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How to Read Literature Like a Professor Paperback – 1 Mar 2003

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Product details

  • Paperback: 338 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; 1 edition (1 Mar. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006000942X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060009427
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 1.9 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 431,439 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 17 Feb. 2006
Format: Paperback
Very entertaining, informative and easy to understand. If you want to brush up on the symbolism in your reading, I would definitely recommend. The only downside is he uses a lot of American literature for his examples of the techniques in practice, due to the fact he's an American professor, and assumes that all his readers will be American too - this does not greatly spoil the enjoyment but clearly it would be better if you are familiar with the texts. On the flipside, this has certainly made me want to seek out some of the novels and short stories that seem to be the staple of American high schools. He even manages to makes something like Joyce's Ulysses seem a less daunting task.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 19 Aug. 2010
Format: Paperback
"And Abraham set seven ewe lambs of the flock by themselves. Then Abimelech asked Abraham, "What is the meaning of these seven ewe lambs which you have set by themselves?" -- Genesis 21:28-29 (NKJV)

Literature professors have a reputation second only to French professors for being rather snooty about those who don't share their expertise and devotion to the Holy Grail of their specialties. Professor Thomas C. Foster is the happy exception, taking great glee in revealing the secrets (it's all connected to everything else) and showing simple ways to grasp more of the intended (and unintended) meanings of literary prose. He makes the subject fun, something I remember very little of from my college classes . . . which were usually pompous, dull, and discouraging.

If you can read at the eighth grade level, you can get quite a lot of benefit from this book. You also don't have to have read very much. Professor Foster provides the information you need to grasp more of the references and to look for more.

I was particularly grateful for his list of rewarding literary books to read. The ones I have read were all superb, and I assume the ones I have still to read will be, too. I was also encouraged to realize that my love of Greek myths would be helpful if I take the time to refresh my memory about those lovely tales that I enjoyed so much as a youngster.

As a writer, I'm grateful to his suggestion that drawing from kiddie lit is the best way to knit together references that will be relatively universal.

The book culminates in a case study where you have a chance to try your wings and compare answers.

Someone who has studied literature will find this book too elementary to be very useful, but if someone teaches literature I think this book can be a great blessing for showing how to make literature much more accessible.

Bravo, Professor Foster!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By S. K. on 3 Feb. 2010
Format: Paperback
I bought this book as I felt I wasn't getting the most out of the novels I was reading. Foster focuses mainly on the novel but does dedicate two chapters to poetry alone. I found the book's main success is in providing a foundation for a greater understanding of the use of symbolism in literature. The use of a light-hearted tone throughout is engaging, and examples from a wide range of sources are employed which help in understanding the topics at hand. I would recommend the book, though perhaps only to those who feel a need to brush up on some literary basics. If you don't need it spelled out in black and white that rain often represents renewal and rebirth then maybe you're already there.
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