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April 08, 2006

Foster (21 & 25)

Foster (selections) -- Jerz: Intro to Literary Study (EL150)

Chapter 21:
Marked for Greatness

"So, if a writer brings up a physical problem or handicap or deficiency, he probably means something by it."

I think a lot of the information in this book is so obvious, yet none of us really pick up on it. Characters who have some sort of handicap are supposed to have that because the author will almost assuredly pick back up on it later on and we realize why it is significant. I liked the examples Foster gave: Beauty and the Beast, Oedipus, Harry Potter, Grendal, Quasimodo, etc. Authors certainly wouldn't just say a character has some sort of deformity and then never tell or show us why it is significant and effects the plot in some way. That would be so confusing. I know characters who have deformities are deformed for a reason, but now that Foster really pointed it out, I think i will definitely look for physical descriptions like that in future things I read.

Chapter 25:
Don't Read with Your Eyes

When I first read the title of this, I was really confused. I think this chapter is so true because it is so easy to automatically think about yourself in different situations; however, you have to think about where the other person is coming from. So it is with literature. Reading things like the Illiad and Moby Dick are so easy to sterotype actions going on in the story and automatically compare them with our modern lives today. I guess when reading old works of literature, I should be more careful about thinking about what was going on during the time it was written and what life was like back then, and not now.

Once again, I think this is such an obvious thing: not reading with your eyes, but we fail to pick up on it.

Posted by AmandaNichols at April 8, 2006 08:41 PM

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I think in high school they conditioned us brutally to look for the ridiculous details (symbols, etc.) and forced us to overanalyze them. This book is almost a wake-up call, just saying to stop analyzing and take it literally. This is something I think they are trying to train us to do in college.

Posted by: Erin Waite at April 12, 2006 11:16 AM

I agree with you that the whole "don't read with your eyes" thing is common sense. Perhaps that chapter is necessary for people more than others, but it was good that Foster points that stuff out. If we didn't detach ourselves from our current lifestyle, we would never feel bad for literary characters.

Who cares if George and Lenny are trying to make it on a farm? I'm never going to be in that situation, right? That's what Foster is trying to avoid.

Posted by: Mike Rubino at April 12, 2006 11:46 AM

You're right, Erin. When students approach symbolism as a list of secret codes that contain *the* meaning that the author deliberately obscures in order to give teachers something to test them about, analysis can seem like a rote activity. I'm sure most teachers don't intend students to take it that way, but if that's the strategy that yields high test scores with the least effort, students are going to be attracted to that approach.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at April 12, 2006 08:09 PM

Erin: I think you're so right, Erin! I've always been trained to find "the" exact meaning, and of course my teachers praised me for finding symbols and intricate details throughout the story.

Mike: I really liked this sentence of yours, "If we didn't detach ourselves from our current lifestyle, we would never feel bad for literary characters." I definitely can agree totally with that. We have to be able to put ourselves in their position at that specific period of time because our interrpretation then could come out dramatically different.

Posted by: AmandaNichols at April 26, 2006 12:06 PM

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