Good Point...sometimes

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I read How to Read Literature Like a Professor in high school. I hated it then, and I'm hating it again this time around. One (of many) of my problems with this book is the way that Mr. Foster makes points and then almost always contradicts himself, so in my eyes his points are meaningless. On page 8 he talks about communion and breaking bread with those whose company we enjoy, and then immediately says, "As with any convention, this one can be violated." To most people this would just seem a way to clear up that this particular point is not fact. However, I know from experience that he does this with almost every single point that he makes. Sure, I have a personal bias against this book, but I am trying to get by it because he does make some good points, even though he will renounce said points shortly thereafter.

3 Comments

It seems to me that Foster is consistently making the point that we shouldn't expect literature to follow the same kind of rules that you would find in math or science. That's one of the reasons I chose this book.

Next time when you post an agenda item, don't forget to include a link that points back to the assignment web page.

Lou Gagliardi said:

Andrew,

When I was at SHU and I read this book for Dr. Jerz's class, I found the same thing wrong with Foster. His points were good, and well-meaning; but then he would contradict what he said.

The best advice I can give is bear with it, and realize that as Dr. J said Foster is just showing that like in life, literature doesn't always follow the rules that we expect it too.

Matt Henderson said:

What you're pointing out seems to me to be the most frustrating and also the most rewarding thing about studying literature. There really are no "rules" that writers follow; even basic grammar and syntax can sometimes be thrown out the window. The only thing you can do is look at patterns and tendencies that recur throughout numerous works of literature. When writers break with these conventions, it's usually intentional and it can be just as meaningful as when they follow them. I think it's one of those "the exception proves the rule"-type deals. For example, on page 8, right after the sentence you mentioned, he mentions characters like a Mafia don may invite their enemies to lunch and then have them killed right afterward. This can be a very calculated move on the part of a writer to make the reader say, "Wow! What a creep! That guy made us think he was being all peaceful having communion with him and then he shot him! What a low-down two-timer!" or something like that. Although literary conventions get broken often, I think it's important to know what they are because the writer usually is trying to make a point in frustrating your expectations. But if you don't really have a certain expectation in the first place, the effect isn't as powerful, in my opinion. That's why I think this book can be helpful.

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