How to Read Lit Like a Prof Notes

3608 Words Jul 22nd, 2008 15 Pages
From How to Read Literature Like a Professor
Thomas C. Foster
Notes by Marti Nelson

1. Every Trip is a Quest (except when it’s not):
a. A quester
b. A place to go
c. A stated reason to go there
d. Challenges and trials
e. The real reason to go—always self-knowledge
2. Nice to Eat With You: Acts of Communion
a. Whenever people eat or drink together, it’s communion
b. Not usually religious
c. An act of sharing and peace
d. A failed meal carries negative connotations
3. Nice to Eat You: Acts of Vampires
a. Literal Vampirism: Nasty old man, attractive but evil, violates a young woman, leaves his mark, takes her innocence
b. Sexual implications—a trait of 19th century literature to address sex indirectly
c. Symbolic Vampirism: selfishness,
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It’s Greek to Me
a. Myth is a body of story that matters—the patterns present in mythology run deeply in the human psyche
b. Why writers echo myth—because there’s only one story (see #4)
c. Odyssey and Iliad
i. Men in an epic struggle over a woman ii. Achilles—a small weakness in a strong man; the need to maintain one’s dignity iii. Penelope (Odysseus’s wife)—the determination to remain faithful and to have faith iv. Hector: The need to protect one’s family
d. The Underworld—an ultimate challenge, facing the darkest parts of human nature or dealing with death
e. Metamorphoses by Ovid—transformation (Kafka)
f. Oedipus: family triangles, being blinded, dysfunctional family
g. Cassandra: refusing to hear the truth
h. A wronged woman gone violent in her grief and madness—Aeneas and Dido or Jason and Medea
i. Mother love—Demeter and Persephone
10. It’s more than just rain or snow
a. Rain
i. fertility and life ii. Noah and the flood iii. Drowning—one of our deepest fears
b. Why?
i. plot device ii. atmospherics iii. misery factor—challenge characters iv. democratic element—the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike
c. Symbolically
i. rain is clean—a form of purification, baptism, removing sin or a stain ii. rain is restorative—can bring a dying earth back to life iii. destructive as well—causes pneumonia, colds, etc.; hurricanes, etc. iv. Ironic use—April is the cruelest month (T.S. Eliot, The Wasteland)
v.