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It's Like Mr. Fantastic

Seems like a bit of a stretch.
Foster (1-3, 5) -- Jerz: EL150 (Intro to Literary Study)

The above mentioned quote sums it up pretty well. Every point that Foster is trying to make seems to be stretched to the limit...some points more so than others. In his favor, however, he did make each point work by the end of the chapter. My initial reaction to each chapter was that it was a major stretch of the truth...that he was taking the symbolism too far...that, in certain cases, there really was no symbolism. It is just as it appears to be...nothing more. By the middle of each chapter, I was still skeptical, but began giving Foster the benefit of the doubt. By the end, he had me at least partially, if not fully, convinced. I still think, however, that not everything can be analyzed as he claims it can. Some analyzations are simply stretched too far.


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Comments (3)

Very true... and Foster is very good at dealing with that skeptic attitude, acknowledging it but also not letting it close the reader's mind to a new idea. (I particularly like his quick reference to his use of "always" and "never" on page 6.)

High school textbooks carefully screen out ambiguities and uncertainties because, quite frankly, most high school students aren't intellectually ready to learn conflicting concepts that are sometimes but not always true. Actually, plenty of students are ready, but the way high school is set up, teachers have so little time to get into those details, and students have already learned that the easiest way to get good grades is to regurgitate the "right" answer, so there isn't a lot of room for this sort of thing until we get to college.

I would say that anything can be analyzed, but that some analyses are more persuasive than others (a better writer might be more convincing) and some are more useful than others.

We might gain very little, intellectually in the terms of advancing human understanding, to analyze Cookie Monster as a voracious creature from the Id, Elmo as the ego (who ironically never says the word I -- he always says "Elmo loves you" or "Do you have anything for Elmo?", and in so doing calls attention to his fixation on himself) and Grover as the superego (or at least SuperGrover, who in the song "The Monster in the Mirror" and the book "The Monster at the End of This Book" manages to overcome the terror he feels when he faces the unknown image of his inner being).

But there -- I just did it, and now the next time I watch Sesame Street with my preschooler, I'll look more carefully at it. My preschooler's interest in Elmo won't be changed in the slightest, but I'll be more alert to the care with which the creators of Sesame Street have designed the characters in order to communicate a specific educational message.


I've often wondered if we're not stretching the author's meaning by looking for symbols and metaphors in every word, or even losing it completely. However there's also the possibility that even the writer did not see a meaning hidden in the work, a passage that reveals a deep and critical human nature hidden in a much more innocent story. And, of course, there's always the possibility that by not looking closely enough we'll miss something the author did intend us to find. Always err on the side of caution, right?

Chera Pupi:

I think everyone who has taken an English course in which they were asked to analyze a work has at one point felt that this way. I do think, however, that Foster knows this and it's kind of his job to point out these things-just in case you hadn't previously thought of it!

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