English How To Read Literature like a professor

Topic: ArtFrida Kahlo
Sample donated:
Last updated: May 7, 2019
Chapter 1: “Every Trip is a Quest (Except When It’s Not)
A quest consists of 5 things: a quester, a place to go, a stated reason to go there, challenges on the way, and a real reason to be going there. The real reason is always self-knowledge, self-fulfillment, self-discovery

Example for Chp 1
Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon – quester is young women who is not very happy in her life but she is not to old to do something different and not assertive- happy to sit on sidelines, drive to Cali from her home in San Fran, past- crazy husband and future- unclear, literal reasons: mae executor of the will of her former love, challenges: strange, danger people, therapist’s office to talk him out of psychotic shooting rampage, real reason: all resources are male and she realizes she has to stand on her own feet and not deal with men in the life.

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Chapter 2: “Nice to Eat with you: Acts of Communion”
Whenever people eat/drink together, its communion. It is sharing or peace (doesn’t have to be religious. Food is something everyone likes and has in common, so we can watch characters get along.

Example for Chp 2
James Joyce’s “The Dead”

Chapter 3: “Nice to Eat You: Acts of Vampires”
Ghosts & vampires are never only about ghosts & vampires.

Classic traits of vampire: older figure- corrupt worn out values, young virginal female, stripping away her youth, energy, innocence, a continuance of life force for older figure & death or destruction of the young woman

Example for Chp 3
Henry James’ Daisy Miller

Chapter 4: “If It’s Square, It’s a Sonnet”
Sonnets have 14 lines, 10 syllables per line. The format makes it look like a square. Two types: Petrarchan- 2 parts, one section 8 lines & one 6 with rhyme scheme. Shakespearean- three 4 line stanzas & one 2 line stanza (couplet), iambic pentameter

Example for Chp 4
Sonnet 73 by Shakespeare

Chapter 5: “Now, Where Have I Seen Her Before?”
No such thing as wholly original work of literature. We are all influenced by what we have seen before. To make connections to past characters, think of new characters in generic forms and you will often find ties in plot usage and/pr characterization. Stories come out of other stories.

Example for Chp 5
The Lion King from Hamlet

Chapter 6: “When in Doubt It’s from Shakespeare…

Many references which are made, by situation or by quote, are references to Shakespeare. Many well known quotes are also attributed to him.

Example for Chp 6
From Macbeth–“by the pricking of my thumbs something wicked this way comes.” Ray Bradbury Something Wicked this way comes

Chapter 7: “.

.. Or the Bible”

Biblical references don’t have to be used spiritually & often used to convey morals. Bible is nonsectarian (all writers get ideas from it)

Example for Chp 7
Steinback’s East of Eden

Chapter 8: “Hanseldee and Greteldum”
The best source for parallels, analogies, plot structures, and references is “kiddie lit”

Example for Chp 8
Hansel and Gretel used in many interpretations in many different works

Chapter 9: “It’s Greek to Me”
Myth is a body of story that matters. In a myth we find the ability to explain ourselves to ourselves in ways that physics, philosophy, mathematics, and chemistry can’t

Example for Chp 9
The tale of Icarus and his flight to the sun

Chapter 10: “It’s More Than Just Rain or Snow”
Foster says, “It’s never just rain. And that goes for snow, sun, warmth, cold, and probably sleet…

” Weather can be a plot device, atmosphere, misery factor, cleaning paradox (rain=clean, mud=dirty). Rain may be restorative- of the past, can show people what they’re looking for, can heal & clarify

Example for Chp 10
Joyce’s “The Dead” has 2 important examples of weather: near the end Gretta Conroy tells her husband about the great love of her life who, although dying of consumption, stood outside her window in the rain and died a week later.Gabriel, Gretta’s husband, sees himself as superior to other people.

He is now at the end of an evening in which he is broken down little by little and looks upon the snow which is falling “upon all the living and the dead” making the snow a great unifier (makes everyone equal so he is no longer superior).

Chapter 11: “…More Than It’s Gonna Hurt You: Concerning Violence”
Violence is one of the most personal and even intimate acts between human beings, but it can also be cultural and societal in its implications. It can be symbolic, thematic, biblical, Shakespearaean Romantic, allegorical, transcendent.

Violence includes specific injury that authors cause characters to inflict on others or themselves (shooting, stabbings). The narrative violence that causes characters harm in general (death & suffering put in for plot advancement). Writers kill off characters to make actions happen, to cause plot complications, to end plot complications, to put other characters under stress

Example of Chp 11
Toni Morrison’s Beloved– Sethe decides to save her children from slavery by killing them (succeeding only once). Morrison wants the reader to grasp the horrors of slavery which allows its victims no decision-making power over any aspect of their lives; the only power they have is the power to die. We see a mother seeing no other means of rescuing her child except infanticide.

Chapter 12: “Is That a Symbol?”
Some symbols have a relatively limited range of meaning, but in general a symbol can’t be reduced to standing for only one thing.

If they can it’s not symbolism, it’s allegory. Actions can be symbolic.

Example of Chp 12
Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Chapter 13: “It’s All Political”
All writing is to some degree political, as everyone is influenced in their writing by their beliefs. We can better understand the political significance of a work by learning a little bit about the social and political conditions of the time in which is was written

Example of Chp 13
Poe- The Masque of the Read Death

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