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How to Read Literature Like a Professor(Thomas C. Foster) NotesIntroductionArchetypes:Faustian deal with the devil (i.e. trade soul for something he/she wants)Spring (i.e. youth, promise, rebirth, renewal, fertility)Comedic traits:tragic downfall is threatened but avoidedhero wrestles with his/her own demons and comes out victoriousWhat do I look for in literature?- A set of patterns - Interpretive options (readers draw their own conclusions but must be able to support it)- Details ALL feed the major theme- What causes specific events in the story?- Resemblance to earlier works- Characters’ resemblance to other works- Symbol- Pattern(s)Works: A Raisin in the Sun, Dr. Faustus, “The Devil and Daniel Webster”, Damn Yankees, BeowulfChapter 1: The QuestThe Quest: key details1. a quester (i.e. the person on the quest)2. a destination3. a stated purpose4. challenges that must be faced during on the path to the destination5. a reason for the quester to go to the destination (cannot be wholly metaphorical)The motivation for the quest is implicit- the stated reason for going on the journey is never the realreason for goingThe realreason for ANY quest: self-knowledgeWorks: The Crying of Lot 49Chapter 2: Acts of CommunionMajor rule: whenever characters eat or drink together, it’s communion!Pomerantz 1
Communion: key details1. sharing and peace2. not always holy3. personal activity/shared experience4. indicates how characters are getting along5. communion enables characters to overcome some kind of internal obstacleCommunion scenes often force/enable reader to empathize with character(s)Meal/communion= life, mortalityUniversal truth: We all eat to live, we all die. We all live, we all die.Works: Tom Jones, “Cathedral,” Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, “The Dead,” Chapter 3: VampirismWe are attracted to dangerVampirism: key details1. older figure violates younger woman2. “vampire” leaves his mark on the victim3. vampire steals innocence4. sexual allure5. older figure= corrupt, outdated values6. victim= stripping away of youth, stripping away of energy, stripping away of virtue7. a continuance of the old “vampire’s” life-force8. the death/destruction of the young victimSymbolism involved in vampirism1. selfishness2. exploitation3. a refusal to respect other people’s independenceGhosts and vampires are ALWAYS about something other than themselvesGhosts: key details1. ghost grows in strength by weakening someone else (holds true of vampires, as well)Types of exploitation:denial of someone else’s right to live in order to satisfy our own needs/desiresplacing one’s own desires above someone else’s needsWe are ALL vampires, sucking away at other people’s force in one way or another. Pomerantz 2
Works: Dracula, A Christmas Carol, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Master of Ballantrae, The Turn of the Screw, “Daisy Miller”, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Women in LoveChapter 4: SonnetsKey details:1. 14 lines2. iambic pentameter3. lines have 10 syllables4. ten syllables long is about as high as fourteen lines in length; square!