Friday, October 28, 2016
How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster
I have two books at home that tangle with the concept of intertextuality in children's literature. It's not supposed to be a tangle, but I can't understand most of the scholarly writing. Thomas Foster simplifies some complex literary theories, such as intertextuality and Northrop Frye's discussion of literary archetypes. The conversational tone, humor, and manageable chapters make this an excellent book at showing what students or reading enthusiasts should be looking for in literature to get a deeper understanding and analysis of texts. He shows what elements make a book distinguished and while he acknowledges that he can't discuss them all, he does give some universal ones that readers can look for while reading. This is a terrific read for developing critical thinking skills in literature.
Twenty-seven chapters give bite-sized advice as to how to get more meaning out of texts. He shows how to look for common metaphors, themes, historical settings, literary forms, symbols, history of literature, pop culture, and more. If an author keeps mentioning a Greek myth, the pattern should reveal a larger truth about the overall message of the text. If certain images keep coming up, what is the author saying about the character or theme? He brings the elements and theory all together at the end in a wonderful analysis of a short story. He shows a reader's response that is based on a surface reading, then another student's that is more in-depth. Last, he analysizes the story using theory and elements with the aplomb and mastery of one who loves his topic and has studied it his whole life. A must for your library.