Altering Fixed Positions

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"...Don't read only from your own fixed position in the Year of Our Lord two thousand and some. Instead try to find a reading perspective that allows for sympathy with the historical moment of the story, that understands the text as having been written against its own social, historical, cultural, and personal background."
-Foster How to Read Literature Like a Professor p.228

      As soon as I read these lines in the chapter entitled Don't Read With Your Eyes, I immediately thought back to the blog I wrote about The Grapes of Wrath. In my blog, I talked about how I thought it was not a smart move for the Joad's to travel to California, because I knew the heartache that could be waiting there for them. I talked about how I knew this because of things I had learned in history classes about the individuals who poured into California and what devastation many of them found. I claimed that it may have been smarter for the family to just stay at their original home because of this. After reading this weeks assignment in How to Read Literature Like a Professor, I would almost like to take back the things I said previously about the Joad's. I now understand that it is important to remeber the time period while making judgements about characters in a work of literature. Like Foster said, you can not read from a set position, as if the story was happening in the world today. It is unfair to incorporate information into your thought process, if that information was not available to the characters at the time. I feel that this can cause unfair judgements of characters. Again Foster has made an obvious point, that I had never before considered. Forming a level of sympathy in respect to the time period and things of that nature, is a good idea in order to gain all possible things for a work of literature.

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Georgia Speer said:

I agree with this, that it is very easy for us to judge these pieces of literature with a more complex understanding than maybe it was intended. As you mention, “It is unfair to incorporate information into your thought process, if that information was not available to the characters at the time. I feel that this can cause unfair judgments of characters.”
We would often have difficulty keeping our POV of how things are today as to try and hold these characters up to these standards. Foster has shown, at least me, and I am sure others, that we would commit a huge wrong doing in this and possibly miss all opportunities that the writer was really intending for us to take away from the piece of literature. As Foster states on page 232, “We’ll miss most useful lessons if we read it through the lens of our own popular culture.” Foster reminds us that we must take sympathy with the characters that the writer is focusing on in order to understand the messages they are portraying through their characters. It is easier to jump to a conclusion and judgment on a character when it’s obvious, but when it is non- obvious it takes more time and practice to consider these parts into our analyzing a piece of literature.

Alicia Campbell said:

I agree that this could cause unfair judgment and distort the message we get from a work of literature. It is easy for us, in retrospect, to form judgments. Not even in retrospect, but simply being removed from the situation, it is easy to form certain judgments toward a work. Whereas, if you were in that situation at that moment, things would be completely different. We were probably sitting up in our cushy beds reading this story, not considering what it would be like and how we would react if our home was taken from us. As was suggested by Julianne Banda's blog, pretending to be a character in the novel might be helpful in the attempt to understand and relate to the story.

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