Captain Obvious?

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Maybe it's just me, but I didn't really find Foster very groundbreaking or even really that informative. In fact, at least through the first three chapters, I found him to be stating what was quite obvious already.

His first chapter, the one about going on journeys and all the different types of journeys and what they are made of, was perhaps his best. Foster devotes a couple of pages specifically to explain to us how the quest never "involves the stated reason" and that "the real reason for a quest iis self-knowledge." Perhaps I'm being to critical, but I feel that nay of us who made it through high school literature classes can tell you this. Is there anything to Huck Finn rafting down the river with Jim that doesn't involve their own growth? What is the meaning of all of Jane Eyre's travels? This doesn't seem like rocket science. Characters have to go some place to do something, and in the end they come away with more than just that thing; they come away having grown. Not only is that obvious in literature, that's obvious in life. When was the last time you went anywhere to do anything without learning something new? Sure, some journeys are deeper than others, but that doesn't make Foster's claim anymore groundbreaking. All he's really done is remind us that when someone goes somewhere, they are going to learn something from it. Profound? Hardly.



Alyssa Sanow said:

Though Foster's guidance on the interpretation of literature may have seemed quite basic, it was also constricting. I agree that For Dummies should be tacked onto the end of his original title, but it left little room for personal interpretation. This is a dangerous game to play especially if someone is unfamiliar with interpreting literature because they will take his "step by step" literature interpretation to heart and never determine for themselves what the author means!

Carlos Peredo said:

I totally agree! Literature is not meant to be systematized with formulas or flow charts. I am reminded of Dead Poets Society when Robin Williams tears out the pages from the book because the define poetry with a formula.

Christopher Dufalla said:

I agree with the both of you with regards to Foster's room for interpretation. I found that as I took notes on the chapters that I wasn't able to formulate varying ideas or do much else apart from paraphrase and quote him in my notes. Noticing this while still in the introduction, I chose to read the book with regards to the teacher versus student mindset. Perhaps Foster's goal was more to get the reader to focus on opening the mind of a student to deeper meanings within literary works, even though his apparently did not do so for us. Perhaps it's paradoxical, but I feel that he more or less sketched the major interpretations of various literary devices into an unyielding prescription all the while telling us, the to-be professors, that we should have our future students keep open minds.

Andrew Adams said:

I definitely agree with the claim that much of the book is common knowledge. However, some of the later chapters (I had to read this book in high school) do make some interesting points about things most people would never think about. However, this book could honestly just be a bullet point of interesting facts and be much more beneficial. I love the allusion to Dead Poets Society because it captures what I feel about this book. Literature in my opinion, should be enjoyed for what it is. Maybe after reading a work once or twice this information could help in some way deeper the meaning of said work, but trying to restrict literature to some set of rules will, at least for me, decrease the pleasure of that literature.

Juli Banda said:

I agree wholeheartedly about the fact that Foster is stating common facts that to me everyone should notice right away. I have also talked about this point in my blog that he is really stating the obvious. Hopefully in later chapters I will learn something that I didn't already know about context in books because, I don't know about you, but I'm bored with this book already.

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