Analysis Of How To Read Literature Like A Professor By Thomas Foster

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In the Introduction Chapter of his book, ‘How to Read Literature Like a Professor’, Thomas Foster focuses on creating a guide for unpractised readers to interpret literary work beyond the emotional level like a professional by outlining a set of elements, which he calls 'language of writing’ and his main aim is to exhibit a few important notions by using three of these elements which are conventions, patterns and symbols. He also successfully incorporates relevant examples from different fiction works to illustrate his explanations. However, since the terminology and the definitions he adopted for these elements are vague, Foster can not avoid being repetitive even though it is valuable for introducing important concepts such as pattern recognition …show more content…

By that, he intends to teach that patterns are certain phenomena that reoccur in different literary work which can be explicated further by acquiring a neutral perspective towards the story. For giving a comprehensive example in order to explain what a pattern is, the author proposes Oedipal Complex, which is the condition of a male child who feels sexual desire towards his mother. He argues that a professional who has observed this situation on several cases would force his or her memory to find the resemblances between these cases and realise that it is a pattern. Indeed, that is what Freud did before introducing the concept Oedipus Complex to the world. Likewise, D. H. Lawrence noted this pattern and built his story, ‘The Rocking Horse Winner’ on the same basis. Similarly, by following the details which trigger the memory, one can see the similarities between Odyssey from the Homeric epic and Neddy Merrill from Cheever’s ‘The Swimmer’. A different method that the author uses to strengthen his explanation is to make an analogy between a good mechanic and a literature professor in terms of being able to diagnose a car or a story by using pattern recognition; in other words, they both lend an ear to the engine for comparing it with the former experiences and making further interpretations …show more content…

Being a novice reader myself, I felt compelled to seek information from different sources for precise explanations about what is a routine, an archetype, a convention or ‘the grammar of literature’ even though they were crucial to understand the text.Only after a class discussion and a small research on the internet, I was able to define these terms. For this reason, I consider his terminology to be weakly constructed. Moreover, Foster did not follow a logical line while organising his writing; he opened the text by mentioning the Faustian bargain as a pattern, analyzed the symbolism on Hansberry’s ‘A Raisin In The Sun’, yet he started to mention the literary symbols after the first half of the article. In my opinion, the author’s reason for arranging the text in a disorderly way is to create an intimate atmosphere for the reader. Unfortunately, that created mannered paternalistic aurora around the text and caused it to be less instructive. Furthermore, that labyrinthical order made the article confusing even for the writer and obligated him to restate

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