How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster

As common reader, I sometimes face a dilemma: For instance, I have great fun reading a book, then I want to explore it a bit deeper; I find out the story is linked to some history events and there is symbol A or metaphor B and the psycho analysis always lead you to Fraud. Somehow I did understand the work better by doing these but the initial joy of reading is destroyed.  I am sure other readers can manage better than me–they can enjoy the reading while analyse it without too much deconstruction.

This book is very inspiring, its mission, I believe, is not training you to read books as English Professor but introducing some ways for common reader to appreciate literature in a better way–not just” read with your eyes”.

It has discussed the “Quest” threaded through most of stories–what you are looking for is not what you really desired; what you get eventually is not what you planed for at the beginning-expectation vs unexpected change.

Then the author starts more detail discussion of Metaphors and Symbols: Rain, violence, politic, Christianity, sex, water, geography, weather, season, sickness e.t.c. And you were told, once again, it is quite important to read Shakespeare and Bible (which I only read briefly ).

But it is not very hard to understand and find out the symbols and metaphors. The more you read, the easier you could spot them. For Reading is like netting, you have to connect all you have read with connections and relations. Read, think, read, review, read, reconnect, using your knowledge, experience, imagination and intuition.

Personally I like the two chapters the most–“Don’t read with your eyes”,”Is he serious?And other ironies” . That is because I love and read a lot of history which helps me to understand literature better, esp the classic ones. And I am very interested in ironies. I think Ironies is a charm in the world of literature. (I love Mark Twain, Joseph Heller and Woody Allen, all are very good at creating ironies)

Irony trumps everything…That’s irony–take our expectations and upend them, make them work against us…the sign carries with it a customary meaning, but that doesn’t guarantee it will deliver that received meaning…What irony chiefly involves then, is deflection from expectation…the dislocation between our expectations and the reality constitutes a dual awareness, a like of double-hearing that is the hallmark of irony…Irony–sometimes comic, sometimes tragic, sometimes wry or perplexing–provides additional richness to the literary dish.

If you find this book interesting and would like to learn more,there are other books I seriously recommend.

How to Read a Book : The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading by Mortimer J. Adler

How Fiction Works by James Wood

How to Tell a Story by Mark Twain

Reading Like a Writer : A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them by Francine Prose


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