How to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines by Thomas C. Foster is a book that explains there is more to literature than just a few words on a paper or a few pages in a book. Thomas Foster’s book portrays a relatable message to a wide based audience. This book is relatable for two reasons, the way it is written and the examples it uses. The book is written in a conversational manner, as if the reader was in a group discussion about books and writing. As for the examples, they are informative, descriptive, relative, and entertaining.
All books are based on previous memories. Forster states, “There is no such thing as a wholly original work of literature. ” To show this statement is accurate, he uses examples of Shakespeare’s works and the Bible as sources of information for many writers and their stories. Having this knowledge, we look for these types of sources or other familiarities throughout the novels we read in order to make sense of them. “The more we become aware of the possibility that our text is speaking to other texts, the more similarities and correspondences we begin to notice, and the more alive the text becomes. Intertexuality is comparing and being able to see the connections between one book and another. It enlightens our appreciation and experience, bringing several meanings to the text, which we may not be aware of. Aside from memory, the reader can connect to a story through pattern recognition. Readers can use plays as a pattern for plot, theme or both. In a lot of Shakespearean plays there are two common themes, revenge and heroism. Other common patterns are found in fairy tales. The themes of fairy tales are universally understood by the readers.
They are able to draw analogies that most readers will be able to relate to. Some of the most common analogies are witches, princes, and evil stepmothers. Hansel and Gretel is a big universal theme. A present pattern that runs within the human psyche and a body of the story that matters is myth. Myth is commonly found in Greek and Roman stories. These stories help shape our culture. Another powerful force in shaping our culture is symbolism. Symbolism can be found in many different forms and styles. Many characters express symbolism such as monsters. When you think vampires you think fangs, arlic, and blood. They stand for others things in literature such as exploitation, selfishness, and placing unnecessary desires above the needs of another. Quasimodo and Beauty and the Beast both demonstrate their physical deformities reflect the opposite of the truth, ugly on the outside but beautiful on the inside. Another character that is relevant to our human nature is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. This shows us that no matter how well you were brought up or what kind of society you live in there is always a monster lurking in each and every one of us.
Seasons and weather patterns are not always as simple as summer and spring or as thunderstorms and snow. In literature rain symbolizes a cleansing process, removing of a stain or sin. Fog represents a state of confusion of uncertainty. While fog is about confusion, rainbows show signs of hope and promise. Now snow can have a negative effect or a positive one. The negative effect of snow is it is cold, harsh, and can cause death. Snow can be positive just as rain can be, it can be clean, pure, playful. The four seasons also have their own meanings and symbols.
All of them summer, spring, winter and fall can stand for youth, adulthood, middle age, and old age. At the same time spring can symbolize happiness, growth, and life. Fall represents both reward and punishment. Winter is more one sided with just punishment, lack of growth, and death. Along with all the seasons comes, geography. Fog and heat are most common in low places, along with swamps, fields, and crowds. Snow and ice, things complete opposite from fog and heat are found in high places. The high places can cause illnesses like death and blindness.
Blindness is metaphorical, being unable to see reality, love, trust, and many other things. Another illness related to love or symbolizing love is heart disease. Heart disease shows loneliness, disloyalty, cowardice, and bad love or heartbroken. Through Foster’s many rhetorical devices he provides a knowledgeable guide on how to read literature. The numerous examples he applies allows the readers to have a more thorough understanding. Reading this book can make the experience of reading other books more satisfying, enriching and fun.