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

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

Author(s):Thomas C. Foster
Area/Classification:Literature
Edition:1
Date Published:2003
Website:None listed
Appropriate for Age:All
Keywords:literature, critical reading, interpretation

Comments:

 

Suitable for both mature students and parents, Prof. Foster’s light-handed and breezy approach to reading in a literary way is a treasure, whether you’re an old hand at this kind of thing or one of those people who always felt that they never quite got what their English teachers were talking about. His purpose is to cut through the gobbledegook of academic jargon and show that it can be both fun and profitable to read literary works with a more interpretive eye.

Along the way he discloses a few of the (apparently) well-guarded secrets of the business and tricks of the trade (e.g., the fact that practically the only kind of poem a student will be called upon to identify by form is the sonnet, and that one can start suspecting that a poem is a sonnet by its “square” appearance on the page — since most sonnets in print are about as wide as they are long). He also exposes some of the unspoken assumptions (whether significant or absurd) that rule the field, and that many of his colleagues probably would prefer to keep hidden.

All in all, he takes what may seem weirdly cryptic and exposes it to the light of day, where it can be a lot less intimidating, considerably more informative, and vastly more amusing. Foster is Professor of English at the University of Michigan, Flint.


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