'How To Read Literature Like A Professor' By Thomas C. Foster

762 Words4 Pages
In the introduction of “How to Read Literature Like a Professor” , Thomas C. Foster focuses on the grammar of literature and the qualities of a professorial reader. He asserts that practise is crucial to learn how to read literature in a more rewarding way. In addition, he defines main elements of the context such as pattern , symbols, and conventions. The purpose of Foster appears to be informing students who is beginning to be introduced to literature. Although Foster’s style is slightly condescending, he utilizes the conventions of literature quite well, and mentions the arbitrariness of these conventions in a sensible way. From the beginning to the end, general disposition of the reading seems to be condescending towards lay readers. Foster…show more content…
He starts with the example of Hansberry’s ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ intentionally to make mention of the Faustian bargain as a pattern, and to emphasize the distinction between the professor and student. Then, he connects these distinctions with one of the main points, conventions. He also digresses and then successfully comes back to the main point to explain how is ‘the grammar of the essay’ works. Using these apparatuses in his own writing enables reader to both learn the definitions of these conventions and study how they are applied in a literary text. Stating this conventions as arbitrary, Foster focuses on their usage and…show more content…
What he is suggesting here is that all these literary conventions are determined at one point ‘arbitrarily’ in the same way the languages were born. I agree Foster’s perspective on this point. Since the literature is a result of individual creativity, it is not possible to constitute strict and inalterable rules to govern literature. Nevertheless, there are some patterns and symbols have been used commonly in writing. However, neither using these conventions is obligatory, nor there is a consensus for their meanings. These conventions are established and internalized arbitrarily by individuals, societies, and cultures. We can observe this situation in different interpretations of same stories. For instance, in ‘Rocking Horse Winner’, Paul’s rocking horse can be perceived as a symbol of his troubles over sexuality or be seen as an analogy since Paul fails to gain his mother’s love despite all his effort like the rocking horse remaining in the same place regardless of the rider’s effort. However, as mentioned in class, for Ray Bradbury it may be just symbolizing an autistic child rocking back and forth. Hence, the meaning of a symbol depends on the reader’s point of view. In addition, the conventions of literature are different in
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