Critical Reading and Symbols

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I found Foster’s chapter entitled “Is That a Symbol” to be very relevant to our current study of short stories and poems.  At one point, Foster writes, “…you start breaking sown the work at hand into manageable pieces.  Associate freely, brainstorm, take notes.  Then you can organize your thoughts, grouping them together under headings, rejecting or accepting different ideas or meanings as they seem to apply.  Ask questions of the text: what’s the writer doing with this image, this object, this act; what possibilities are suggested by the movement of the narrative or the lyric; and most important, what does it feel like it’s doing?” (106).  This quote reminded me of my 11th grade English teacher who first taught me how to critically read a text.  She would actually grade us on our questions and comments that we wrote in the margins of copied texts.  These exercises really helped me to do everything that Foster says we should do to effectively analyze a text.  I have also found that looking at the text from the creator’s perspective helps.  If you think “If I wrote this work, what would I do to make it effective?” then you as the reader will be more easily able to find the author’s hidden meanings and be able to support your ideas with examples from the text.


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