Review: How to Read Literature Like a Professor – Thomas C. Foster

How to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines

How to Read Literature is meant to help direct people in seeing the deeper meanings behind a text. This advice comes from someone who understands the best: an English professor.


Why this book?: Summer reading for AP Literature next year.

I have very ambivalent feelings about this one, but I know one thing for sure: if you have taken a single English class in or above the high school level, you’ll probably know what’s going to be said in this entire book. Which, for me, really sucks, because I’m taking an AP course in my last year of high school when I was told to read this one, so you can definitely say that I was more than a little pissed off.

How to Read Lit somehow takes some of the most interesting and unique plots that I have heard, and made them about every white, non-disabled, allocishet guy you could know. Foster took a story about an ex-slave and made it about the slavers. Foster wrote with such a privileged gaze that I gagged every time he attempted to deconstruct a passage. So, not only was I just rereading everything I had learned within the past four-ish years, but I was also reading it in a very snobbish manner, when before my teachers at least had the decency to include non-white, non-hetero, non-male people in their discussions. You could tell that Foster never really considered people past the white non-disabled allocishet gaze, and, even though I was reading it, I felt like I was being ignored.

I do have to admit, Foster did bring up some details that I thought were interesting, but he also went into things that even a first grader could tell me. He also had no organization, as he repeated details that he had brought in a chapter earlier as if we had never discussed them for a full length chapter. He goes into how organization is key, blah blah blah, but then contradicts his own words pages later. That’s one of my biggest problems with Foster’s novel: he says all of this is ALWAYS this way, but then a page later says “unless it’s like this, this, or this” therefore completely discounting his work. 

Final Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Overall?

This book would be better titled “How to Read Literature Like the Average White non-disabled Allocishet Dude: A Pompous and Pretentious Guide to Reading Like an Asshole”.

Like I said, I thought there were some very interesting chapters that I wished Foster had worked on some more, like the mythology and Shakespeare chapters. But the ones I was always interested in, he would end abruptly, and go onto something that wasn’t even close to as interesting.

Would I Recommend?

It…really depends on where you’re at with your English education. If you want to get anything out of this book, I would suggest reading it before starting high school, or during 9th grade. Otherwise, it’s all useless. (Or, if you’re just taking English classes now, as a second language or starting back up after dropping out, I would read if you want more in-depth studying to do with literature.)


How to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines

Additional Information:

Published: February 18th, 2003

Publisher: Harper Perennial

Page Count: 336

Genre: Non-Fiction/Reference

Synopsis: via Goodreads

While many books can be enjoyed for their basic stories, there are often deeper literary meanings interwoven in these texts. How to Read Literature Like a Professor helps us to discover those hidden truths by looking at literature with the eyes—and the literary codes—of the ultimate professional reader: the college professor.

What does it mean when a literary hero travels along a dusty road? When he hands a drink to his companion? When he’s drenched in a sudden rain shower? Ranging from major themes to literary models, narrative devices, and form, Thomas C. Foster provides us with a broad overview of literature—a world where a road leads to a quest, a shared meal may signify a communion, and rain, whether cleansing or destructive, is never just a shower—and shows us how to make our reading experience more enriching, satisfying, and fun.

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