How to Read Literature Like a Professor - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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How to Read Literature Like a Professor

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  1. Thomas C. Foster How to Read LiteratureLike a Professor

  2. Thomas C. Foster • Professor of English, University of Michigan at Flint

  3. Every Trip is a Quest • A quester • A place to go • A stated reason to go there • Challenges and trials en route • A real reason to go there

  4. Other famous quests…

  5. The real reason for the quest… • Educational; self-knowledge • The questers are often young, inexperienced, immature, sheltered

  6. Nice to Eat With You… • Whenever people eat or drink together, it’s communion; breaking bread • Sharing, sense of community

  7. What it means… • Early lit: sex was taboo…couldn’t write about sex, couldn’t openly show sex …eating scenes with chomping, gnawing on bones, licking fingers, slurping, moaning, groaning…sexual meaning • not all communions are holy • …or even decent

  8. Nice to Eat You: Acts of Vampires • Dracula • Lestat • Edward

  9. What it means… • Vampirism is about selfishness, exploitation, a refusal to respect the autonomy of other people • Evil has to do with sex since the serpent seduced Eve

  10. Essentials of vamp lit: • Young • Preferable virginal female • A stripping away of her youth, energy, virtue • Life force of old male, death or destruction of the young woman

  11. Ghosts and vampires • Ghosts and vampires are never only about ghosts and vampires

  12. Ghosts, vampires, monsters • Ghosts are about something besides themselves • Hamlet: not simply to haunt his son but to point out something drastically wrong in Denmark’s royal household • A Christmas Carol: Marley’s ghost is a lesson in ethics for Scrooge • Dr. Jekyll’s other half: respectable man may have a dark side • Frankenstein

  13. If It’s Square, It’s a Sonnet • Do not begin by counting lines or looking at line endings • Enjoy the experience, then see how the poet worked his or her magic on you • Look for literary techniques and analyze and how and why

  14. Where have I seen this before? • There’s no such thing as a wholly original work of literature

  15. Intertexuality • Stories grow out of other stories, poems out of other poems

  16. Intertexuality • The ongoing interaction between texts and poems • Everything’s connected

  17. Intertexuality • Your understanding of the novel deepens; it becomes more meaningful, more complex

  18. When in doubt, it’s Shakespeare • He’s everywhere, in every literary form you can think of • Every age and writer reinvents its own Shakespeare

  19. The Bard…

  20. The Bible • Loss of innocence, “the fall,” Adam & Eve • A serpent, an apple, a garden, plagues, flood, parting of water, loaves, fishes, forty days, betrayal, denial, slavery and escape, fatted calves, milk and honey • East of Eden, Beloved, Paradise Lost, The Divine Comedy, Song of Solomon, Go Tell It on the Mountain…

  21. Hanseldee and Greteldum • Hansel and Gretel: children lost from home • Alice in Wonderland, Treasure Island, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Wind in the Willows, The Wizard of Oz

  22. C & E • Christian story: two great celebrations • C & E coincide with dates of great seasonal anxiety • The story of the birth of Jesus, and of hope, is placed almost on the shortest and therefore most dismal, day of the year • The crucifixion and resurrection come very near the spring equinox, the death of winter and beginning of renewed life

  23. It’s Greek to Me • Myth is a body of story that matters • Part of our society • The Spartans, The Trojans, Troy, Athens, Romulus, Sparta, Rome

  24. It’s Greek to Me • Parental attempt to save the child and the grief at having failed; the cure that proves as deadly as the ailment; the youthful exuberance that leads to self-destruction; the class between sober, adult wisdom and adolescent recklessness; the terror involved in the headlong descent into the sea

  25. It’s More Than Just Rain or Snow • Every story needs a setting; weather is a part of the setting • Weather is never just weather – it’s never just rain Rain, major flood, ark, dove, olive branch, rainbow Drowning; one of our deepest fears

  26. What it means… • Rain: mysterious, misery, cleansing, restorative (spring); • Rain literary associations: chills, cold, pneumonia, death • Rain mixes with sun to create rainbows (pots of gold, leprechauns, divine promise, peace between heaven and earth • Fog: mental, ethical, physical (can’t see clearly) • Snow: clean, stark, severe, playful, suffocating,

  27. Violence • Is everywhere in literature • One of the most personal and even intimate acts between human beings • Cultural and societal implications • First type: shootings, stabbings, drownings, poisonings, bludgeonings, rape, bombings, hit-and-run accidents, starvations, etc. • Second type: characters are responsible

  28. Violence • Writers kill off characters to make action happen, cause plot complications, end plot complications, put other characters under stress

  29. Violence • It’s everywhere…

  30. Symbolism • Stands for one thing: allegory • Symbols have a range of possible meanings and interpretations • River: danger, safety, freedom

  31. It’s All Political • The story is meant to change us and through us to change society

  32. It’s All Political • Freedom • Self-determination

  33. A Christ figure… • Crucified, wounds in hands, feet, side and head • In agony • Self-sacrificing • Good with children • Good with loaves, fishes, water, wine • 33 years of age when last seen • Employed as a carpenter • Known to use humble modes of transportation, feet or donkeys preferred

  34. A Christ figure… • Believed to have walked on water • Often portrayed with arms outstretched • Known to have spent time alone in the wilderness • Believed to have had a confrontation with the devil, possibly tempted • Last seen in the company of theives • Creator of many parables, aphorisms • Buried, rose on the third day

  35. A Christ figure… • Had disciples, 12 at first, not all equally devoted • Very forgiving • Came to redeem an unworthy world

  36. A Christ figure… • They don’t all hit them marks. They don’t have to be male. They don’t have to be Christian. They don’t have to be good. • No Christ figure can ever be as pure, as perfect, as divine as Jesus Christ. • Look for a character’s sacrifice similar to the greatest sacrifice we know of. • Redemption, hope, miracle

  37. Flights of Fancy • If it flies, it isn’t human If he/she is one of the following: • A superhero • A ski jumper • Crazy (see #2) • Fictional • A circus act • Suspended on wires • An angel • Heavily symbolic

  38. Flights of Fancy • Flying is freedom, escape, wonder, magic • Freedom from specific circumstances but also from those general burdens which tie us down • Flight of imagination • Soul as taking wing

  39. That three letter word… • Tall buildings…male sexuality • Rolling landscapes…female sexuality • Smutty minds…maybe • Knight with his lance…phallic symbol • Holy grail…empty vessel waiting to be filled

  40. It’s all about “you know what”… • Authors and filmmakers didn’t always write about/show sex/sex scenes • Authors subtle • Movie directors cut to waves on the beach or train going into a tunnel

  41. Look for symbols… • Male: lances, swords, guns, keys • Female: chalices, grails, bowls, locks

  42. H2O • Literary characters get wet • Water: death, rebirth, reborn, baptism • Milkman Dead in Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon gets wet three times… • …Father, son and holy ghost

  43. Geography matters… • What does geography mean to a work of literature? • Hills, creeks, deserts, beaches, moors, rivers, etc. • William Faulkner: Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi

  44. Geography matters… • Geography is setting but it can be psychology, attitude, finance, industry – anything that place can forge in the people who live there

  45. Geography matters… • Geography in literature can be a part of theme, symbol, plot… • Can define or develop a character

  46. General rule… • When writers send characters south, it’s so they can run amok

  47. Think high and low… • Low: swamps, crowds, fog, darkness, fields, heat, unpleasantness, people, life, death • High: snow, ice, purity, thin air, clean views, isolation, life, death

  48. Seasons • Spring: rebirth, childhood, youth • Summer: love, adulthood, romance, fulfillment, passion • Fall/autumn: change, middle age, decline, tiredness, harvest • Winter: old age, anger, resentment, hatred, death • Daisy Miller, Frederic Winterbourne

  49. Harvests • Not just agricultural but personal harvests, the results of our endeavors, whether over the course of a growing season or life • …we reap what we sow…we reap the rewards and punishments of our conduct

  50. Music • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZ0CGHwoo6M • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CfTGxpTdyN0