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Of all the literary forms, the novel is arguably the most discussed … and fretted over. From Miguel de Cervantes's Don Quixote to the works of Jane Austen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and today's masters, the novel has grown with and adapted to changing societies and technologies, mixing tradition and innovation in every age throughout history.

Thomas C. Foster—the sage and scholar who ingeniously led readers through the fascinating symbolic codes of great literature in his first book, How to Read Literature Like a Professor—now examines the grammar of the popular novel. Exploring how authors' choices about structure—point of view, narrative voice, first page, chapter construction, character emblems, and narrative (dis)continuity—create meaning and a special literary language, How to Read Novels Like a Professor shares the keys to this language with readers who want to get more insight, more understanding, and more pleasure from their reading.

Topics: How-To Guides, Guides, Witty, Writing, Literary Studies, The Bible, and Art & Artists

Published: HarperCollins on
ISBN: 9780061977701
List price: $10.99
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I read this mostly out of curiosity -- with my BA behind me and my MA in progress, I didn't have much to learn from Foster. To me it's obvious that a garden will conjure up Eden, that the sharing of food is a kind of communion, that a lot of things are metaphors for sex. It doesn't seem to require professorial level training to me, though I went to university in the UK and this book is very explicitly aimed at people from the US. So maybe the expectations for the skill set for a graduate are different. I think for people in the UK it'd be a more useful leg-up for people doing GCSE and A Level -- if they're interested in being A* students, anyway. Once you get to university, this level of reading is expected.

The tone of the book is a little condescending, but otherwise it seems pretty good, anyway. Surprisingly, it doesn't just draw examples from the canon of dead white men, which was good. The allusive nature of it requires quite a wide frame of reference to avoid getting lost and bored, though -- it's hard to learn to see a book in a whole different light when you haven't read it in the first place.more
Just picked it up on a whim, its always on reading lists. Not bad, but nothing earth-shattering if you are a constant reader...more
his wonderfully witty, relaxed, accessible explanation of what all of our lit professors were talking about contains all of the play and enthusiasm that let me to a degree in English lo these many years ago, and serves as a gentle reminder of what it was I knew and focussed on back then. Foster is just delightful, or he makes me full of delight, or both. I heartily recommend this to everyone, even some of our most accomplished reviewers and readers. Delicious. My only complaint was that it wasn't longer.more
Ever had an English class where you wondered, "How on earth does the professor come up with this interpretation stuff?" Though Thomas Foster himself is a college professor, he clearly remembers what it was like to be a high school or college undergrad reader. In short chapters, he engagingly and clearly explains the motifs, symbols, and patterns one can look for and expect when reading.I truly wish that I had read this informative and entertaining book when I was in college. I was an English major, but I didn't buy a good fourth of what I wrote in my papers, feeling like I was reading too much between the lines. The main issue for me was "How could the author have possibly meant ---- or been reacting to ---- ? How do you know?" I never felt that my English professors answered this satisfactorily, but in one chapter, Foster does: since stories are, at their core, interconnected, an author may have read (and reacted to) one book that was informed by a previous one. Even if the author never intended the connection to the original story, his/her writing has indeed been affected by it because of that later book (I'm not explaining this very well, but trust me, Foster does).I may never read quite like an English professor (I think it would take multiple readings of any text to do so). His attitude that it's OK to enjoy the story at its most literal level and not pick up on every nuance or have exactly his interpretation made me think that I could be a better reader than I have been, and has inspired me to read more texts that take a reader's effort to fully appreciate.more
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Reviews

I read this mostly out of curiosity -- with my BA behind me and my MA in progress, I didn't have much to learn from Foster. To me it's obvious that a garden will conjure up Eden, that the sharing of food is a kind of communion, that a lot of things are metaphors for sex. It doesn't seem to require professorial level training to me, though I went to university in the UK and this book is very explicitly aimed at people from the US. So maybe the expectations for the skill set for a graduate are different. I think for people in the UK it'd be a more useful leg-up for people doing GCSE and A Level -- if they're interested in being A* students, anyway. Once you get to university, this level of reading is expected.

The tone of the book is a little condescending, but otherwise it seems pretty good, anyway. Surprisingly, it doesn't just draw examples from the canon of dead white men, which was good. The allusive nature of it requires quite a wide frame of reference to avoid getting lost and bored, though -- it's hard to learn to see a book in a whole different light when you haven't read it in the first place.more
Just picked it up on a whim, its always on reading lists. Not bad, but nothing earth-shattering if you are a constant reader...more
his wonderfully witty, relaxed, accessible explanation of what all of our lit professors were talking about contains all of the play and enthusiasm that let me to a degree in English lo these many years ago, and serves as a gentle reminder of what it was I knew and focussed on back then. Foster is just delightful, or he makes me full of delight, or both. I heartily recommend this to everyone, even some of our most accomplished reviewers and readers. Delicious. My only complaint was that it wasn't longer.more
Ever had an English class where you wondered, "How on earth does the professor come up with this interpretation stuff?" Though Thomas Foster himself is a college professor, he clearly remembers what it was like to be a high school or college undergrad reader. In short chapters, he engagingly and clearly explains the motifs, symbols, and patterns one can look for and expect when reading.I truly wish that I had read this informative and entertaining book when I was in college. I was an English major, but I didn't buy a good fourth of what I wrote in my papers, feeling like I was reading too much between the lines. The main issue for me was "How could the author have possibly meant ---- or been reacting to ---- ? How do you know?" I never felt that my English professors answered this satisfactorily, but in one chapter, Foster does: since stories are, at their core, interconnected, an author may have read (and reacted to) one book that was informed by a previous one. Even if the author never intended the connection to the original story, his/her writing has indeed been affected by it because of that later book (I'm not explaining this very well, but trust me, Foster does).I may never read quite like an English professor (I think it would take multiple readings of any text to do so). His attitude that it's OK to enjoy the story at its most literal level and not pick up on every nuance or have exactly his interpretation made me think that I could be a better reader than I have been, and has inspired me to read more texts that take a reader's effort to fully appreciate.more
Foster, an English professor at the University of Michigan, writes about literature with an endearing, self-deprecating style, which allows the reader to be entertained while being, if not educated, than at least encouraged in her reading.The main thrust of Foster's book is that the reader should watch for patterns and symbols while reading and that things such as weather, food, sex and violence rarely mean only one thing. In other words, writers are always trying to say more than one thing at a time. Subtext and allegory. Symbol and irony.While he may not bring anything terribly new to the discussion of literature, this is a book I would recommend to any young person who wants to deepen their reading or, for that matter, any reader who wants to graduate from pop fiction to something with a little more meat on its bones.The reader list Foster provides at the end of the book is a fine one.more
Basic refresher of what I learned so many years ago. Never hurts to learn, or to relearn the essentials.more
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