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

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How to Read Literature Like a Professor (2003) provides readers with an accessible and engaging guide to literary analysis.

Whether you're just starting out in the field of literature or looking for an refresher, this book has everything you need to learn how to read between the lines and unlock deeper meaning in any text.

Using examples drawn from both classics and contemporary works, this book helps readers gain insight into the thinking processes of experienced literary analysts.

With this resource, anyone can become an expert reader of literature!

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

Book Name: How To Read Literature Like A Professor (A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines)

Author(s): Thomas C. Foster

Rating: 4.1/5

Reading Time: 15 Minutes

Categories: Communication Skills

Author Bio

The book, "How To Read Literature Like A Professor" is written by none other than Thomas Foster.

Thomas has been teaching literature since 1975 and his expertise in the field has become quite renowned.

He is currently a professor of English at the University of Michigan-Flint and his book has become a key resource for both teachers and students in the field of literature.

On top of this, he often gives talks at high schools across the United States, discussing ideas related to understanding and teaching literature.

Unlock The Secret World Of Literature: Discover Deeper Meaning In Your Favorite Books

Favorite Books

Reading literature like a professor can open up new possibilities for how to interpret and understand a text.

It can reveal unexpected meanings, link one work to another, and help you gain insight into ways that literature has shaped our language.

By reading with the eyes of a scholar, you’ll enhance your overall reading experience.

You’ll identify symbolism, recognize ironic twists and turns, and appreciate the complex depths of meaning in works like the Thomas Pynchon novel or Ernest Hemingway short story.

You’ll then get a heightened understanding of stories by discovering how various books and authors have come together over centuries to create the world of literature that we know today.

Whether it’s analyzing how a flea represents seduction or exploring what happens when a classic poem is altered for an entirely new purpose, reading literature like a professor offers readers greater insight into these texts and helps them uncover hidden details missed by others.

Becoming An Experienced Reader: Exploring Memory, Symbols, And Patterns In Books

If you want to get the most out of a book, then you need to read it with more than just a basic level of understanding.

To really engage with what’s happening in the story, you must make connections and interpret symbols.

By doing this, literary analysis uses memory, symbols and patterns to help us explore what’s beyond the surface of any book we’re reading.

It starts with memory – being able to draw parallels between characters or events in one book to another.

Then there are symbols which represent an element in a story on multiple levels.

They could be a literal object like a cup or something more abstract like love.

Finally, we find ourselves looking for patterns – scanning through the text for any details that may point towards an underlying message about a character or storyline.

In short, deepening our understanding of a book through these techniques is essential if we want to enjoy our reading experience to its fullest potential!

It Takes More Than Just A Common Structure To Create An Epic Quest In Literature

Countless stories have the same underlying structure: that of a quest.

This can be seen in the famous example of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, where a knight embarks on a journey to seek out the Holy Grail.

There are challenges ahead of him and he learns something unexpected at the end.

This structure is not just applicable to medieval epics; it appears in many different works of literature, although adapted for different characters, settings, and situations.

One example is Thomas Pynchon’s 1965 novel The Crying of Lot 49.

Here, a young woman sets out to carry out her deceased lover’s will but ends up tangled in dark conspiracy instead.

She faces strange characters and bizarre outsiders along her journey as she discovers her own capability for independence and self-reliance.

The motif of questing can be found all throughout literature and serves as an effective method to tell engaging stories no matter the genre or subject matter.

Uncovering The Universal Messages Of Human Condition Through Intertextuality

Human Condition

No book is completely original.

At some point or another, all authors have been inspired by the works of previous writers, even if that inspiration is not always obvious.

This concept of an author borrowing ideas from other books is known as intertextuality and it can certainly enhance the reading experience by helping readers understand the stories more deeply.

For example, when reading The Virgin and the Gypsy by D.H.

Lawrence, readers can pick up on subtle references to Noah’s flood in the Bible, to emphasize both a cleansing power and destructive force of nature.

Similarly, many messages communicated in literature relate back to ideas expressed in William Shakespeare’s works; whether this is intentional or not is up for debate!

We can go even further to illustrate how all books borrow ideas from other books – West Side Story revisits Romeo and Juliet for a modern take on star-crossed lovers, while A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy by Woody Allen makes a clever nod to A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Shakespeare.

No matter where it comes from – folk tales,Alice in Wonderland or any other work of literature- there will always be universal messages about human condition within our stories Today.

By exploring different texts and authors across multiple genres and generations you’ll get a better understanding on those universal themes which will help you become way more proficient as a literarure buff!

Symbolism In Literature: Uncovering Subtle Messages In Texts

When we read literature, symbols can help us uncover hidden messages within stories.

Symbols can represent something that is more than meets the eye, such as in Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn where the Mississippi River symbolises both danger and safety.

Symbols are found throughout history and have even been used to discreetly communicate messages that may not have been openly accepted by a society.

This was the case with John Donne’s poem The Flea which disguised his sexual desires using symbolism rather than accessing a topic that censorship laws prevented him from exploring.

Here, the flea is used to unite two lovers, representing the voice of their yearning via its bites – a clever way to deliver the message without directly expressing it.

It’s important when reading any piece of literature to take special note of symbols as they could potentially be pointing us toward deeper meanings within the story.

If something appears multiple times throughout a text and holds more significance than it initially seems to, it’s worth taking a closer look in order to detect any hidden messages or stories waiting for you upon further inspection.

How Setting Can Transform A Story And Become An Instrumental Character In Its Own Right

Setting can often have a profound, if subtle, effect on how we perceive a story.

Consider the example of reading a story about suffering and hardship; depending on the surroundings it is set in, you would likely respond to the story differently.

For instance, a tale set in an icy landscape would evoke quite different emotions compared to one set in a blooming landscape in springtime.

Similarly, well-known authors often use locations or climate to punctuate their messages.

William Faulkner’s works are inspired by Yoknapatawpha County and provide an accurate take on society in the Deep South.

Not to mention seasonal symbols feature heavily throughout literature – with each season having its own associated theme: spring implies childhood joys, summer speaks of passion and romance, autumn depicts aging, and winter death.

Setting can even be so instrumental in a story that it may as well be considered another character!

Anita Brookner’s 1984 novel Hotel du Lac opens with theme arriving at an autumnal resort – effectively representing the autumn of her life – as she recovers from heartache and reflects on her youth.

In this way we see setting used as an aid to further emphasize and clarify the author’s message within the book.

Overall, cleverly used settings can become much more than just background decoration; they influence us subtly yet profoundly when reading stories – helping shape our perception of what is written.

How Irony Keeps Readers On Their Toes In Literature


Irony is an invaluable tool for authors to communicate ideas in powerful and unexpected ways.

It subverts your expectations as a reader, allowing authors to take control of your understanding of their work.

Take Samuel Beckett’s influential play, Waiting for Godot.

The two main characters wait each day by the side of the road, hoping that a mysterious figure, Godot, will arrive and bring change – yet he never does.

This creates a curious feeling for the audience, as it throws all expectations out of the window.

The irony here allows readers to understand the underlying message behind the story: that life often doesn’t turn out as expected and there isn’t always an easy answer or solution to our problems.

Additionally, we can find irony in characters’ actions too, like in Virginia Woolf’s novel Mrs Dalloway where war veteran Septimus Warren Smith commits suicide because he believes enemies are coming – only for us to discover that those ‘enemies’ are actually two doctors trying help him.

Herein lies another powerful message – sometimes we try so hard not to face our truths that we pick up weapons and fight against those who just want to help us

Finally, even titles have an ironic edge in literature – like Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell To Arms.

On its own, this phrase creates imagery of soldiers and patriotism but when put together with another line from Hemingway’s chosen poem (“To arms!”), it becomes clear that this is actually about farewelling war – a strong statement about the futility of armed conflict amongst countries.

Overall then, irony interacts with reader expectation beautifully; revealing deep layers within stories which otherwise may have gone unnoticed – helping impressions linger long after reading has ended.

Wrap Up

In the book, How To Read Literature Like A Professor, by Thomas C.

Foster, we learn how to better appreciate literature by reading between the lines and uncovering the universal message of a story.

By understanding the context and major events of a period as well as cultural and social pressures faced at the time, we can get a better understanding of what is being said within a text.

Additionally, even if the setting of a book is unfamiliar to us it is important to read it anyway and explore the messages woven into it as they can still often connect with our own lives regardless.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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