Thursday, August 2, 2012

How to Read

So let's get down to it: I'm going to give a review on a book you probably haven't read, and you're going to read this post anyway because you love me :p  Anyway, today I'm talking about How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas Foster.  I had to read this for AP  Literature, but I found it extremely helpful in explaining why certain elements in literature are significant and what patterns one can find in a book.  The book changed my perspective about how books relate to each other and to literature I'd never thought to compare, like Greek mythology, fairy tales, or Shakespeare.  The examples Foster uses are sometimes obscure to a person who is not a literature professor, but he explains them relatively well.  The lessons Foster teaches changed my way of thinking when it comes to books.

One example is the duel between Peter and King Miraz in Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis. You know, the young, former king of Narnia meets the current king and seasoned fighter in a fight to the death.  Does that remind you of an event, specifically Biblical?  For me, that scene reminds me of David the shepherd boy stepping out from the front lines to meet the giant Goliath.  Why?  Well, my reasoning may or may not be a stretch, but I'll put it into context for you.  A youth who is fighting for the kingdom in the name of Aslan (who is basically the Christ figure of the Narnian Chronicles) comes to fight a warrior in a one-on-one duel to to determine the winner of the war without entering full-fledged battle.  Meanwhile, in the Old Testament, the boy David goes in the Name of the God of Israel to a duel that will determine the fate of the battle between the Israelites and Philistines.  Now are you seeing the similarity?  Okay, so Peter doesn't shoot a rock from his slingshot and kills a giant (in fact he's not even the one to kill Miraz at all), but the similarity is still there, at least to me.  Even if you don't agree, that's okay.  It's what interpreting literature is all about: differences in opinion.  Someone might point out something in a book that you never realized before, and you can do the same for that person.

Doors have opened in my way of thinking about literature, and even when I don't recognize the patterns that Foster taught me, it's okay. Foster assures his readers that "if the story is good and the characters work but you don't catch allusions and references and parallels, then you've done nothing worse than read a good story with memorable characters.  If you begin to pick up on some of these other elements, these parallels, and analogies, however, you'll find your understanding of the novel deepens and becomes more meaningful, more complex."  So true, Foster, so true.

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