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Reading Empathy

"The formula I generally offer is this: don't read with your eyes."
~page 228 of Foster's How to Read Literature Like a Professor

This was interesting. I remember that Fr. Honeygosky kept warning us in Chaucer class last semester to be careful about viewing the readings with too much of a 21st century bias. While there is no specific right or wrong answer about what literature means, certain ideas make more sense given the background of the literary works than others. We need to keep in mind the ideals and viewpoints of the time periods each work comes from and, as Foster suggests, borrow eyes from the past as we read. We can still keep in mind ways the work would be viewed today, but in order to truly understand and appreciate a work, we can't be too closed minded.

Comments (2)

Alyssa Sanow:

I wrote about a similar topic in my blog. It is important to view the characters' actions, emotions, and motives as they would have been viewed at the time. A similar topic was brought up about Daisy's character in The Great Gatsby. Many people viewing her with 21st century eyes saw her as weak and couldn't understand her reasons for her actions. Viewing her through a lens shaded for the 1920s, however, allows readers to better understand and connect with Daisy as a character. This understanding is an important one when interpreting literature and should always be applied.

Nikita McClellan:

I agree with this statement and I believe it is the best advise Foster has given thus far. One cannot expect to understand if they do not take the time to understand the era in which it came from. Sometimes it helps to know something about the Author as well. I am see that with the poetry that we are currently reading. Knowing that Roethke had manic and schizophrenic disorders made his poetry more understanding to me. Had I not know that about him I probably would not have thought much about his poetry.

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