How to Read Literature Like a Professor Ch 14-26

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Last updated: April 26, 2019
Christ FiguresCh 14: “Yes, She’s a Christ Figure, Too”
List of possible Characteristic for a Christ Figure:-Crucified, wounds in the 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-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 thieves-Creator of many aphorisms and parables-Buried but arose on the third day-Had disciples, 12 at first, although not all equally devoted-Very forgiving-Came to redeem an unworthy worldFoster believes we line in a Christian cultureYou might be a Christ figure if you are: -33 years old-Unmarried, preferably celibate-Wounded or marked in the hands, feet or side (crown of thrones extra credit)-Sacrificing yourself in some way for others (your life is best, and your sacrifice doesn’t have to be willing)-In some sort of wilderness, tempted there, accosted by the devil-Etc.

Examples: Hemingway’s Santiago in The Old Man and the SeaBurgess’s Alex in A Clockwork Orange Many of Flannery O’Connor’s characters

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FlightChapter 15: “Flights of Fancy”
If a person in a work of literature can fly, they are almost always one of the following: a superhero, crazy, a ski jumper, a circus act, departing a canon, suspended on wires, an angel, heavily symbolic, fictionalFlight is freedom. Often in literature the freeing of the spirit is seen in terms of flight.Ex: Hamlet “flights of angels sing thee to thy rest” Claudis, Hamlet’s uncle, tries to pray- his words fly up but his thoughts remain below. The spirit can’t be free b/c of all the guilt he feels about the murder. Horatio, Hamlet’s bestfriend, says Goodnight sweet prince & fly to the angels to rest” you are now free of the quest to find your father’s murderer

SexChapter 16 “It’s All About Sex..”
Sex is so popular of Freud.

His book, The Interpretation Dreams, unlocked the sexual potential of the subconsciousMale symbols: tall buildings, lances, swords, guns,etc.Females symbols: rolling landscapes, chalices and grails (the search for the Holy Grail was all sex)Sex is often code in literature, many times the “code” sexual acts are much more intense and multi-purposed than actual sex.ExamplesLawrence’s “The Rocking Horse Winner”: Paul’s wild ride on the horse = masturbationHank/Williams/George Thorogood song, “Move it on Over”: ‘She changed the locks on my front door, and now my key don’t fit no more’; the Hayes Code in Hollywood (1935-1965) which stated that you couldn’t show bodies intimately in film, so you saw waves crashing on the beach, window curtains blowing in the early morning sunlight after last seeing the characters kissing by that window, or a train entering a tunnel

Sex (continued) Ch 17: “….Except Sex”
When writers write about other things they are most often referring to sexuality to some extent, but when writers actually write about the sex act, It’s never just about the sex unless you are E.

L. JamesSex becomes heavily symbolic when used as the correct type of plot deviceExample: Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange in which the main character, Alex, talks about rape, ‘the old in-out’ and commits it but describes it in his language, Nadsat, which makes the act not as we understand it. Burgess wants to make his character revolting,not make the violence and sex interesting.

Baptisms and DrowningChapter 18: “if She Comes Up, It’s Baptism”
Characters go to the water for: A. wish fulfillment; B. exorcism of primal fear; C.

exploration of possibilities; or D. a handy solution for the author’s built up plot difficultiesIn Morrison’s Song of Solomon it takes a character 3 encounters with water to make it into anything significant (which makes reference to the Holy Trinity)The baptism is not always 100% about rebirth since there are no absolutes in writing. It may not always be associated with spirituality either. A character’s rebirth could just turn him from being a nice average guy to a vengeful creature.Examples: In Guest’s Ordinary people, 2 brothers go out on their boat, storm comes up, one brother dies (the star of the family), the other lives. He feels he doesn’t deserve to be alive but through therapy he is rebornIn Flannery O’Connor’s “The River”, a little boy, having watched baptisms joining people to God on a Sunday, goes back to the river the next day to join God on his own.

He does, by drowning.

GeographyChapter 19: “Geography Matters..”
According to Foster: its rivers, hills, valleys, buttes, steppes, glaciers, swamps, mountains, prairies, chasms, seas, islands, people. In poetry and fiction, it may be mostly people.Geography can be used as virtually any type of literary device, especially characterizationLiterary geography is typically about humans inhabiting spaces, and at the same time the spaces that inhabit humans. Geography is setting, but it’s also psychology, attitude, finance, industry– anything the place can instil in the people who live there.Can be used as a metaphor for the psyche, with the south being their subconscious.

When writers send their characters south, it’s so they can run amok. Whether it’s Italy, Greece, Africa< Vietnam, or Disney World, the characters will have direct, raw encounters with their subconsciousLandscapes: The sublime landscape (the dramatic and breathtaking vista) has been turned into a cliche, but it is still often used.Characteristics of generic landscape: Low (valley, prairie)-- swamps, crowds, fog, darkness, fields, heat, unpleasantness, people, life and death. High (mountains, mesas)-- snow ice purity, thin air,clear views, isolation, life and death.Examples: In E.M Forster's early novels, English tourists find ways of making mischief, usually unwittingly, and not always comically, when they travel to the mediterraneanIn Hemingway's "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" the leopard, dead and preserved in snow on the peak, is contrasted with the writer dying of gangrene down on the plain.

.. The leopard’s death is clean, cold, pure, while the writer’s death is ugly, unpleasant, horrible

SeasonsChapter 20: “..

. So Does Season”

The use of seasons in literature has been used for thousands of years, back to earliest mythology (Persephone’s months on earth vs her time with Hades in the land of the dead (also Hades) to explain the origin of the seasons).Common Meanings of the Seasons : Spring: childhood and youth; Summer: adulthood, romance, fulfillment, and passion; Autumn: decline, middle age, (thanks Shakespeare and others), tiredness, and harvest; Winter: old age, resentment, and deathExample: Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 73”

Physical MarksChapter 21: “Marked for Greatness”
Physical deformity was, in the past, equated with moral deformity, suggesting that one’s proximity to or from God was manifested in external signs. This explains why heroes may be remarked and differentiated from everyone else in some way.

Example: Shakespeare’s Richard III has a bad case of scoliosis (he’s a hunchback). This was done to show him to be as morally and spiritually twisted as his back, making him one of the most repugnant figures in literature.Physical limitations may be given to characters because they mean something, some psychological or thematic point the writer wants to make.

“You give a guy a limp in Chapter 2, he can’t go sprinting after the train in Chapter 24.”Example: Jake Barnes in Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises has been wounded during World War I. He never says, but when he looks at himself naked in a mirror he weeps. He symbolizes a society that has been left barren by the war.

Blindness Chapter 22 “He’s Blind for a Reason, You Know”
Writing blind characters is a great deal of extra work because everything that character does has to reflect his lack of sight, and people have to recognize it in him/her. This extra work can only mean one thing: if a character is blind, you know that character is important, and the levels of sight and/or blindness go beyond the physical.The Indiana Jones Principle: if you want your audience to know something important about your character introduce it early before you need it **INdy’s afraid of snakes, remember, and we knew it from the first scene, even before creditsPhysical blindness may be used as foreshadowingExamples: In Sophocles Oedipus trilogy we meet the character Tiresias, the blind prophet, who know the whole truth about King Oedipus, doesn’t want to reveal it. When Oedipus, who vows to “bring the matter of light”, finds out the truth, he blinds himselfIn Joyce’s “Araby”, the first line tells us the street the young narrator lives on is “blind”; he is blinded by love, then by vanity; he watches the girl at every opportunity, even when the light is poor or the blinds are pulled down, and finally, blinded by his angry tears, he sees himself for the ridiculous creature he is.

IllnessChapter 23:”It’s Never Just Heart Disease”
According to Foster, there is no better, no more lyrical, no more perfectly metaphorical illness than heart disease.”Since ancient times the heart has been considered the symbolic repository of emotion. Sophocles uses the heart to mean the center of emotion within the body as Dante, Shakespeare, Hallmark.

.. all the great writers.”Heart disease= bad love, cruelty, loneliness, disloyalty, cowardice, lack of determination

Illness (Continued)Chapter 24 “…

and Rarely Just Illness”

Principles Governing the Use of Disease in Literature: 1. Not all diseases were created equal (cholera was worse than tuberculosis, but TB was much more popular in literature.) 2. Diseases should be picturesque. Don’t kill of characters in a nasty way. Be like Cleopatra. 3.

The disease should be mysterious in origin. 4. The disease should have strong symbolic or metaphorical possibilities (like heart disease) This sometimes makes author bring in objectionable illnesses simply to make a point.Tuberculosis was considered the perfect disease in literature. Also called consumption it was considered a “wasting disease” and dominated literature for a long time (along with cancer)Malaria, or “Roman Fever”, was useful because it translates into bad air. We know now that it comes from mosquitoes and not harmful vapors in hot, moist night airTaboo diseases would have to be treated with care like syphilis was in Ibsen’s A Doll’s HouseUsing diseases that are currently in the social vernacular allows writers to save time since readers will identify with a few symptoms instead of needing a medical dictionary (Gray’s Anatomy) to get them through a story.

Every age has its special disease and ours is AIDS. As Foster puts it, “AIDS is the mother lode of symbol and metaphor”Examples:In James’ Daisy Miller, Daisy suffers from figurative “baid air”– malicious gossip and hostile public opinion while in Rome. When she is ignored by Winterbourne (her love interest) while in the Colosseum at night, she remarks, “he cuts me dead”, she then contracts “Roman Fever” and diesIn Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, a character, Dr.

rank, is dying of “tuberculosis of the spine”. Rank says he inherited the disease from his father’s dissolute living, so instead of TB it’s VD (syphilis)

Reading with YOUR EyesChapter 25: “Don’t Read with Your Eyes”
Don’t read with your eyes. Don’t read from your own fixed position (the time in which you live)Examples: Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues”. You must transport yourself to Baldwin’s 1957Joyce’s “The Dead”. Transport yourself to Dublin on the Feast of the Epiphany, pre-electricity

Irony Chapter 26: “Is He Serious? And Other Ironies”
Irony trumps everything.A sign used in a way other than the one for which it was intended. It makes great use of deflection from expectation.

In Wilde’s The Importance of being Earnest, one character says of another, recently widowed, “her hair has gone quite gold from grief”We have certain expectations behind, say, the meaning of a rainy day and its connotations, but if the writer doesn’t write to fit our preconceived idea then the newfound meaning trumps what we used to know.In Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, Frederic Henry walks into the rain after the deaths of his lover and child. The rain doesn’t have the cleansing effect we’ve come to expect. That’s ironyIn Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange, Alex is considered a Christ Figure, That’s Irony.

Ironic Mode- literary theorist Northrop Frye’s way of describing characters that have a lower degree out autonomy, self-determination, or free-will than most people, making the simple things we do all the time a major struggle,Modern and postmodern writers make such use of irony that we come to expect it. Irony doesn’t work for everyone. The multivocal nature of irony is nothing if you can’t see the layers.

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