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How to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines by Thomas C. Foster (2003)
How to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines (2003)
by Thomas C. Foster
Paperback Edition
Publication Date: Feb 18, 2003
Publisher: Harper Perennial
buy a copy via Amazon.
synopsis via Goodreads.

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.

My Thoughts:
If you’re going to read a book on literature analysis, it might as fell be an insightful and enjoyable one instead of one that wants you make to gouge your eyes out. How to Read Literature Like a Professor is an insightful introduction to the secret meanings behind literature, how to uncover them, and what makes great literature, while teaching us to read between the lines–because nothing can be taken at surface value. This book may not convince you to like reading literature, but it will definitely make you aware–if not more appreciative of it.

The only major qualm I haven’t read much of the examples used and it left me very much confused–although Foster often does give a story summary. I couldn’t “get” the modern references either–which made me feel like I need to read a lot more. The book is also targeted towards people who are familiar with the Bible for a great chunk of it is about biblical references, communion, baptism, and Christ figures. I would rather touch upon universal themes that will assist in read literature with a different religious backgrounds–although arguably, English literature is riddled with biblical references.

From other “reviews” I’ve read, some see Foster’s conversational tone and as “unprofessional,” “condescending,” “trying too hard.” While I didn’t get the notion of unprofessionalism, if you are looking for a serious, extremely detailed textbook–this isn’t your book. I can see Foster trying to appeal to the younger generation, the students who are only beginning to grasp the literature, which explains why he may come off as “condescending.” I found the humor refreshing, and I admit to smiling a few times, but may come off as “unprofessional.” And as for the “Trying too hard” part, this guy is a middle-age dude trying to speak to the younger generation here, it’s like me trying to see why kids like Justin Bieber–I just can’t “get” it, but you should still give me kudos for trying.

Even though I’ve had quite a few English classes and I’ve grudgingly written quite a few essays (and I only foresee more in the future)–even if I was convinced I couldn’t find anything profound to say. Then, like many others, I wonder if we’re all taking just making stuff up to sound intelligent (and to meet page counts), and if the author did intend for his work to make taken this way or he just had a great publicist. And Foster makes a convincing argument that it is all intentional: writers don’t slave over manuscripts for years for nothing; literature isn’t simply about unraveling the writer’s hidden agenda, as much as it is to fuel our own interpretations.

Now I wish I’d read this before my American Literature exam–I would’ve had a whole lot more to say (especially since I was asked to write about religion–after reading this I am convinced I can tie anything with the Bible.)

Rating: A-

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