01 Feb 2008 [ Prev | Next ]

Foster (Intro, 1)

Also, a short work of fiction (TBA).

Update, Jan 30: I'm going to save the work of fiction for later... so you can ignore the reference to fiction.


0 TrackBacks

Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: Foster (Intro, 1).

TB Ping


The quote that hit me from this reading was, "It may seem at times as if the professor is either inventing interpretations out of thin air or else performing parlor tricks, a sort of analytical sleight of hand." This quote really struck me because of a particular past experience.
I once had an English teacher who I swear made up symbolism for everything. I remember one time when she said the pickles and donuts on the table were a symbol of sexual tension (from Ethan Frome). I thought about this but it just seemed to me that she was just making things up to support some sort of weird fantasy in her head. Today, I still think that the author might not have intended the objects to mean what my teacher thought they meant but that does not matter. She had a logical argument that supported the possible interpretation that the pickle and donut did mean that: the man, Ethan, was lusting after the housekeeper, Mattie. This reminded me of the class discussion about how it doesn't really matter what the author intended as long as a person can support their argument.

Angelica Guzzo said:

“English professors, as a class, are cursed with memory.” I found this quote interesting. Teachers read the same material year after year. Teachers can have works of literature memorized. I have always found this to be true. It makes it easier for a student to learn about a story or poem because the teacher can then point out that a passage contains imagery or what the theme of the novel is. At the same time it is a curse because it’s then harder for the teacher to be open to other perspectives. After years of teaching the same material, the teacher has the answers in their mind and so they can’t see past their interpretation.

Ally Hall said:

"We're having a communication problem... It may seem at times as if the professor is either inventing interpretations out of thin air or else performing parlor tricks, a sort of analytical sleight of hand" (xiii)

I know this especially to seem to be true. Throughout high school, I have taken honors English courses and I consider myself to be good at English, however I could never seem to reach the same conclusions about the symbolic meaning of something that my teachers - or even other classmates - could. Whenever we would have discussions in class, I would sit silently and wonder where in the world they were pulling that analysis from. As hard as I would try, I just could not interpret a poem or a story the way that a teacher wanted me to. Sure, after someone pointed out the obvious meaning, I was able to expand on it, but it was the finding it that confused me. I still try to find the hidden meaning in stories, but I suppose I would rather just read and enjoy them than try to dissect them.

Ally, I don't analyze every book that I read. Sometimes I read just to find out what happens. But dissecting them and poking through the innards is just another way to get meaning out of a text. You won't need to pick apart every single thing that you read, but it's good to have the skill for when you might need it.

Maddie Gillespie said:

"Whenever I read a new work, I spin the mental Rolodex looking for correspondences and corollaries-where have I seen his face, don't I know that theme?" When I first read this sentence, I couldn't help but envision spinning compasses, all looking to dial in on something. I pictured the spinning compass from Disney's movie Pochahantes that inevitably led to doing the right thing, saving John Smith. I remembered the Golden Compass by Philip Pullman in which a special compass ultimately gave its user the power to change the fates of others and cross the bounds of reality. So by reading this, I thought like the author did by trying to reference every type of compass I knew of. This step forward under any circumstances does not mean I'm cured of my emotional-reading disease. It just means that I've taken a step and found it not to be so bad.

Greta Carroll said:

“Moreover, is every trip really a quest? It depends. Some days I just drive to work—no adventures, no growth. I’m sure that the same is true in writing. Sometimes plot requires that a writer get a character from home to work and back again” (Foster 6). I was glad that Foster included something of a concession. As I was reading his comments, I agreed with most of what he said. But there are definitely some books in which not every journey is a quest. I like how he realizes that there are exceptions to every rule. Even if a certain exception does not exist now, he acknowledges it could be written someday. I was somewhat relieved by his admittance that not all journeys are quests. It assured me that my writing has not been missing quite as much as I was beginning to think.

Melissa Kaufold said:

"Literature is full of patterns, and your reading experience will be much more rewarding when you can step back from the work, even while you're reading it, and look for those patterns" (Foster xvi).

I don't like this. I do not want to look for patterns in literature. I actually avoid looking for them because I do not want to know what will happen. I'd rather go back and analyze and spot the patterns once I complete the reading. Though, I realize searching for patterns would improve my analysis skills, I'm scared that if I begin to look for patterns and get in the habit of doing so, reading would not be as enjoyable for me.

Melissa, you can always read the literary work for the first time purely for enjoyment, and then later go back and look for the patterns.

Erica Gearhart said:

Foster used many comments concerning other professions and areas of expertise to relate good reading skills to the reader. I was particularly interested in the following reference: "...you read long ago in your youth about a man who murders his father and marries his mother...And your talent for nifty naming will come up with something to call this pattern: the Oedipal complex...Sigmund Freud 'reads' his patients the way a literary scholar reads texts, bringing the same sort of imaginative interpretations to understanding his cases that we try to bring to interpreting novels and poems and plays" (Foster xvii). Last semester, I took a child psychology course. When we discussed the Oedipal complex, I immediatly thought of the play Oedipus Rex. I really enjoyed how the Foster inserted this and other relations to various subjects, enforcing his lesson that patterns can be found anywhere but especially in literature.

Kaitlin Monier said:

"Professors also read, and think, symbolically. Everything is a symbol of something, it seems, until proven otherwise" (pg xv). Finding symbolism is a problem for me. I almost always take everything literally until I go to English class and find out that "monster" is really only a symbol and not a physical monster. However, when I try to find symbolism, teachers usually tell me I am reading to much into the text.

marsha banton said:

"Memory,symbol, and pattern" are three items that seperate the professional reader from the rest of the crowd. Whenever a professional reader reads he/she thinks about where they have read this before or something very close to it. A non-professional reader reads with the idea of enjoyment not with the idea of Is this related closely to what other story that I have already read

Katie Vann said:

"...rather the professor, as the slightly more experienced reader, has acquired over the years the use of a certain "language of reading", something to which the students are only beginning to be introduced." (Foster xiii)
Being a student who is just being introduced into this new "language of reading", I can completely relate to this quote. Last semester, I worked my way through a Bible as Literature class. Too often I sat in class completely lost and trying my best to understand others' interpretations of the sections we were assigned to read. A simple passage to me would have a deep meaning or be an important symbolic description to everyone else. What I liked about this quote was that it reminded me that I am still just being introduced into this kind of reading and analyzing. Of course I had to read and analyze in high school, but not to the levels that will be demanded from me as I continued through my college courses. After going through the Bible as Literature course last semester, I was convinced I was way too dumb to ever become an English teacher, but this little reminder from this quote has helped to erase some of my fears and worries.

kayley Dardano said:

“When small children, … begin to tell you a story, they put in every detail and every word they recall, with no sense that some features are more important than others.” xvi
I thought this quote was interesting because I have always wondered why the little kids are like tap recorders always repeating exactly what you say. I wonder what point kids start to know what to hide from there parents.
“If you were an English professor, … you’d know that you’d just watched a knight have a not very suitable encounter with his nemesis.” Page 2
I feel that I often make this connection with out realizing it. I just have not been able to put it into words that my professor some how conjured up. How were they so smart and would I ever come to these conclusions on my own. Reaching the first part of this book has boosted my confidence level on my journey to becoming a teacher. I think that if I were taught to think like this when I was younger my education would be a lot easer. Could you use Knights and damsels in distress to explain this to students instead of solely focusing on cause, effect, who what where when and why? For some this may be an easer tactic of which will engage students.

Andrea Nestler said:

The quote that I liked the most from this reading is “When small children, … begin to tell you a story, they put in every detail and every word they recall, with no sense that some features are more important than others.” I liked this quote because it is saying that little children include every detail in a story and its not hard for them. As true as this is, it seems to me that when a college student,or student in general, goes to write a story words seem to escape them at times and they seem to leave out important details as well. I was thinking in my mind how ironic it was. I am not sure others may see it as ironic but to me it just had that feel about it.

Richelle Dodaro said:

"The kind of mind that works its way through undergraduate and then graduate classes in literature and criticism has a predisposition to see things as exisiting in themselves while simultaneously also representing something else" (xvi). This quote struck me because I'm wondering if it is slightly a contradiction. When I read this quote over and over, I feel like Foster is saying that people who analyze and find symbols within literature are born like that. Maybe he's saying that those people are lucky. I am one of those people who naturally analyze, and sometimes over-analyze things, so I am not offended but I feel as though it is a contradiciton. I may be wrong, but that is what I got from that quote.

Lauren Miller said:

On part xv of the introduction, Foster says: "When an English professor reads, on the other hand, he will accept the affective response level of the story (we don't mind a good cry when Little Nell dies), but a lot of his attention will be engaged by other elements of the novel. Where did that effect come from? Whom does this character resemble? Where have I seen this situation before?" When I read, I am always looking for the text's relationship to other texts (or other forms of media). I actually had one of those moments while reading this book. In the introduction, on page xiv, he is talking about how a person could learn the key to reading literature. He writes: "The same way you get to Carnegie Hall. Practice." My math teacher just told us that story on Wednesday in class (and that was the first time I had heard it). I enjoy looking for references to other works in literature (and I feel a lot smarter for knowing what they are :P).

Juliana Cox said:

"Like the symbolic imagination, this is a function of being able to distance oneself from the story, to look beyond the purely affective level of plot, drama, characters" (Foster xvi). I picked this quote because I believe it relates to students making the transition from high school to college. In class we touched upon how in high school we learned to identify the plot and analyze characters, but that was high school! In college our professors expect us to find the deeper meaning, to challenge ourselves, and ask in depth questions.

Stephanie Wytovich said:

"Memory. Symbol. Pattern. These are the three items that, more than any other, separate the professorial reader from the rest of the crowd."

I actually laughed when I realized how true this quote was. You can either read a story and actually understand the depth of the words, or you can just read it to read it. My friend always laughs at me when he sees me writing a literature paper because he says that I'm always making my analysis up. In reality though, there are symbols and patterns in everything. You just have to know how to find them.

"A moment occurs in this exchange between professor and student when each of us adopts a look." I enjoy the fact that, no matter what someone is talking about, when they say "the look" (sorry for the use of air quotes Jerz) everyone knows what they are talking about. Whether its the look a parent gives to the child when the child did something wrong, or when it is the blank stare that professors get from confused students....we all know what it is. I basically love that, and just wanted to point out the obvious. (sorry again Jerz that I gave you that look when we were discussing Jabberwocky...is that what it was called?)

Jeanine O'Neal said:

“We ask, Is this a metaphor? Is that an analogy? What does the thing over there signify? The kind of mind that works its way through undergraduate and then graduate classes in literature and criticism has a predisposition to see things as existing in themselves while simultaneously also representing something else.” (page xvi)

So often I have found myself plagued with this blessing that has caused many of my peers to call me “overly analytical.” When I look at a blade of grass, I do not see just a blade of grass. I think when I look at it, What is its purpose? What would happen if ever blade of grass died out? If I pluck this grass, how will it affect the delicate balance of nature? While my peers may be right in saying this is “overly analytical,” I say it is truly a blessing to have the mind where you can think all these things and answer all these things at once: to see the world through the appreciative eyes God intended.
I have also found an ability “to see things existing in themselves while simultaneously also representing something else.” Mostly I exercise this ability when discussing religion or reading religious text. However, I can apply this to almost any piece of literature. I firmly believe that if you cannot look at a blade of grass or read a text and find something deeper than its face value, a great deal of learning and understanding has been lost.

Tiffany Gilbert said:

Admittidly, I really think I am going to enjoy reading "How to Read Literature Like a Professor." During the introduction, one thing that I noticed immediately was the author knowing what is in the mind of the students. Not only is Foster introducing and teaching, he is answering the questions and clearing up the confusion of students everywhere. "It may seem at times as if the professor is either inventing interpretations ut of thin air or else performing parlor tricks, a sort of analytical sleight of hand"
Along the same lines, every student thinks something similar to the above thought. A good teacher can identify the thoughts and troubles of an individual and clear it up. I was impressed at his style of writing this book.
It is like he went on a quest just as symbolized in the 16-year-old riding his bike crossing German Shepards, facing a dragon, and eyeing the princess. We have to look deeper than the meaning of things which is what Foster is doing with his writing style. He is not just presenting information, he answers questions that are deep within the student. By showing that he can do this with writing, shows that we as students can do it too. Not every quest is literal like "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" or "Beowulf". Our quest is symbolic and conquerable; Foster can do it so any student can.

Jessie Farine said:

"If you learn to ask these questions, to see literary texts through these glasses, you will read and understand literature in a new light, and it'll become more rewarding and fun." (xv)

I agree with this quote. I think it will be interesting to learn how to understand the patterns and effects of a work of literature. I don't think this would detract from enjoying the work or ruin any sort of emotional effect it creates, since feeling and understanding tend to be two completely different things.

Deana Kubat said:

"Grendel, the monster in the medieval epic Beowulf (eighth century A.D.), is an actual monster, but he can also symbolize (a) the hostility of the universe to human existence (a hostility that medieval Anglo-Saxons would have felt acutely) and (b) a darkness in human nature that only some higher aspect of ourselves (as symbolized by the title hero)can conquer. the pre-disposition to understand the world in symbolic terms is reinforced, of course, by years of training the encourages rewards the symbolic imagination." (Foster xvi) i believe that everything in literature can have numerous ways of either reading it or taking an in-depth look into it. just as Grendel can represent more than one thing, it is never clearly stated which topic Grendel represents. it all depends on the reader of what type of mind they have about things and how they view the meaning on a character in a story or of an event that may occur. there is always room for interpretation in literature.

Theresa Conley said:

"When lay readers encounter a fictive text, they focus, as they should, on the story and the characters: who are these people, what are they doing, and what wonderful or terrible things are happening to them?" I don't completely agree that these are the only things we look at. I often times find myself asking where they came up with this stuff.

Leave a comment

Type the characters you see in the picture above.

Recent Comments

Theresa Conley on Foster (Intro, 1): "When lay readers encounter a fictive text, they f
Deana Kubat on Foster (Intro, 1): "Grendel, the monster in the medieval epic Beowulf
Jessie Farine on Foster (Intro, 1): "If you learn to ask these questions, to see liter
Tiffany Gilbert on Foster (Intro, 1): Admittidly, I really think I am going to enjoy rea
Jeanine O'Neal on Foster (Intro, 1): “We ask, Is this a metaphor? Is that an analogy?
Chelsea Oliver on Foster (Intro, 1): "A moment occurs in this exchange between professo
Stephanie Wytovich on Foster (Intro, 1): "Memory. Symbol. Pattern. These are the three item
Juliana Cox on Foster (Intro, 1): "Like the symbolic imagination, this is a function
Lauren Miller on Foster (Intro, 1): On part xv of the introduction, Foster says: "When
Richelle Dodaro on Foster (Intro, 1): "The kind of mind that works its way through under
    1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31    
          01 2
3 04 5 06 7 08 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29  
2 03 4 05 6 07 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31          
    1 02 3 04 5
6 07 8 09 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30      
        1 02 3
4 05 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31