a rather dry sense of humor that I find simply wonderful. It is a rare thing to find a scholar with a sense of humor about their discipline. Especially those scholars that are passionate enough to write books.Informal, light, and truly fun to read. I read it in the span of one evening, so for a normal person (read: non-bibliophile. I call them "puggles." Like "Muggles," you know?) it would take about...a week? How do puggles measure time?How did I get to this point in my review? Anyway. Read it. You won't regret it.

  • Margitte
    2018-11-28 02:02

    This book is pure joy to read. While learning a few new secrets of writing, it was exciting to explore all the book titles mentioned in the book.The author uses a casual tone to introduce the magic of serious reading to the reader. Some of it is old news, others, instinct and common sense, such as recognizing patterns and story elements, but new information, for me at least, was also added. For instance, that many works attributed to Shakespeare might not have been his at all.Although I would love to share my views on the content of the book, since that is the most exciting part of it, I would restrict myself to the book itself. The chapter headings says it all:1. Every trip is a Quest;2. Nice to eat with you: Acts od Communion;3. Nice to eat you: Acts of Vampires;4. If it's square, it's a sonnet;5. Now, where have I seen her before?6. When in Doubt, it's from Shakespeare ...;7. ... or the Bible;8. Hanseldee and Greteldum;9. It's Greek to me;10. More than just rain or snow.... and more of the same.And suddenly I am more excited than ever before, although I figured out some of these issues in the book already, like for instance, the borrowing from Greek mythology. In Light Between The Oceans by M.L. Stedman, the Greek god Janus formed the backbone of the story, and that characters such as Mr. Darcy in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, inspired many others in romance novels. We find Dracula in more than one storyline, and Shakespeare in a multitude of other contemporary novels - long before the Hogarth project was launched in 2016. Of course my recent favorite in this regard is Ian McEwan's Nutshell in which 'Fetus Cairncross' as I dubbed him, became Hamlet in utero, and the author was not even part of the Hogarth Project. The author highlights other books which royally borrowed from the greatest author of all times:QUICK QUIZ: What do John Cleese, Cole Porter, Moonlighting, and Death Valley Days have in common? No, they’re not part of some Communist plot. All were involved with some version of The Taming of the Shrew...If you look at any literary period between the eighteenth and twenty-first centuries, you’ll be amazed by the dominance of the Bard. He’s everywhere, in every literary form you can think of. And he’s never the same: every age and every writer reinvents its own Shakespeare. All this from a man who we’re still not sure actually wrote the plays that bear his name.Try this. In 1982 Paul Mazursky directed an interesting modern version of The Tempest. It had an Ariel figure (Susan Sarandon), a comic but monstrous Caliban (Raul Julia), and a Prospero (famed director John Cassavetes), an island, and magic of a sort. The film’s title? Tempest. Woody Allen reworked A Midsummer Night’s Dream as his film A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy.West Side Story famously reworks Romeo and which resurfaces again in the 1990s, in a movie featuring contemporary teen culture and automatic pistols. And that’s a century or so after Tchaikovsky’s ballet based on the same play.The BBC series Masterpiece Theatre has recast Othello as a contemporary story of black police commissioner John Othello, his lovely white wife Dessie, and his friend Ben Jago, deeply resentful at being passed over for promotion. The action will surprise no one familiar with the original.Nor is the Shakespeare adaptation phenomenon restricted to the stage and screen. Jane Smiley rethinks King Lear in her novel A Thousand Acres.I'm insanely thrilled with this book. For many of us it is impossible to attend literature lectures and have forgotten most of the ones we did honor with our presence, many years ago. So this is it. Read the book and become wiser. The information might not be unfamiliar to many of us, but it certainly deepens our experience of serious books. Then there is the many references to Bible stories, and once again, Ian McEwan, uses the wisdom of Solomon in his book The Children's Act to solve a serious situation when the Jehova's Witnesses and The State have to compromise on a minor child's life. So yes, I'm jumping up and down. Nothing is new, says the Bible, psychologists and sociologists. Remember the Pavlov experiments with dogs and mice? It is still used today to solve behavioural problems. No story is therefor new. It is just told differently as time goes on. The book made me think again. About a letter my mom once wrote me to warn me against a unsavory character trying to enter my life. She said nothing was new, the rules would always remain the same, only time and setting changed. The story line would not change, only the characters in it will have different names. She changed my life. I was nineteen years old and needed to know that when I did not recognize the difference between a he-hussy and a perfumed skunk.I was wondering if a person who never read Shakespeare, told his story, if it can be regarded as a Shakespearean 'borrow' if some elements to it was similar? Would it be fair? And someone who don't know the Bible could have a similar experience as a Bible character? Human behaviour patterns, different personality types, cultures, social mores and values play the most important role in how characters in a story will act or react. So yes, all stories happened before, it could be in real life or literature, but nothing is really new. It's only seasoned authors who might borrow from other stories, but real people in real life repeat behaviour based on genetic indicators and circumstantial impulses. Then there's human instinct to predict outcome.So, while the cognoscenti sleuth through a great novel, ordinary lay readers like yours truly do not have to do it. However, it might add a wonderful new dimension to the experience if we are experienced enough to know when it happens in the shaping and sustaining power of a story and the symbolism behind it. The author is passionate about his subject. He has a serious issue with the programmatic nature of political novels, just a certain type though, and and shares his views with the reader, no matter what.I hate “political” writing—novels, plays, poems. They don’t travel well, don’t age well, and generally aren’t much good in their own time and place, however sincere they may be. I speak here of literature whose primary intent is to influence the body politic—for instance, those works of socialist realism (one of the great misnomers of all time) of the Soviet era in which the plucky hero figures out a way to increase production and thereby meet the goals of the five-year plan on the collective farm—what I once heard the great Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes characterize as the love affair between a boy, and girl, and a tractor. Overtly political writing can be one-dimensional, simplistic, reductionist, preachy, dull. Don't we find those preachy dullness in too many novels nowadays? I like the idea of calling it programmatic. Word-dumping or information dumping were my favorite two concepts in addressing it. But I have something new to call it. :-))There are too many authors, such as Edgar Alan Poe, Washington Irvine, D. H. Lawrence, Charles Dickens, Gabriel García Márquez, Virginia Wolfe, Toni Morrison, George Bernard Shaw, Seamus Heaney, Eavan Boland, Adrienne Rich, Audre Lord and so many more who masterfully incorporate politics into their prose. It is how it is done which matters. State of Fear by Michael Crichton comes to mind. My word, how this author rattled a few cages, right? And what about The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver; The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. Yes, we have our exciting moments in prose! Oh yes, and The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See, which had me a bit miffed-so programmized, Eoowwww! :-)) And don't ever forget Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses. Now talk about ruffled feathers, folks. Some authors know how to do it. Others don't.That reminds me to ask the question if chick lit is also so obviously programmatic? Not literature by any means, but still prose of some kind with often deeper undertones. Mmm... think about it, shall we?The difference between a murder/death in a murder mystery and a literary book was good to learn, even though, once again, common sense, although we seldom take the time to think about the symbolism in it.In getting hyped up about the content of How to Read Literature Like a Professor I quickly made a list of all my favorite characters in books. After many hours, I stopped when I realized how impossible it is to recall them all. I've read a few thousand books long before I joined GR, to begin with. And who will want to know anyway? I could just sat back in amazement though. How many authors introduced so much magic into my life by presenting amazing characters in their stories. It took a long time to read this book. Probably three weeks. More or less a chapter each day, with a few rereads in between. Not because it was boring or tedious. No, it was just so inspiring. I was constantly lured into exploring old books and new titles.Allow me to sneak in two of my favorite book endings:Rhet Butler - in Gone With The Wind author Margaret Mitchell: ----- "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn"Professor Higgins - in the play My Fair Lady(Pygmalion) author George Bernard Shaw: -----Where the devil is my slippers, Elyze?" (Of course you realize that this play was named after a Greek mythological figure, Pygmalion who fell in love with his statue Galatea. Read the inspiring love story here: https://www.greekmyths-greekmythology...For young readers this is undoubtedly a wonderful introduction to literature, in so many ways. For all readers it is a rejoicing in excellent prose and the authors behind it. It strengthens the bond between the reader and the writer. Imagine having Thomas C. Foster as a house guest in your own library! Oh how short life would be at that very moment! Pity we will not be able to order another lifetime right that minute :-))Well, before your eyes glaze over and your mind wander, let me stop. Enjoy this chatty, informative, entertaining read. It's worth your while.And then consider reading the book How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading by Mortimer J. Adler, Charles Van Doren then tell me who your favorite characters in novels were. I'm simply dying to know! :-)

  • Daria
    2018-12-02 06:20

    "Lively and Entertaining" it is not. I think I fell asleep a grand total of three times trying to get through these meager 281 pages. Foster attempts to be all hip and conversational, but I think he does a pretty bad job of it, and ends up being even more condescending instead. All in all, it's not really a "guide" to reading between the lines (although we can all probably agree that it's hard to create a "guide" for anything literature-related). It's more like a bunch of examples about symbolism here and weather-means-something there, pulled from the same body of work: "In Toni Morrison's Beloved, we see examples of baptism... in Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon, there are excellent examples of communion..."If you ever need to write a thesis on Toni Morrison, call up this guy. He has it all down.I only admired one line in the whole book: "(Shakespeare's) quotes are like members of the opposite sex; all the good ones are taken."Corny, but at least it forced a chuckle out of me.

  • Thomas
    2018-12-04 06:08

    EVERYTHING IS A SYMBOL.Okay, not really. But more things than not, at least when it comes to literature. I was hesitant to read How to Read Literature Like a Professor because I felt that I had not read enough classics to understand what Thomas Foster would be talking about - but then I realized that maybe it was a good idea to read the book before embarking on my literature quest, so I would have some background knowledge heading in. After all, knowledge is power.And I was right. Though a myriad of the book titles went over my head and some of the examples were consequently confusing, for the most part I feel like I've learned a lot from reading this book. Granted, I'm a high school student, so I didn't know much to begin with, but I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves English, literature, or is interested in reading a book about books. As a bibliophile and self-proclaimed future English major, I loved learning about irony, allusions, and everything else Foster shared using his casual yet sophisticated writing style.Not a bad book to start out 2012 with. Now to move on to an actual novel...*review cross-posted on my blog, the quiet voice.

  • Leo Walsh
    2018-12-09 03:18

    About a year ago, I took a MOOC (a Massively Open Online Course) on the site Coursera on fantasy literature. MOOC's grade via peer evaluations of your work. One of my papers traced the Garden of Eden symbolism in the opening of Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass. It is in the text, which made sense, since Carroll was a clergy member telling a coming of age story. And having taken university level upper-division lit courses, I knew the paper was well thought-out, supported by the text and creative. Solid A-, maybe an A. Or a B+ if the teacher was having a bad day or was a hard grader. I got a B- from a peer, with a comment (not exact, but close) -- "Clear writing, but I don't like this sort of literary criticism. It's the same BS my high school English teacher tried to teach." The grader offered no argument from the text, highlighting passages contradicting my argument (if there were any, which I doubt). Nor did they offer a different interpretation of the Eden story. Instead, I did a classic bit of literary analysis and was graded by a person either ignorant of or hostile to classical literary analysis. And, despite the professor's video lectures, which employed the same classical literary analytical techniques I did, the student objected to the enterprise of literary critique. I was flummoxed. It seemed an odd statement and a petty reason for an average grade in a literature class, but it goes to the point that Thomas C. Foster makes in his well-written How to Read Literature Like and English Professor is trying to make. Which is that reading closely and writing about literature thoughtfully is an art. It takes experience, and intention. What's more, it often takes a classical education that few have these days. Since literary authors often steal from Greek myths, the bible, fairy tales, Shakespeare... in fact, they can take from anything ever written. This was a refresher for me, and I enjoyed it. Foster's style is informal and chatty, and while this can come across as patronizing, it made for easy reading. What's more, it reinforced the knowledge that I thought maybe was no longer taught in high school and college. At least as evinced by the comment I received from an anonymous person on my Through the Looking Glass analysis. Foster breezes through a ton of material here. From myth to baptism to biblical references. He also presents a cheeky, but honest answer to his students when they ask "is this a symbol?" Which is, "If you think it's a symbol, then it probably is." He then moves on to sex in literature, Freud and Jung's influence on both novels and literary criticism, and a healthy discussion of irony.But Foster uses two central ideas that bind the book together. The first is the idea of intertextuality, that every author is in conversation with writers in the past. Since I was first introduced to this idea in high school, it has continued to fascinate me. The second idea is mind-blowing, if maybe a little over-the-top for me: there's only one story, and all authors are writing different parts of it. Not sure if that's true, and it seems like cock and bull on one hand, but it's also intriguing. So, since I'm pretty sure I'd have gotten an A or an A- on my Through the Looking Glass paper were I to have submitted said paper to Foster, I'll rate How To Read Literature Like a Professor four stars...Just kidding. I'm giving it four-stars since it feels like the discussions that go on in undergrad lit classes. And because of that, it is important because it introduces readers to "why" literature professors often take such left-field interpretations on the books they cover in class.

  • K
    2018-11-19 09:10

    I loved this.Don't get me wrong. It's not one of those books you could, or would want to, read in one sitting. It's really more of a reference book, though an enjoyable one, written in a light and breezy style. I'm not sure someone who wasn't already interested in reading literature on multiple levels would be particularly interested. But if you do have an interest to read literature in a more sophisticated, insightful way (as I imagine many goodreaders do), you may enjoy this book as much as I did. You'll never look at weather, heart disease, blindness, geography, or fiction altogether the same way again.

  • Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
    2018-11-29 05:27

    Now that I've read this book, you may aswell not bother trying to read my bookreviews; yes, that's right, I will nowbe examining themes and motifs andcharacter motivation and other thingslike that and I'll probably be writingsuch amazing stuff that no one elsewill be able to understand me. Like aprofessor, right? No, my days of"Uh, I liked it" or "Well, I don't know"are over; I'll be finding things likewater imagery and mother archetypesand references to obscure lines fromUlysses. So if you want to try tounderstand even a glimmer of whatI'm writing about, you may need toread this book, too. ;->

  • Wiebke (1book1review)
    2018-11-22 09:06

    I finally finished this. It was waiting a long time for me to pick it up, and it was by no means related to the book not being good.I got this as a refresher mainly, since I left uni 10 years ago and sometimes a little reminder is nice.And I got exactly what I wanted in an easy to read and follow way.I think this book can function as an introduction to literary analysis as well as a fresh up. There are many examples given and everything is explained in everyday language, without complicated terms.The only thing I should warn about is that it contains a lot of spoilers for literary works. I had read a fair amount of the books but not all of them. So if that is a problem for you, check out the appendix where there is a list of works he used.

  • Stephanie
    2018-11-30 04:11

    Ever wonder what it means when a character steps in a puddle? Why an author suddenly goes into great detail about some otherwise unimportant event? Well, why didn't you? If you read this book, you will.An avid reader (of both pulp and literature, in roughly equal measure) who never took a college literature class, I've always known I was not getting all I could from my reading. After reading this book, I know I am much better equipped. Just finished my second read of Ishiguro's "Never Let Me Go", and was amazed at how much deeper I could see into it now. Thank you, T. Foster!!This book serves as a great introduction to some common symbolism to watch out for when reading good lit. It also introduces the reader to the phenomenon of "intertextuality" - where an author presents something in such a way that it raises echoes of a separate text in your mind. (A rather blatant example would be the movie "O Brother Where Art Thou?", which is based on Homer's Odyssey.) The author presents many examples. A good minority of them were familiar too me, and the rest, rather than being annoying, were enough to make me salivate in the contemplation of checking out these texts for myself.The style is conversational, and the auther, an English lit professor after all, admits to his foibles and pretensions in such a likeable and approachable way that the pages fly by. After applying what I've learned a little, I'll definitely be re-reading this text to absorb even more, and widen my horizons even further.

  • David
    2018-11-16 07:04

    Sometimes I wish I had been an English major. There are times when I think reading for a living and analyzing books and being well-read would have been the ideal life for me. Then I remember that being unemployed sucks. So I'm usually fairly happy with my life choices, but I do at times feel like I am not well-read enough. I spent most of my adolescence and early adulthood reading almost nothing but sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. I have been extremely dedicated to reading more in the past few years, and have added many classics and literary works to my reading diet, though I'm still working my way through a lot of those "Really Important Books Everyone Should Read" lists and not expecting to get close to the end of them in my lifetime.So anyway, I would also like to be more informed as I read some of those Great Works. I'm pretty smart and well educated so I usually catch historical context and allusions and references to other works, but there is much depth in the best works that probably goes over my head. How to Read Literature Like a Professor is primarily a book about symbolism and finding it in books. Thomas Foster is (duh) a college professor, and he's trying to distill a lot of what he teaches in his entry-level undergraduate classes into an accessible book for the average reader. Thus, his chatty, jokey style is aimed at the reader who might be a little intimidated at the idea of being challenged by Serious Literature. Personally, I wanted a serious approach and could have stood a little more depth and less hand-holding, but when he gets down to the subject matter, Foster talks knowledgeably and reassuringly to an audience that wants to be culturally literate but suspects they might not be, which I guess includes me.What he does is go through a list of symbols and what they mean and how many, many authors throughout history have used them, and how to spot them as you are reading. It's heavily Western-centric, so the foundations of much of the literature he talks about most often harken back to the ancient Greek myths and/or the Bible. This is not a deliberate bias on Foster's part and it doesn't mean all the authors who use these symbols are necessarily upholding Greek and Biblical mythology as superior to all others, just that if you are writing in the Western tradition, you cannot escape them. So Foster talks about how every meal is a communion and how to recognize a Christ figure in literature. (If he were doing more of a comparative literature study, he might have pointed out how the Jesus story itself was just a recycling of older myths.... oh, see, maybe I am not so culturally illiterate after all!) He also discusses vampires, roads, quests, sex, weather, death, fairy tales, irony, and Shakespeare, among many other recognizable images and symbols to look for.His topics are (by his own admission) arbitrary and incomplete. Basically this book is a tutorial, and he ends it with a short story by Katherine Mansfield which he asks the reader to analyze, using all the tools he introduced earlier. Then he presents the results from a few of his students and his own analysis. Interestingly, they all hit some of the same themes but no one's analysis is the same and some come up with very different interpretations, which is the point: there is no "right" way to parse out what a story is "really" saying, though one should be able to spot some of the most obvious symbolism. It's a fun activity, and one I will probably find myself doing unconsciously as I read in the future.So did this book make me more culturally literate or a more perceptive reader? Well... maybe not, though it was a good introduction to looking for symbolism. I enjoyed it, though I could have wished for a little more depth. If you want some heavier reading that drills down more into a long list of books and what they mean (without the overtly lit-crit approach), I might recommend Jane Smiley's Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel. But I think I'm still glad I didn't major in English after all.

  • Cathy DuPont
    2018-11-26 06:14

    Feeling like I needed to discover more insight and depth to my reading, I mentioned that fact to Goodreads friend Will Byrnes who suggested this book. (By the way, Will's reviews are very, very thoughful, popular and readable.) So I'm glad he did recommend it because it was such a great and painless way for me to understand the underlying thoughts and references of books I read. Broken into short chapters, it covers all areas that I could possibly think of although author and Professor Thomas C. Foster stated at the end (the chapter titled Envoi; (definition: the usually explanatory or commendatory concluding remarks to a poem, essay, or book)) that he could have written a book twice as long. Most of the readers I know who are not English majors, may not have known that term; I didn’t.Foster is a professor of English at the University Michigan at Flint, and teaches classic and contemporary fiction, drama, poetry creative writing and composition. With such credentials he certainly knows this subject and I can attest to that. Some chapter titles:• Now, Where Have I Seen Her Before?• When in Doubt, It’s from Shakespeare• It’s More Than Just Rain or snow• It’s All A bout Sex• …Except Sex• Is that a Symbol? Professor Foster appears to be a lighthearted individual and I would have loved to have been in one of his classes. He was able to break down into a layperson’s (or lay-reader) terms, difficult and complex thoughts many times with light, airy humor. In fact in the envoi he says “You’ve really been very good about all this, very sporting. You’ve borne my guff and my wisecracks and my annoying mannerisms much better than I have any right to expect.” The fact is that they didn’t annoy me one iota; they added to any tedium which I had initially expected. Prior to beginning the book I glanced at a number of reviews on Goodreads and Amazon and noticed more than one person say Professor Foster was condescending to the reader. I totally disagree with that opinion. Perhaps the reviewer attended many more English lit classes than I did and if so, perhaps they should have been reading something much more sophisticated, something more at their reading level, not the average reader, which I consider myself. Come to find out, this is required reading in our local high schools. That’s a good thing, reaching young readers. Wish I would have read this book years ago since my major was communications with poli-sci minor. Communications as a major covers writing for the masses, advertising, and well, you get the picture. And as we know, newspaper writing was and maybe still is, at the 8th grade level. Not many challenges at that level. Not berating my education, or related professions simply explaining why I didn’t take more English lit, composition or poetry classes and had never heard the word envoi that I can recall.A few, very few observations from the book that I took away: Trust your instincts; your conclusions cannot be wrong because they're based on your past experiences in life and your prior reading experience; at times the character names relate to the theme of the book so look at them carefully and if you read something in the names, you’re probably right; your past experience as a reader is related to your observation of what the author is saying (know I said that twice but it bears repeating); irony trumps all; ‘always’ and ‘never’ aren’t good words to use in literary studies; trust your gut; the real reason for a quest is always self-knowledge. I particularly love the last observation from Professor Foster, always about self-knowledge. The more you’ve read the more similarities you see and 'oh, I remember that; observations you can make. I have read some reviewers on other books criticize a book because they had to 'stop at the phone booth to make call' or the book was degrading to women or saying the book was 'dated." The reader must put themselves in the time in which the book was written. In Pride and Prejudice you wouldn’t expect a yellow cab to show at the door, would you? Think in the context of the period the book was writen, the societal mores of the time. Women didn’t always have the right to vote or to publicly voice their opinion. Books written in the early 1800’s would have women in a far different position within society and the written word. Become one in the era of the book. Professor Foster asks the question, “Okay, let’s say you’re right and there is a set of conventions, a key to reading literature. How do I get so I can recognize these? Same way you get to Carnegie hall. Practice.” Simple answer, practice, practice and more practice. My only regret which, of course, is no fault of the author, is that I have not read many of the books which he refers to as examples. Many of them were obscure and printed in the 1800’s and early 1900’s (or much earlier as Iliad and Odyssey) so I shouldn’t beat myself up over that. I was able to grasp his explanation though with his writing, enough for me to understand his explanation without reading the books. And I’m not and never will be an English lit major. Noticed on the back of the book, the author wrote How to Read Novels Like a Professor. I will definitely read that in the near future. Just started a Ross MacDonald, 1950’s hard-boiled fiction, The Drowning Pool. MacDonald is highly touted by many contemporary writers as being a writer who inspired them to pick up a pen and write (or sit in front of a computer like I’m doing now.) Although I've just read about a quarter of the book, can already see that reading this book has helped me to not "read with my eyes" which happens to be the name of a chapter. But noticed in the recesses of my mind, I'm understanding more as I read. I feel this book, did make me a better and more thoughtful reader so it accomplished its purpose. Thank you, Professor Foster. Enjoyed your class. Recommend it all my friends.

  • Antigone
    2018-11-21 04:29

    If you read more than five books a year, you've already learned what Professor Foster has to teach. And if you're like me, about halfway through you'll start asking yourself: Who wants to read literature like a professor? Why would anyone want to read literature like a professor? Isn't that a bit akin to learning how to have sex like the local prostitute? ("The main thing you have to remember here, Kiki, is to distance yourself from the act.") Perhaps we should all go to watchmakers with our questions about Time. Coroners with our questions about Death?If you plan on dating, living with or marrying an English Lit professor, this book would be a fine primer on what he does with his day. If you plan on being graded by an English Lit professor, this book would be a fine overview of her critical standard. Barring these two eventualities?Read like yourself.

  • Terri Lynn
    2018-12-03 03:17

    This is a very friendly book and I suspect the author is one of those feel-good professors who attract a lot of students to his classes because they are what is known as "easy A" classes. Sort of like an academic finger-painting class. He presumes that you an idiot and rather stupid. He's still chummy with you while thinking that and gives you plenty of pats on the head little boys and girls but this was supposed to be for college students. I went to an excellent elementary school in the 1960's and we learned all of this there. The bottom line is that this book will NOT teach you to read literature like a professor. A professor has a PhD and this is very elementary. If you hope to read literature like a 5th grader, this is for you. Otherwise, I'd pass if you are serious about literature.

  • Ana Rînceanu
    2018-11-16 05:20

    It could have been a little shorter, but it's a great refresher/ introduction into literary themes and symbolism.

  • Nikki
    2018-12-11 03:13

    I read this mostly out of curiosity -- with my BA behind me and my MA in progress, I didn't have much to learn from Foster. To me it's obvious that a garden will conjure up Eden, that the sharing of food is a kind of communion, that a lot of things are metaphors for sex. It doesn't seem to require professorial level training to me, though I went to university in the UK and this book is very explicitly aimed at people from the US. So maybe the expectations for the skill set for a graduate are different. I think for people in the UK it'd be a more useful leg-up for people doing GCSE and A Level -- if they're interested in being A* students, anyway. Once you get to university, this level of reading is expected.The tone of the book is a little condescending, but otherwise it seems pretty good, anyway. Surprisingly, it doesn't just draw examples from the canon of dead white men, which was good. The allusive nature of it requires quite a wide frame of reference to avoid getting lost and bored, though -- it's hard to learn to see a book in a whole different light when you haven't read it in the first place.

  • Gauri
    2018-12-02 04:22

    I picked this book up in October or November, so it's taken me quite a while to get through this book. This is not to say this isn't an excellent book; I'm honestly not sure why this dragged on. It might be because this book is simply saturated with information and ideas. In this book, Foster identifies elements and patterns in literature, such as common symbols and allusions to other works of literature or culture, and demonstrates how they add to a novel's complexity in message. Foster makes convincing cases for the layman reader to prove that authors of great works do truly mean what literature teachers preach they do. However, if you're already familiar with the subjects he focuses on and consider yourself an experienced reader (not necessarily a newbie like me), I recommend you at least pick up this book and read pages 185 - 192. In this short passage, he presents a fascinating idea: individual stories and novels aren't created independently from one another; they are interconnected with other pieces of literature and this cumulative tapestry of stories forms one giant story of humanity. Which is to say, pieces of literature borrow from classic, profound pieces before them, and are greatly shaped by the influence of the culture and art around them (either unconsciously or consciously). It is inevitable that a great deal of symbolism and many allusions lie in great literature, because authors aren't necessarily imitating previous authors, but presenting their own personal understanding of the world through patterns that readers are familiar with and can relate to. It reminds me of a quote by Agostinho da Silva,"I am not interested in being original. I am interested in being true."

  • Christina
    2018-12-11 03:08

    My chief complaint, although more my fault than the “non textbook, with How to Read Literature Like a Professor is that most of the novel, plays, and poems Foster discusses I have not read. In fact, I only recognized three of the works he mentioned; Animal Farm, Hamlet, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Therefore, I found it hard to understand exactly what Foster was trying to say through his examples and his connections from one example to another.And I feel like, since this was required reading for my advanced/gifted and talented English IV class, this book would have served as a better introduction to literature and been more helpful, as it has many tips and tricks for recognizing common symbolism and other literary techniques, the connotations of which can be easily missed, if this “non textbook” would have been required for Language Arts in eighth grade or, at least, Freshman English. Since “reading between the lines” has always come somewhat naturally to me, and for my “gifted and talented” classmates, How to Read Literature Like a Professor was some what lost on me. And it is my belief that even people seeking help wouldn’t appreciate the italicized text that supposedly voices the reader’s confused and helpless thoughtThat said, How to Read Literature Like a Professor served as a nice refresher on critical reading. As an added bonus, Foster’s writing style makes him easy to understand, not patronizing or intimidating. In fact, some of what he writes received a chuckle from me here and there. “When they’re writing about other things, they really mean sex, and when they write about sex, they really mean something else. If they write about sex and mean strictly sex, we have a word for that. Pornography.” {pg. 144}

  • Paul
    2018-12-04 02:12

    I didn't finish this book but I read enough and spent enough time on it to count it as read in my opinion. If I spend over 4 hours reading something, I think I have a good idea what it is like. I can summarize this entire book in one sentence:Know the Bible, know Greek myths, read Homer, and read Shakespeare, then understand common sense and you will figure out what the symbols of things stand for in literature. I thought this was going to give me some new information but it was things I learned in high school or it is so obvious. The main thing this book did for me was spoil a bunch of classic literature.

  • Milo
    2018-11-17 07:12

    Do you want to read like a Professor? Want to second guess every meal, sex scene, or harmless deformity? Want to perspire heavily while over-analyzing a book you would've otherwise enjoyed? Then this book is for you! All jokes aside this is a pretty interesting read. It sheds some light on commonly used symbols and stories. The idea of intertextuality being an ever present factor in literature seems logical and accurate when Foster brings up examples like The Bible or The Odyssey.In summation: short and informative, a boon read.

  • Britta Böhler
    2018-11-28 02:20

    Highly enjoyable, accessible (and still educational) book about how to read between the lines, i.e. interprete symbols in literature. Not at all pretentious and, although the examples are mostly from American/English literature, recommended to readers from all literary backgrounds.

  • Cheryl
    2018-12-09 08:28

    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.

  • Laura LVD
    2018-11-29 04:59

    Excelente libro para introducir los símbolos más importantes presentes en gran parte de la literatura occidental. Orientado al público en general, y no a los expertos en Literatura, añade una capa de significado a muchas lecturas. Sigo prefiriendo leer por placer y no como ejercicio de análisis, pero este libro me hace darme cuenta de que un libro puede tener varias capas de contenidos, a veces introducidas deliberadamente por el autor y a veces inconscientemente, que remiten a siglos de nuestra cultura. Algo que en realidad ya había visto en algunas clases y libros sobre la Biblia, Shakespeare, Borges, etc.Lo que acabo de descubrir, es que inconscientemente he puesto muchos de estos símbolos en mi propia escritura (que es mayormente esporádica y para mi consumo privado, totalmente amateur): en un cuento que escribí de un tirón en la secundaria, esa amiga que nos había traicionado se había convertido en un personaje tan descuidado que dejaba que sus gatos jugaran en el piso con su anillo de oro (símbolo del compromiso); otro personaje sexualmente ambiguo había sido nombrado como una canción que pasaban en la radio con el nombre unisex de Jacky; en otro cuento un personaje femenino que queda solo en un mundo despoblado, sale a cazar en compañía de sus perros, y encuentra a otra sobreviviente que trata de dar a luz, y a la que ayuda (en una recreación contemporánea de Diana cazadora). Repito, ninguna de estas cosas las escribí deliberadamente y sólo cobran importancia en el autoanálisis. El poder del mito, como diría Joseph Campbell, trasciende al autor.Me gustaría que el autor hablase un poco más de símbolos de otras tradiciones y que saliera de la literatura norteamericana y europea; salvo alguna mención al pasar de García Márquez, la tradición judeocristiana y el mito de los africanos voladores (en el que no profundiza, de manera que no tengo idea de qué se trata) no hay nada más que autores norteamericanos en su mayoría desconocidos para mí, y algunos ingleses y franceses más famosos (ni siquiera rusos!).

  • Barb Middleton
    2018-12-13 08:12

    I have two books at home that tangle with the concept of intertextuality in children's literature. It's not supposed to be a tangle, but I can't understand most of the scholarly writing. Thomas Foster simplifies some complex literary theories, such as intertextuality and Northrop Frye's discussion of literary archetypes. The conversational tone, humor, and manageable chapters make this an excellent book at showing what students or reading enthusiasts should be looking for in literature to get a deeper understanding and analysis of texts. He shows what elements make a book distinguished and while he acknowledges that he can't discuss them all, he does give some universal ones that readers can look for while reading. This is a terrific read for developing critical thinking skills in literature.Twenty-seven chapters give bite-sized advice as to how to get more meaning out of texts. He shows how to look for common metaphors, themes, historical settings, literary forms, symbols, history of literature, pop culture, and more. If an author keeps mentioning a Greek myth, the pattern should reveal a larger truth about the overall message of the text. If certain images keep coming up, what is the author saying about the character or theme? He brings the elements and theory all together at the end in a wonderful analysis of a short story. He shows a reader's response that is based on a surface reading, then another student's that is more in-depth. Last, he analysizes the story using theory and elements with the aplomb and mastery of one who loves his topic and has studied it his whole life. A must for your library.

  • Ari D
    2018-11-28 07:27

    So I decided to take upper level English this year, resulting in a mandatory assignment to read this book and create chapter summaries for it. When I began reading this, I thought it wouldn't be that bad. The condescending title and forewarning in the introduction that this was meant for college students couldn't have seemed more inviting. I read through the first chapters with feelings of mostly boredom and occasionally surprise. I thought to myself early on, "I can do this. I once read a 660 page book for English. How hard could this be?" Apparently, much worse than I could have imagined. After about half way through, I began losing my motivation to read. The book became tedious and was more akin to a workout for my eyes than an experience that would open my mind to a new perspective. I learned how to over analyze in the first few chapters, but what follows those chapters is complete overkill. The author beats his points like a dead horse, belaboring his messages so much that I had to take several breaks from reading to maintain my sanity. Overall, I would give this a 0/10 pineapples, but since I'm being generous, I give it a 2/5 stars.

  • Olha Khilobok
    2018-12-09 06:07

    Можливо, професійні літературзнавці скажуть Томасові дякую за багато капітанських речей із програми першого курсу філфаку, фиркнуть і наверх ще й наголосять на його пласкуватому викладацькому гуморі, ооукей. Ай донт кер. Це річ, яку би я хотіла мати в школі перед прочитанням того, що таки в себе впхнула. Але не та шкільна я-дівчинка-гормони-вищипані-брови, а я-станом-на-липень'17го, та, що добровільно подужала Улісса. Крім безлічі корисних (навіть якщо й очевидних) дороговказів, там ще є Пікнік, на якому можна потренуватися по-новому читати не відходячи від каси. Той випадок, коли "100% результат, вы не поверите своим глазам". До речі, це одна із порад Фостера - обережно зі сліпою вірою відбиткам на власних сітківках. Ну і, звісно, там є вишенька на вишенці - список літератури, якщо раптом захочеться спитати 'Що б такого читнути, аби стати кращою версією себе". - Жіночко, ближче до справи: читати чи нє?- Читати. Вже.

  • Susan
    2018-12-08 05:59

    Didn't learns as much as I hoped to; I guess I'm smarter than I thought.P.S. Rereading this review a few days later, I realizes I is not only smart, but a good grammortition as well.

  • Elaine
    2018-12-05 02:29

    What a great book! I stumbled upon this while I was browsing the shelves at my local charity shop. I brought it home where it sat on the shelf for a few days before I finally decided to give it a try. I love literature and an assortment of classics but I have never read Greek classics (a bit for school), James Joyce, Ezra Pound and I don't like F. Scott Fitzgerald. So I avoided picking it up because I knew I was going to feel like an illiterate fool within ten pages of reading this. Well, that is definitely not how it turned out!The author is a literature professor and he knows his stuff! Not only does he write on an easy to understand level, he structured his book in such a way that I was able to grasp what he was teaching even though he frequently referenced books/stories/plays that I have never read. I found him to be witty and I actually laughed out loud at a few of his drier comments. I was very surprised to realize that I was able to pickup and understand more literary nuances then I had thought I was capable of. It was like receiving a pat on the back from a favorite professor. Instead of feeling like a fool I felt more confident as a reader. You can tell the author is a teacher who loves his profession. At no point will you feel stupid for not recognizing the writers he mentions. You can tell the authors true love literature and wants people to get the most out of their books for their own enjoyment. If you have a lot of practice interpreting literature this is probably not the book for you. You may need something more advanced. I myself think the instructive level was just right for someone with some experience but by no means can call themselves experienced! The author covers themes, symbolism, and understanding the context of what you are reading. He is very careful to stress that no interpretation is wrong (unless it's complete nonsense) and if you think something is a symbol it probably is in fact a symbol because you as a reader found symbolism there. He gives you an idea of what to look for in a story and how to put it into context. For example: spring is associated with youth, fertility, new beginnings, etc... He also stresses to watch out for irony. He of course goes into more detail and explains it better but you should be able to get my drift. This book doesn't cover everything and the author himself points that out as he wraps up the book. The end of the book has a short story for you to read and interpret using the strategies you've learned about. He then goes on to give you two short essay examples from his students and one he wrote himself. It was fascinating and by far the most interesting part of the book! I even read the story and essays to my husband who isn't a fan of anything but vampires and werewolves. There is also a list of suggested reading material and a separate list of stories the author recommends which has significantly added to my tbr list! Read this! Take notes. Annotate for future readings. You will be very glad you did.