Thursday, February 4, 2010
Big Book Read #2
HOW TO READ LITERATURE LIKE A PROFESSOR by Thomas C. Foster
For me How To Read Literature Like A Professor takes off where my first read, How To Read A Book, began. Although the first book was helpful, it mostly dealt with Non-Fiction reading. Foster’s book deals only with fiction and poetry and that’s just what I was looking for.
Foster has been teaching literature and writing at the University of Michigan – Flint for the past twenty years. He has written a very interesting, and at time humorous, book about major themes and symbols in literature. For example, he explains that sharing a meal can symbolize communion (but perhaps not in the traditional sense), a journey can symbolize a quest, and how when in doubt, it’s probably from Shakespeare.
As I was reading I began to wonder if reading so much into a novel would affect my enjoyment of the story in a negative way. If I’m so busy wondering if the rain the characters are walking through is symbolic or if the main character is a Christ figure am I giving up on reading for pure enjoyment? In the end, I don’t believe so. If anything I’ll find more enjoyment from the story because of the added thinking and wondering. I’ve already begun to identify certain themes in another book I am reading and I’m enjoying that part of reading quite a bit.
Foster’s book is both chock full of good information and easy to read which is a perfect combination for someone like me who never made it past Intro To Literature in college. It’s obvious he loves what he does and that makes reading his book all the more fun. He takes examples from epic poems, Shakespeare, Hemingway, Eliot and Joyce to name just a few to show that these themes and symbols can be found anywhere, as long as you know what to look for.