Study Guide: How to Read Literature Like a Professor

Published: 2021-09-10 18:45:09
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Ch. 1 “Every Trip is a Quest (Except When It’s Not)”
1. What are the five characteristics of the quest?Quester
Place to go
Stated reason to go
Challenge and trials
A real reason to go there
2. Choose a book you have read or a movie you have seen that contains a quest and identify the characteristics and explain. Use Foster’s explanation of the setup in The Crying of Lot 49 as your guide- meaning yours should be as detailed and clear as his.
The quester: a teenage man who is tired of “not really living”. He is unorthodox, and passionate.
Place to go: in order to carry out his duty as a soldier he must leave deep space and go to. He must travel back and forth between his emotions. The emotion of compassion and regard for human life and of brutality and getting the job done no mater the cost.
Stated reason to go: To re inhabit the earth so mankind can live at their home planet once again.
Challenge and trials: beasts that lived deep within the earth now call the earth their home and a war ensues between mankind and the beasts. The winner gets to call earth their home.
A real reason to go: The young boy wants revenge against Godzilla the beast that killed his parents and took his home from him. He wants to kill Godzilla.
Ch. 2 “Nice to Eat With You: Acts of Communion”
3. Complete this sentence about communion “… breaking bread together is an act
Breaking bread together is an act of sharing and peace, since if you’re breaking bread you’re not breaking heads.
4. Why does Foster assert that a meal scene in literature is almost always symbolic?
Foster believes that meal scenes are almost always boring to the reader and as such the author includes symbolism in order to give meaning and depth to the scene.
5. List the things, according to Foster, that eating in literature can represent.
Communion can represent a community between characters
Sexual attraction between characters
Friendship or Bond between characters
Trust between characters
A bad sign
A Person’s death
A person’s birth or life
6. Think of an example of a positive “communion” scene in a book you have read or a movie you have seen. Describe the scene and explain its symbolic meaning.
In the king Arthur movie, King Arthur and some Vikings after having hatred for one another sit down and eat a meal symbolizing the end of there hatred and beginning there friendship.
7. Think of an example of a negative “communion” scene in a book you have read or a movie you have seen. Describe the scene and explain its symbolic meaning.
In game of thrones, when King Joffery’s cup is poisoned at a dinner and he dies this communion signifies a bad sign, a sign of war between to nations.
Ch. 3 “Nice to Eat You: Acts of Vampires”
8. What are the essentials of the vampire story?
The essentials are a corrupt old man who brings destruction and in some cases death upon a young woman who represented youth purity and innocence.
9. What are some things besides vampirism that vampires and ghosts represent in literature? Violation of people either there rights by government or there rights by God
Manipulation of people for selfish needs
Ch. 4 “Now, Where Have I Seen Her Before?”
10. What is the “big secret” Foster reveals in this chapter?
That in reality there is only one story, which ends up using parts from other stories.
11. How does recognition of these allusions in literature change the reading experience for a reader?
It allows the reader to not only have a better understanding of the text, but also lets them have a connection with the novel.
12. What is “intertextuality”
Intertexuality is when multiple works from multiple authors are brought together giving the novel more than one meaning.
13. How does Foster say a literature professor can help a beginning reader?
Foster says a literature professor can help a beginning reader by helping give clues to an allusion and letting the reader search for it on his own without being told the answer.
Ch. 5 “When in Doubt, It’s from Shakespeare…”
14. Why do so many writers use and quote Shakespeare?
Shakespeare is renowned due to his many stories and as such he is an easy author to allude to which adds to the story.
15. “________Irony____________ features prominently in the use not only of Shakespeare but of any prior writer.”
Ch. 6 “…Or the Bible”
16. What do Biblical allusions do for a piece of literature?
Biblical allusions add seriousness as well as depth and weight to the novel, which readers can appreciate. It increases the impact of the story.
Ch. 7 “Hanseldee and Greteldum”
17. What is the literary canon?
Novel’s that are important or renowned to a specific time frame.
18. What does Foster suggest as the reason so many writers choose to allude to fairy tales in their works? There are numerous fairytales that people can easily allude to that reader will understand and appreciate.
19. For what purpose do writers often use “readerly knowledge of source texts”?
In order to be able to change the story to a shape that would best fit the story of their novel
20. Think of a book you have read or a movie you have seen that draws parallels to a familiar fairy tale. Briefly describe the plot and how the fairy tale allusion plays out. To what effect? (Irony? To mess around with the story? To make what point?) Explain.
The story of superman is similar to the story of Hercules in that both characters are unbelievably strong and don’t seem to fit in where they are so eventually both realize they are more than just a human being and with this knowledge they decide to stay and protect the less weak rather than prey on them. This makes the point that you should protect the weak if you are strong.
Ch. 8 “It’s Greek To Me”
21. How does Foster define “myth”?
The shaping and sustaining power of story and symbol not a legendary false story.
22. What are the four great struggles of the human being?
They are the sexual, spiritual, physical, and psychological struggles
Ch. 9 “It’s More Than Just Rain or Snow”
23. Foster says “weather is never just weather”. What are some things rain can represent in literature? Cleaning, restoring, mystery, isolation,
24. What does a rainbow represent in literature?
Pact between God and man and nature
25. What does fog represent in literature?
26. What does snow represent in literature?
inhospitable, inviting, playful, suffocating, clean, stark, severe
Interlude “Does He Mean That?”
27. Summarize Foster’s argument in this chapter.
Author’s allusions to other works of literature can be made on purpose as well as accidently. Authors often are well read in the subject they are passionate about so allusions from that subject may come to them instinctively without their knowledge
Ch. 11 “…More Than It’s Gonna Hurt You: Concerning Violence”
28. What are the implications of violence in literature?
The implications can be symbolic as well as a part of a theme or to further the plot.
29. What are the two categories of violence in literature? Describe and define each.
First, Violence that the characters in the story can cause on one another which hurts them physically like shootings, bombings, torture
Second, violence that the character cannot control and causes them harm emotionally like accidents, which hurt someone, someone’s suicide, a loved ones death.
30. What are the four reasons that authors kill off characters in literature?
1. To make action happen
2. To cause plot complications
3. To end plot complications
4. To put other characters under stress
31. What questions should readers ask themselves when they encounter an act of violence or a death in a piece of literature?
What does this type of misfortune represent thematically? What famous or mythic death does this one resemble? Why this sort of violence and not some other?
32. Choose an act of violence or a death from a piece of literature you have read and using the information in this chapter, identify is literary purpose. Be sure to include specific details to make your answer clear and complete.
William’s death in Frankenstein is used to not only further the plot but also to put Victor Frankenstein and his family under stress.
Ch. 12 “Is That a Symbol?”
33. What is the difference between symbolism and allegory?
A symbol can have multiple meanings whereas in an allegory things represent only one, very distinct thing
34. What are the tools we must use to figure out what a symbol might mean?
Questions, experience, preexisting knowledge
35. Why is symbolic meaning different for each individual reader? What are some of the factors that influence what we understand in our reading?
Because each reader engages the text differently and emphasizes various elements of the text to different degrees based on our personal history, previous readings, educational attainment, gender, race, class, faith, social involvement and philosophical inclination
36. Symbols in literature can be both objects and ___Actions
37. What are the questions readers should ask of the text when trying to determine symbolic meaning?
What is the writer doing with this image, this object, this act? What possibilities are suggested by the movement of the narrative or the lyric? What does it feel like it is doing?
Ch. 13 “It’s All Political”
38. Foster asserts that, “Nearly all writing is _____________political__________________”
39. Foster explains why most literature can be called “political.” Summarize his argument.
40. Writers are people who are interested in the world around them and pay attention to things going on around them (power structures, relations among classes, issues of justice and rights, relations between sexes, classes and various social constituencies) and these things and the writers’ opinion of them work their way into the story/text
Ch. 14 “Yes, She’s a Christ Figure, Too”
41. Foster writes “… to get the most out of your reading of European and American literature, knowing ____________old and new testaments__ is essential. Similarly, if you undertake to read literature from an Islamic or a Buddhist or a Hindu culture, you must know those cultures religions_________.”
Why? Explain.
Because culture is so influenced by its dominant religious systems that whether an author adheres to the beliefs or not, the values and principles of those religions will inform the literary work.
42. Foster asserts that a character need not have all of the distinguishing characteristics of Jesus Christ in order to be considered a Christ figure in literature. Why? Explain.
No literary Christ figure can ever be as pure, perfect and divine as Jesus Christ. Also, the Christ figure is placed in the piece of literature to make some point, to draw a parallel between the experiences of the character and Christ
43. How is reading a piece of literature a conversation with the author? (even if the author has been dead for a thousand years)
Because when reading, our imagination engages with the words the author put on the page and creates significance, symbolism, theme, meaning
Ch. 15 “Flights of Fancy”
44. If you come across a character flying in a piece of literature, they are one or more of the following:
a superhero
A ski jumper/snowboarder
A circus act (departing a cannon, trapeze etc.)
Suspended on wires
An angel
Heavily symbolic
45. What does it mean when literary characters fly?
Flying is freedom (not only from specific circumstances but from those more general burdens that tie us down). Flying is escape
46. Does a character always have to actually fly in order for there to be “flying” in a piece of literature? Explain. No, there can be figurative flying, flying imagery, metaphorical flight
Ch. 18 “If She Comes Up, It’s Baptism”
47. What are some of the things that baptism (or immersion in water) can mean in literature?
48. Literal rebirth (surviving a deadly situation)
New start
New direction
New identity
49. What are some of the things that drowning can mean in literature?
Some of the same things that were mentioned in an earlier chapter about death of a character: character revelation, thematic development or violence or failure, or guilt, plot complication or denouement
Ch. 19 “Geography Matters…”
50. What are some of the roles geography plays in literature and what are some of the effects of geography on literature?
Set tone and mood
Define or develop character
Be a character itself
Plot role
Can reveal themes, symbols, plot
Things that can be shaped in people by geography: Economics, politics, history, attitude, finance, industry, psychology
51. What does it mean when an author sends a character south?
That they are going to run amok
52. How can a writer’s personal geography inform his/her work?
Where they are from is what they know, so those things inhabit their work. Ex. Theodore Roethke’s prairies and William Wordsworth’s English Lake District
Ch. 20 “…So Does Season”
53. What are the symbolic meanings of the seasons?
Spring = childhood and youth
Summer = adulthood, romance, fulfillment and passion
Autumn = decline, middle age, tiredness, harvest
Winter = old age, resentment, death
54. Choose a piece of literature you have read in which season is important or symbolic. Give title and author and briefly describe and explain the symbolic season.
In FRANKENSTEIN seasons are symbolic because during the winter Frankenstein’s monster was in a hovel freezing behind a cottage resenting humans because he just passed a village that tormented him, but in late winter early spring he came to love the humans he was spying on in the cottage next to his hovel. The coming of spring was the end of his resentment.
Interlude “One Story”
55. Summarize Foster’s point in this section of the book.
There’s only one story- all stories are connected, interwoven, re-told rearranged versions of stories that already exist.
56. What are the two words Foster uses to define this concept?
Intertextuality and archetype
57. Define intertextuality
Everything’s connected- anything you write is connected to other written things. Sort of a World Wide Web of writing
58. Define archetype
Pattern- mythical original on which a pattern is based. Universal concept understood by all humans
Ch. 21 “Marked For Greatness”
59. For what reason(s), do authors give characters deformities, scars or other physical markings in literature?
To set them apart from others
Call attention to them
Signify some psychological or thematic point the writer wants to make
60. Choose a book you have read recently and identify a main character who has some physical marking. Describe and explain why you think the author chose to give him/her that physical trait- what does it mean?
Winston has an ulcer above his ankle. I believe he was given that trait as a way of signifying the readers how Winston is feeling. When Winston is anxious his ulcer throbs and he scratches it but when Winston is happy and relaxed his ulcer doesn’t bother him. Since Winston usually scratches it the theme of stress under constant surveillance comes up.
Ch. 22 “He’s Blind for a Reason, You Know”
61. For what reason(s) do authors choose to make characters blind in literature?
Sets them up against characters who have sight but are blind to certain things about themselves
To create irony
To emphasize certain things
Ch. 23 “It’s Never Just Heart Disease…and Rarely Just Illness”
62. What things can “heart trouble” signify in literature?
Heart problems” in a character can signify bad love, loneliness, cruelty, pederasty, disloyalty, cowardice, lack of determination. Socially it could stand for any of these things on a larger scale or for something amiss at the “heart” of things.
63. What are the “principles governing the use of disease in works of literature”?
Not all diseases are created equal (it shouldn’t be too horrible and grotesque)
It should be picturesque
It should be mysterious in origin
It should have strong symbolic or metaphorical possibilities
Ch. 24 “Don’t Read With Your Eyes”
64. Explain what Foster means by “don’t read with your eyes”
You must consider many things when reading literature: the time period when it was written (which may be VERY different from the time in which you are reading it) “…try to find a reading perspective that allows for sympathy with the historical moment of the story, that understands the text as having been written against its own social, historical, cultural, and personal background.
65. About what does Foster warn readers?
We must understand the context of the story, but we are not required to accept it, buy into it, or agree with it. Don’t reject a work sight unseen- read it first and then make your judgment.
Ch. 26 “Is He Serious? And Other Ironies”
66. Explain what Foster means by “irony trumps everything”
Irony changes or negates the traditional meaning of all the things we have discussed thus far in the book- it’s like putting a negative sign in front of a number or using the word “but” in a sentence.
67. Foster defines irony on like this: “What irony chiefly involves, then, is
___ is a deflection from expectation.
Explain what he means by this.
Irony turns everything in the opposite direction.
68. There are three types of irony in literature:
Verbal irony (character says opposite of what is expected)
Situational irony/Structural irony (situation or event plays out in an opposite or
abnormal way- not like expected)
Dramatic irony (audience/reader knows more than characters know)
69. Identify one example of each type of irony that Foster has presented in this chapter or
earlier in the book and write it here.
Verbal: “her hair has gone quite gold from grief” The Importance of Being Earnest pg. 240
Situational/Structural: billboard seatbelt example
Leonard Bast’s death in Howard’s End
Septimus Warren Smith’s suicide because his enemies, who are
Doctors, are coming to get him in Mrs. Dalloway
Dramatic: alazon and eiron in ancient Greek comedy
Oedipus Rex
Ch. 27 “A Test Case”
70. Complete the task that Foster sets out for you and be prepared to discuss your answers in class.
a. What does the story signify?
b. How does it signify?
71. How does Foster suggest that readers learn to identify trends? Why are trends important?
Pay attention to things that appear in a story three times or more. Once is an occurrence, twice may be a coincidence, but three times is a trend and trends demand close examination.
72. What is Foster’s parting advice for his reader?
Read, read, read!!! Read good writing, read what you like and have fun (play)!

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