How to Read Literature Like A Professor Chapter 13: It’s All Political Nivetha Natarajan September 28, 2011 PAP English: 6
It’s All Political: Analysis • In this chapter Thomas C. Foster says that most of the literary work is written by “men and women who were interested” in the problems of the world (Foster 115). • Therefore their works reflected these political elements in them to a larger extent. • They tried to give their political criticisms as gently as possible and so only strong readers were able to grasp the point.
A Christmas Carol • For example A Christmas Carol looks like a morality play today, but in 1843 “Dickens was actually attacking a widely held political belief, hiding his criticism in the story of a wretched miser who is saved by spiritual visitations” (Foster 108). • Dickens is a social critic, but a furtive one at that because he hypnotizes his readers with his entertaining words so that we as readers will lack the understanding of his major point, to critique social shortcomings.
Foster’s Ambiguous Thoughts About “Political” Writing (I Hate “Political” Writing) • Foster first comments “I hate “political” writing---novels, plays, poems. They don’t travel well, don’t age well, and generally aren’t much good in their own time and place, however sincere they may be” (Foster 109). • Examples of this category are the works of socialist realism of the Sovietera.
Foster’s Ambiguous Thoughts About “Political” Writing (I Love “Political” Writing) • Foster loves certain types of political writing; “Writing that engages the realities of its world---that thinks about human problems, including those in the social and political realm, that addresses the rights of the person and the wrongs of those in power” (Foster 110). • Works that belong to this category are the novels of Charles Dickens, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Toni Morrison, the plays of Henrik Ibsen and George Bernard Shaw, Seamus Heaney’s poetry of the northern Irish troubles and the feminists struggles as seen in the poems of Adrienne Rich and Audre Lord.
Nearly All Writing Is Political On Some Level • Foster lists out some more literary works which are “profoundly political” even though they do not look like it (Foster 111). • To this category belongs D. H. Lawrence’s Woman In Love, works of Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thomas Pynchon, Edgar Allen Poe’s House of the Usher, and Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle. • Foster also goes into detail to explain the “political” aspects of some of these above mentioned literary works.
It’s All Political: Conclusion • Foster concludes this chapter by saying “Writers tend to be men and woman who interested in the world around them. The world contains many things, and on the level of society, part of what it contains is the political reality of the time” (Foster 115). • For example issues like “Power structures, relation among classes, issues of justice and rights, interaction between the sexes and among various racial and ethnic constituencies” find their way into the works of such writers who love the world they live in (Foster 115).
Connection to Great Expectations • Dickens uses political aspects throughout his novel Great Expectations. One example is when he introduces the lawyer Jaggers and demonstrates his powerful authority as a lawyer. “Jaggers would do it if it was to be done” shows the readers the strong responsibility that an individual as a political figure should posses (Dickens 166).
Connection to Everyday Life • Foster’s opinion is “Knowing a little something about the social and political milieu out of which a writer creates can only help us understand her work”(Foster 116). Likewise knowing about an individual’s background and the society in which he derived from, we can conclude and understand more of his or her personality.
Works Cited Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. London, England: Penguin Group, 1996. Print. Foster, Thomas C. How to Read Literature Like a Professor. New York: Harper-Collins Publishers, Inc., 2003. Print.