How to Read Literature like a Professor Chp 14-26

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Last updated: May 9, 2019
Chapter 14: “Yes, She’s a Christ Figure, Too”
List of Possible Characteristics for a Christ Figure: 1.

Crucified, wounds in the hands, feet, side, & head 2. In agony 3. Self-sacrificing 4. Good with children 5. Good with loaves, fishes, water, wine 6. 33 years of age when last seen 7. Employed as a carpenter 8.

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Known to use humble modes of transportation, feet or donkeys preferred 9. Believed to have walked on water 10. Often portrayed with arms outstretched 11. Known to have spent time alone in the wilderness 12. Believed to have had a confrontation with the devil, possibly tempted 13. Last seen in the company of thieves 14. Creator of many aphorisms and parables 15. Buried, but arose on the third day 16.

Had disciples, 12 at first, although not all equally devoted 17. Very forgiving 18. Came to redeem an unworthy world Foster believes we live in a Christian culture. You might be a Christ Figure If You Are: 1. 33 years old 2. Unmarried, preferably celibate 3. Wounded or marked in the hands, feet, or side (crown of thorns) 4.

Sacrificing yourself in some way odor others5. In some sort of wilderness, tempted there, accosted by the devil

Example for Chp 14
Hemingway’s Santiago in The Old Man and the Sea- a man no longer young, very poor, humble position (fishing), the old man no good luck, no one believes in him, one young boy believes in him but he can’t hang out with him b/c the town bel he is bad luck, he goes out on a fishing trip, he hooks a big fish that takes him in the wilderness- alone, great physical suffering, hands ripped up, thinks he broke something in his side, bucks himself up with aphorisms, out on the ocean 3 days, people on the land felt he was dead, drags ruined skeleton of fish, his return (like a resurrection), walks up a hill & carries boat, lies out on, next morning the people see the ruined fish but have hope again

Chapter 15: “Flights of Frenzy”
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 cannon, suspended on wires, an angel, heavily symbolic, fictional Flight is freedom. Often in literature the freeing of the spirit is seen in terms of flight

Example for Chp 15
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

Chapter 16: “It’s All About Sex.


Sex is so popular b/c of Freud.

His book, The Interpretation of Dreams, unlocked the sexual potential of the subconsciousMale symbols: tall buildings, lances, swords, guns, etc.Female symbols: rolling landscapes, chalices, and grails (the search for the Holy Grail was all sex- young knight has his lance & grail is waiting to be filled? fertility, the original land where they are from is usually suffering in some way, fertility brings better things for the people)Sex is often code in literature, and many times the “code” sexual acts are much more intense & multi-purposed than actual sex.

Example for Chp 16
Lawrence’s “The Rocking Horse Winner” : Paul’s wild ride on the horse = masturbation- young boy named Paulie, 2 sisters, mother & father always fighting, he hears voices there must be more money, mother materialistic, father not a good provider- failure in business, Paul talks to the stable master who likes to gamble and has supernatural power that when he goes on his rocking horse he can name winning horses, he wants to replace his father in his mother’s eyes by bringing in the money he wants. He engages highly secret behavior involving wildly rhythmic actions

Chapter 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 sex unless you are E.L. James.

Sex becomes heavily symbolic when used as the correct type of plot device.

Example for Chp 17
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 making the violence and sex interesting (focus on horrible char rather than what he is doing). He robbed, rape, etc.- he gets captured & went through behavior modification.

When he was released he found his friends moved on & he felt he had no place in the world

Chapter 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 of the author’s built up plot difficulties. In Morrison’s Song of Solomon it takes a character 3 encounters with water to make it into anything significant (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.

Example for Chp 18
In Guest’s Ordinary People, 2 brothers go out on their bot, storm comes up, one brother dies (star of family, mother’s fav, perfect child), the other lives. He slit his wrist (attempted suicide), when he was discovered his mother was more upset about the blood seeping into her rugh. He feels he doesn’t deserve to be alive but through therapy he is reborn (what he discovers is he finally realizes he was the stronger one, he held on and was able to be rescued.

Mother can’t deal & leaves, he stays with his father) .

Chapter 19: “Geography Matters…”
According to Foster it’s “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 characterization.

Literary 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 instill in the people who live there. Geography 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 subconscious.Landscapes: the sublime landscape (the dramatic and breathtaking vista) has been turned into a cliche, but it is still often used. Characteristics of generic landscapes: 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 & death.

Example of Chp 19
In 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.

Chapter 20: “…So Does Season”
The uses of seasons in literature has been used for thousands of years, back to earliest mythology. Common Meanings of the Seasons: Spring- childhood & youth, Summer: adulthood, romance; Autumn: decline, middle age; Winter: old age

Example for Chp 20
Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73

Chapter 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 marked and differentiated from ever only else in some way. 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 for Chapter 21
Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises Jake Barnes has been wounded during WWI. 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. The woman he loves- goes from man to man b/c she can’t be with him.

Chapter 22: “He’s Blind for a Reason, You Know”
Writing blind characters is a great deal of extra work because everything that the character does has to reflect his lack of sight, & 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, & the levels of sight &/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 the credits. Physical blindness may be used as foreshadowing.

Example for Chapter 22
Joyce’s “Araby”the first line tells us that 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

Chapter 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 do Dante, Shakespeare, Hallmark…all the great writers.”Heart disease = bad love, loneliness, cruelty, disloyalty, cowardice, lack of determination.

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 authors 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 the harmful vapors in hot, moist night air. Taboo diseases would have to be treated with care like syphilis was in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House.Using 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 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.

Example for Chapter 24
In James’ Daisy Miller, Daisy suffers from figurative “bad 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 dies.

Chapter 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)

Example for Chapter 25
Joyce’s “The Dead”. Transport yourself to Dublin on the Feast of the Epiphany, pre-electricity.

Chapter 26: “Is He Serious? And Other Ironies”
Irony trumps everything.

What is irony? 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.

Example for Chapter 26
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 irony.

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