Getting the most out of it, but not through your own eyes!

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"It seems to me that if we want to get the most out of our reading, as far as is reasonable, we have to try to take the works as they were intended to be taken.  The formula I generally offer is this: don't read with your eyes."  (228) Foster Chapter 25

 

This statement by Foster in chapter 25 seems to be popular so far in the blogs posted that I have read so far.  It stands out to me because it is so very true.  We all go about our business day in and day out in our own ways, and there is nothing wrong with that, only that we are not seeing the bigger picture that writers are trying to open those views to us with their writing.  This statement is not literal in the sense of the actual act of seeing with your eyes, Foster plays on the words in the sense of your interpretations due to your own ideas, thoughts, beliefs, cultural background, historical knowledge and level of analyzing literature.  It is more about being able to separate the world we live in here and now, and the world and time era that the writer is, or was, writing in and how perception would have been at that point in history.  Our own scenarios in our past will narrow our understandings only to what we know.  We have to open our eyes up much broader, to see more of the picture that the writer is trying to paint for us.  Such as, if you will, beyond our peripheral vision, and look harder and deeper into the text for what is not obvious to us.  We all like the obvious, let's admit it, it is less work to get it that way.  So as we all have learned and continue learning that it takes work, practice and more practice to get us to move beyond our own sight.  We all have to admit that even the most liberal people still have difficulty seeing beyond their own views and really truly seeing others perspectives.  The funny part is Foster also mentions on page 228, "So how much is too much?  What can we reasonably demand of our reading?  That's up to you."  How true is this?  Foster shows through page 232, "We'll miss most useful lessons if we read it through the lens of our own popular culture."  Foster has mentioned before, in earlier chapters, that we must be able to ask the right questions, and this is what prescription we will need to focus our lenses.  Just as we need adjustments on our glasses to see better, we need adjustments on our points of view in order to "see" clearer.    

 

 

2 Comments

Jennifer Prex said:

I agree. Some themes in literature are pretty universal through the ages, so we can relate to them better even with viewing it as we would today. Not everything is that way, though, so we do need to keep that in mind as we read. Views change. We need to appropriately adapt our own views while reading in order to keep from distancing ourselves from the literature, therefore being unable to understand it.

Marie vanMaanen said:

I also commented on this chapter of Foster, and I agree with the idea that Foster is encouraging us to see the big picture and not just focus on the little details. I also like that you pointed out that we have to remember the setting and time period of the work of literature that we are reading. For instance, in one of the poems we had to read, "Manners" by Elizabeth Bishop, it is intended for an audience of children from 1918. As some people pointed out in their blogs, the manners Bishop describes are now considered bad ideas that can put oneself in danger. This is just an example of how readers have to keep the correct time frame in mind as they read literature.

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