A Look into How To Read Literature Like A Professor

In the non-fiction book, How To Read Literature Like A Professor, by Thomas C. Foster, an English professor at the University of Michigan-Flint, the author goes in depth into the aspects of truly reading a novel or a short story the way only an experienced veteran can–examining the minutest of details and events that, to an amateur reader, are no more than common happenings; then, having all those little intricacies figured out, producing an estimation about the specific part of that piece of literature.

So far, in my beginning reading, I have covered barely a quarter of his teachings, but in the few I have read, there is a knowledge in his words, and in the methods he uses to express his opinions, that is hard to deny. Personally, I enjoy his thoughts in the chapter, “When in Doubt, It’s from Shakespeare…” as they describe the influence the Bard continues to maintain posthumously upon the modern writers; Foster mentions Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, which is a line taken from the Weird Sisters of Macbeth; and he explains the reason so many writers add a Shakespearean quote to their work, terming intertextuality, an effect created when a modern writer and a past writer’s works combine to produce a new telling of a story.

The primary focal point of Foster’s work, however, is his telling the reader there is only ever one story, and while originality can be present almost anywhere in literature,  the roots of storytelling as a practice over thousands of years continue to morph according to the differing characters and the conflicts that those characters face.

That it tallies off all these wonderful books is an achievement in itself…and one hard to find in most non-fictions.



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