How to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines / Edition 1

How to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines / Edition 1

3.8 97
by Thomas C. Foster

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ISBN-10: 006000942X

ISBN-13: 2900060009426

Pub. Date: 02/18/2003

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

What does it mean when a fictional hero takes a journey?. Shares a meal? Gets drenched in a sudden rain shower? Often, there is much more going on in a novel or poem than is readily visible on the surface -- a symbol, maybe, that remains elusive, or an unexpected twist on a character -- and there's that sneaking suspicion that the deeper meaning of a literary text


What does it mean when a fictional hero takes a journey?. Shares a meal? Gets drenched in a sudden rain shower? Often, there is much more going on in a novel or poem than is readily visible on the surface -- a symbol, maybe, that remains elusive, or an unexpected twist on a character -- and there's that sneaking suspicion that the deeper meaning of a literary text keeps escaping you.

In this practical and amusing guide to literature, Thomas C. Foster shows how easy and gratifying it is to unlock those hidden truths, and to discover a world where a road leads to a quest; a shared meal may signify a communion; and rain, whether cleansing or destructive, is never just rain. Ranging from major themes to literary models, narrative devices, and form, How to Read Literature Like a Professor is the perfect companion for making your reading experience more enriching, satisfying, and fun.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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New Edition

Table of Contents

Preface xi

Introduction: How'd He Do That? xxvii

1 Every Trip Is a Quest (Except When It's Not) 1

2 Nice to Eat with You: Acts of Communion 9

3 Nice to Eat You: Acts of Vampires 20

4 Now, Where Have I Seen Her Before? 31

5 When in Doubt, It's from Shakespeare … 44

6 … Or the Bible 58

7 Hanseldee and Greteldum 72

8 It's Greek to Me 82

9 It's More Than Just Rain or Snow 97

10 Never Stand Next to the Hero 107

Interlude: Does He Mean That? 127

11 More Than It's Gonna Hurt You: Concerning Violence 133

12 Is That a Symbol? 148

13 It's All Political 163

14 Yes, She's a Christ Figure, Too 176

15 Flights of Fancy 189

16 It's All About Sex… 203

17 … Except Sex 214

18 If She Comes Up, It's Baptism 227

19 Geography Matters… 242

20 … So Does Season 259

Interlude One Story 273

21 Marked for Greatness 285

22 He's Blind for a Reason, You Know 297

23 It's Never Just Heart Disease … And Rarely Just Illness 305

24 Don't Read with Your Eyes 329

25 It's My Symbol and I'll Cry If I Want To 341

26 Is He Serious? And Other Ironies 358

27 A Test Case 373

Postlude: Who's in Charge Here? 420

Envoi 430

Appendix: Reading List 435

Acknowledgments 458

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How to Read Literature Like a Professor 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 97 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I don't read much. A book has to really steal my attention away from my cherished vice TV. This book did that. Sometimes it did lag, but I was so keen on getting to his next witty or engaging comment-usually found at the beginning of chapters-I muscled through it. Now I analysis books-and music, poetry, plays, my day-with the tool box he gave me. Caution though, his knowledge and wisdom are so great you often put the book down feeling small. It's good and I liked it.
jayhantz More than 1 year ago
Thomas C. Foster writes an excellent compliment to any one's library who reads a lot. He describes looking past the words and looking into what the author is really trying to say. You almost feel like you are back in high school, or college when he asks you to read a snippet of something, then asking "what does that mean?" If you ever wanted to really understand what it means when an author mentions water, falling in mud, flying, eating with others, etc and other literary symbols, then this is an excellent book to read. Some of the chapters seem to go on and on, but he keeps reaffirming each symbol (which is arranged to be each chapter) to the reader and offering examples found in many literary works. He also lets you know that the symbols in his book are 1) not always what he says they are and 2) the symbols in the book aren't the definite complete list. There are many other symbols, like fire, he doesn't cover; but he wants to give you the basics for reading something, stepping back, and catching what the real meaning to the text is. I recommend this to anyone that would like to get more out of their reading experience, and those who have, or run a book club. I enjoyed it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was assigned this book for school reading and it's great for that purpose. The author informs you on different literary techniques authors use in a comprehensive and interesting way. However, the content may be too dry for casual readers who are not required to read this book.
DavinciDW More than 1 year ago
Seldom in literature is anyone willing to address the intricate nature of the written words meaning. In the case of Thomas Foster's book "How To Read Literature Like A Professor' all barriers have been shattered. If you are a writer or aspire to be one you will profit from the definitive way Mr Foster peels back the layers of storytelling. Like removing the leaves of an artichoke we are brought deeper and closer to the core dipping each leaf in the butter, relishing the new flavor of his knowledge. and all at once we find the heart of the delicacy and he gives us a taste of wisdom far beyond our expectations. All in all this book becomes one of those "awww moments" and leaves us wiser and with a greater understanding of our species cultural intercourse in literature.
laurennnnn More than 1 year ago
How to Read Literature like a Professor is a great book for learning parts of a story inside and out. By learning about how why and for what reason different books were written, anyone will be able to understand the complex workings of an authors mind. The author, Tom Foster, has an interesting and sarcastic type of writing that is sure to draw in anyone’s focus on a subject. As an English Professor himself, though somewhat a comedian, Foster is constantly making jokes on other authors’ works and how he and his own class view them. He takes what can be seen as a dull subject and turns it into something much more enjoyable. This book is for students or adults that want to take their reading further in order to fully understand the history and structure of most stories, novels or poems. How to Read Literature like a Professor gives great knowledge and tips on not only reading literature, but also on fully embracing the text and understanding hidden symbols. From learning about Shakespeare to iambic pentameters, this book can transform anyone into a Literature Professor. The full title, How to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines, is obviously a perfect indication of what the book contains. The cover picture however, was less than a perfect match in my opinion. In order to draw in people’s attention, I believe a more interesting picture should be in place of the text and magnified glass. However, the text and pages were very simple to read. Tom Foster has a very profound personality in his writing. He’s very witty and makes many jokes that relate to everyday life in whichever book he’s analyzing, but not overwhelming to the point of being annoying. While he teaches, he gives out a theme of ‘easy learning’. Foster writes well enough to maintain a steady tempo that’s very easy to follow. At this speed, he teaches with ease and examples that people experience daily, instead of naming off facts and details left for the reader to memorize. With this type of playful writing style, anyone and everyone is bound to learn something. The book itself stands alone to many English study course textbooks; Foster puts questions and details from students in his actual class- and answers them. Many points that stood out to me were the details describing the symbolism of rain, snow and eating together. This book teaches many things, but the most important is to be imaginative, even in reading. As the author, Tom Foster, quotes “We have to bring our imaginations to bear on a story if we are to see all it's possibilities; otherwise it's just about somebody who did something… we discover because our imagination engages with that of the author. Pretty amazing when you consider that the author may have been dead for thousands of years, yet we can still have this exchange, this dialogue, with her.” How to Read Literature Like a Professor was a very informational book. I believe it may have even taught me more things than a literature textbook with literally hundreds of more pages. I loved learning about the many different uses of symbolism, and I will now always read differently. Though this was a great book to study and learn from, I wouldn’t recommend this book for normal reading or to bring to the beach. However, this one of the most non difficult books I’ve read while actually learning and laughing at the same time.
SecondRunReviews More than 1 year ago
As an English major, I found this book to be a delightful read and flashback to the hours I spent in class dissecting the symbolism in movies and books that were assigned viewing and reading for class.
Kelan688 More than 1 year ago
I never knew somebody could break down literature and give important key facts that many people ever knew about like Thomas C. Foster, a professor of English at the University of Michigan at Flint. His book, “How to Read Literature Like a Professor” was a New York Times Bestseller in 2003. This book is for people who are interested in learning about literature and understanding what is being read. The book encourages readers to test their knowledge on anything they read. The title is called “How to Read Literature Like a Professor.” Really, all professors do not know how to read literature. But it also says "A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines." So that let me know what I was about to read. The title matched the concept of the book and I like it. One of the most things I like about the book was the cover. It has a magnifying glass looking into the book “Huckleberry Finn” with the title in the middle. The unique thing about it was that when I rubbed my hand across the book, I notice that the magnifying glass had a silk like material and rest felt like paper. I thought that was very interesting and made me want to read the book even more. There were no characters in the story; it was just Thomas C. Foster giving his point of view on different subjects. He explains what literature is, what it means to us, and how we can understand it. I learned many things through reading the book. I learned about symbols and what they mean in different stories. Like rain, snow, and thunder symbolize something other than just weather. The book makes the reader focus on motifs, themes, and many more aspects after being read. I found out many things that I did not know about books I have read in the past. There were many examples in the book so that I could understand what was being taught and what I was reading. It includes a list of famous novels, poems, and plays. He shows how to read between the lines and understand what is being read. The book was very interesting to me. To me, it’s a source to learn more about literature than I never had known. Thomas C. Foster is a brilliant man and has great knowledge in teaching others. I have knowledge about everything I read now. When I read novels, poems, and plays, I break down each important sentence and find the true meaning about them. I would recommend this book to anybody and people who want learn more about literature.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was reading the book and it had a way of taking my attention away from what I was doing to what I needed to do. This book is one-of-a-kind. It carries knowledge in such a way that most people wouldn't see it in. It even helps you memorize what you need to learn too. I recommend you to buy this book if you do want to learn, but cant seem to get into books because this one WILL get your attention and you will be hooked up to the information given. 
Kat Russel More than 1 year ago
So i found it very satisfying, though i am a big fan of reading and am able to appreciate analysies. It does require some patience but it is certainly helpful, especially to less well read individuals.
saradippity More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed his "How to Read Novels Like a Professor" and debated getting this one as well for a long time, worried about crossover material and not as much unique information. However, it is well worth having both books, this one goes more into symbolism while the other book covers more of form.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After reading this book, go back and reread your favorite book. You'll see it in a subtly different light.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was required to read this book for school, but I actually found it pretty interesting and would really recommend this book to anybody going into a 9th or 10th grade high achiever english class because it'll give you a lot of insight already to what you're going to learn.  I was required to read this before my senior year and wish that i'd have picked it up a little bit earlier, it's like an english student's bible.
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umslucas More than 1 year ago
“How to Read Literature like a professor”, by Thomas C. Foster, is a new york times bestseller. This nonfiction book gives readers a brand new and more clear perspective on reading and actually comprehending a novel. this book, written mostly for high school, or college students is a great way for people who are unable to analyze the underlying meanings in certain novels. This novel was written in a way that is easy for even the most novice of readers. The way Foster uses his comparisons between to completely seemingly irrelevant topics and somehow ties them together is brilliant. Most authors witting book like this would not us lists to further prove their point. The way Foster uses lists throughout the novel makes understanding the book so much easier to understand. Foster does a great job of getting the point of the theme of each story in this book. He claims that many stories usually relate to either the bible, greek mythology, or famous historical events.
pmhawkins34 More than 1 year ago
Thomas C. Foster wrote this New York Times bestseller. It is nonfiction and a very educational book, which teaches the readers about literature. This is geared toward students, high school or college who are not experts on reading literature. It gives guidelines and main ideas on how to read and actually understand what is inside. The title “How to Read Literature like a Professor,” fits this book perfectly, only because that is exactly what the purpose is. The cover may not be as eye catching as other but if you are searching for a book on how to read literature then obviously cover art is not what interests you. Due to the fact that this is an educational book, the only character is the writer himself. Foster however captivates the reader’s attention with his sarcasm and view on literature. Throughout this novel Foster wrote about many different main ideas to give you a better understanding of reading, some include how every story is a quest, or involving the Bible, or maybe a fairytale. Foster made understanding literature easier since he did not use vocabulary that was hard to grasp or concepts. He made the point that “there is no such thing as a wholly original work.” In my opinion, “How to Read Literature like a Professor” is a very informative novel. Even though English is not my favorite subject this book gave me a better understanding of reading literature. This book was slow at some points but was not hard to read or understand. If you are looking for a good book to help you understand then this is the book to choose.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book made an average reader understand how to analyze certian and often ordinary situations
Anonymous More than 1 year ago