Joel's Reviews > How to Read Literature Like a Professor

How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster
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's review
Aug 02, 2010

really liked it

I assigned this to my Honors American Lit class, so I'm looking forward to student reactions again, here, but I think Foster does a pretty solid job introducing the idea of reading for deeper meaning, mostly by using some pretty clear examples on how archetypes, symbols, etc. can be found in literature. Some of the later chapters may get murky for some readers, in part because he relies on modernist literature so much, but overall I found it accessible and direct. I especially liked his answers to two questions that students ask all the time:

What does it mean? Answer--what do you think it means?

Did the author mean that? Answer--probably.

He expands a lot more on those, but basically those provide his framework: That literature is both deeply layered in ways that are rewarding to discover, and that peeling back those layers is in many ways different and personal for each reader. As an authorial voice, I found him to be engaging, entertaining, and self-deprecating, for the most part. Those looking for graduate level studies are going to go away disappointed, but for high school and college students trying to figure out how people see deeper meaning in literature, this is not a bad place to start.

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