how to read literature like a professor chapter summaries

“How to Master the Art of Literary Analysis: A Comprehensive Summary of ‘How to Read Literature Like a Professor’ Chapters”


Reading literature like a professor

Reading literature is an integral part of every student’s academic life, especially in higher education. Literary works not only serve as a form of entertainment but also offer an opportunity for intellectual engagement and critical evaluation. However, to truly appreciate and understand literature, one needs to learn how to read it like a professor. This involves delving into the subtext and understanding the literary devices and their significance. The ability to read literature like a professor not only enhances one’s reading experience but also improves one’s analytical skills, which are essential for success in academia and beyond.

Identifying the Quest in Literature


One fundamental concept in literature is the idea that every piece of writing tells a story with a quest. According to Foster, a quest consists of five basic elements. First, there is a quester, or the main character of the story. Second, there is a place they must go, which is the setting of the story. Third, they must have a reason to go there, often a motive related to a great need. Fourth, there will be obstacles standing in their way. Finally, the quester will arrive at a destination where they will often find the object of their quest, which is the resolution of the story. Understanding these elements can help readers to identify the presence of a quest in a story and can help them to better understand the meaning behind the work.

However, not every journey in literature is a quest. Some journeys may start out with elements of a quest but do not follow through completely with the five elements mentioned above. It is important to be able to recognize these differences in order to better understand the meaning of the story.

For example, in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby, the main character Jay Gatsby’s quest is to win back the love of his former flame, Daisy Buchanan. The setting is the roaring twenties in New York. Gatsby’s motive is his love for Daisy, which he believes has always been his one true calling. There are obstacles in his journey, including Daisy’s husband Tom and other characters who stand in Gatsby’s way. However, while Gatsby reaches his destination of reuniting with Daisy, it does not end well and he realizes that his heart’s desire is impossible to attain.

Another important aspect of quests in literature is how they can symbolize deeper themes and meanings. For example, the quest for the Holy Grail in Arthurian legends can represent the quest for spirituality or finding one’s true purpose in life. Recognizing these symbols in literature can help readers discover these deeper meanings and relate them to their own experiences.

Overall, understanding the presence of quests in literature is a crucial step in analyzing and interpreting the meaning of a story. By identifying the quester, setting, motive, obstacles, and resolution, readers can better understand the themes and symbols present in the work.

1. Identifying Communal Meals in Literature

Identifying Communal Meals in Literature

Sharing a meal together is a meaningful act that often signifies a sense of community, intimacy, and familiarity. In literature, communal meals play a significant role in conveying the relationships between characters and the underlying themes of the story.

So how can you identify communal meals in a literary work? Look for passages that describe the preparation and consumption of food by multiple characters. These meals are often depicted as important events that bring people together and allow them to discuss important matters. Additionally, pay attention to the emotions and interactions between characters during mealtimes, as they can reveal key insights into the story.

2. The Significance of Communal Meals in Literature

The Significance of Communal Meals in Literature

Communal meals in literature can serve many purposes beyond simply nourishing the characters. They can be used to symbolize the sharing of ideas, emotions, and experiences, as well as to highlight social hierarchies and power dynamics.

For example, in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, the extravagant meals served at Gatsby’s parties symbolize the excess and superficiality of the Jazz Age. Similarly, the communal meals in J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye highlight the alienation and disconnection felt by the protagonist, Holden Caulfield, as he struggles to connect with others.

3. Analyzing Communal Meals in Literature

Analyzing Communal Meals in Literature

To fully understand the significance of communal meals in literature, it is important to analyze them in the context of the story as a whole. Consider the following questions:

  • What is the purpose of the meal?
  • Who is present, and why?
  • What is the atmosphere or mood of the meal?
  • What are the characters discussing during the meal?
  • What insights can be gained about the characters or the story from the meal?

Answering these questions can help you identify and interpret the deeper meanings behind communal meals in literature.

In conclusion, communal meals are an essential theme in literature. They allow authors to convey important insights about characters, relationships, and themes. By identifying and analyzing communal meals in literature, readers can gain a deeper understanding of the significance and symbolism associated with these important events.

The Vampire Symbolism

Vampire Symbolism

The presence of vampires in literature is not simply about a scare factor. They represent something larger. Therefore, it is vital to identify the symbols in order to grasp the context of the story. The vampire subtext can take on several forms; it could be either pale, wealthy aristocrats or the animated corpses who feed on the living. They could be responsible for spreading contagious illnesses like the plague or symbolize the fear of contagion itself.

Bram Stoker’s novel “Dracula” delves into a deep Catholic imagery, where the undead and the holy represent opposite ends of the moral spectrum. In “Interview with the Vampire,” Anne Rice uses the vampire symbol as a metaphor for a marginalized community seeking acceptance. Bram Stoker, author of the novel Dracula, delves into the fearsome themes of sexuality and disease in his novel. Uncovering these symbols is equal to decoding the language of the storyteller, and it leads to a greater mastery of the text’s meaning.

Vampire Themes

Vampire Themes

It is important to distinguish vampire themes that reoccur throughout literature. For example, Bram Stoker’s Dracula focuses on the civilized world’s vulnerability to succumb to the basest, most savage instincts. The books “Salem’s Lot” and “Let the right one In” use vampires to represent a loss of innocence. The idea of people willingly having their blood sucked out by vampires is used to represent humans submitting to their base impulses. It is a recurring symbol that represents excess in contemporary literature.

Vampirism is also a symbol for the fear of new things, whether it is other cultures, new medical technologies, and new advances in art. Vampires symbolize what is foreign to us. The fear of the vampire mirrors the fear of accepting change and the unknown.

The Vampire Archetype

Vampire Archetype

The concept of the vampire is older than literature itself. From the reign of the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, to the modern sensation of “Twilight,” the archetype has evolved throughout history. They have been used to represent gluttony, homosexuality, the ultimate triumph of evil over good, and prowl around the fringes of society. The archetype is a way for literary storytellers to communicate layers of essential meaning, and it evolves with each work that incorporates it.

The imagery of the vampire archetype brings to mind ancient burial customs, sexual perversity, carnivorous hunger, aristocratic power, and terrible savagery associated with being an outsider. Consequently, the motif is historically connected to changing cultural fears and, subsequently, changing cultural prejudices. The symbolic use of vampires reflects changes in society, even when these changes are not specifically addressed in literature.

Vampire Allegories

Vampire Allegories

Vampires in literature can be allegories for any number of things, depending on the context of the story. For instance,”Interview with a Vampire” by Anne Rice, highlights the ongoing struggle by minority communities to find acceptance in society. It is set in New Orleans, and the main characters seek acknowledgement from normal humans while hiding their true nature. It is a meditation on the complex dynamics of human behavior, and how we demonize what we do not understand. “Salem’s Lot,” is an allegory for the small town mindset, where everyone watches everyone, and the slightest deviation from the norm is seen as a reason for suspicion.

The vampire symbolism is an excellent way of conveying some of the most profound and powerful themes that we, as people, are preoccupied with on a daily basis. It is for this reason that Vampires feature heavily in contemporary literature and why it is essential to look beyond their monstrous appearance and interpret what they represent.

The Sonnet Form Explained


A sonnet is a 14-line poem that follows a strict rhyme scheme and metrical pattern. It originated in Italy, but soon became a popular form in English literature as well. In fact, many famous poets such as William Shakespeare and John Keats wrote sonnets.

The Italian or Petrarchan sonnet consists of two parts. The first eight lines, also known as the octave, describe a problem or a question. The remaining six lines, or the sestet, presents a resolution or a conclusion. The rhyme scheme for an Italian sonnet is usually ABBAABBA for the octave and CDECDE for the sestet.

The English or Shakespearean sonnet, on the other hand, consists of three quatrains, each with its own rhyme scheme, followed by a couplet. The first twelve lines present a problem or a situation. The final two lines, or the couplet, offers a conclusion or a resolution. The rhyme scheme for an English sonnet is usually ABAB CDCD EFEF GG.

Understanding the structure of a sonnet can help readers recognize this form in a piece of literature.

Sonnet Themes and Motifs


Sonnets often explore themes such as love, beauty, and mortality. Poets use specific motifs, such as flowers or seasons, to express these themes. For example, Shakespeare’s famous sonnet 18, which begins “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”, compares a person’s beauty to the beauty of a warm summer day.

Another common motif in sonnets is the use of imagery. Poets use vivid language to create a picture in the reader’s mind. For instance, in Shakespeare’s sonnet 130, he compares his lover’s physical appearance to unflattering objects such as “dun” and “black wires” but then concludes by stating that he loves her regardless of her appearance.

Identifying themes and motifs can help readers understand the deeper meanings of a sonnet.

Interpreting Sonnets


Interpreting a sonnet involves analyzing its meaning and uncovering the poet’s intent. Readers must pay close attention to the language and imagery used in the poem. They should also consider the historical and cultural context in which the sonnet was written.

One helpful tool for interpreting sonnets is to identify the volta, or the “turn” in the poem. The volta typically occurs between the octave and sestet in an Italian sonnet or at the couplet in an English sonnet. The volta signals a shift in the poem’s tone or meaning.

Another technique for interpreting sonnets is to analyze the sounds and rhythms of the poem. Sonnets often rely on iambic pentameter, a rhythm consisting of ten syllables per line with a pattern of unstressed and stressed syllables. Reading the poem aloud can help readers understand its musicality.

Practice Identifying Sonnets


Reading and practicing identifying sonnets can help readers develop their understanding of this literary form. They can begin by analyzing well-known sonnets such as Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 18” or “Sonnet 130”. Readers should pay attention to the poem’s structure, themes, and motifs. They can also practice writing their own sonnets and experimenting with rhyme schemes and themes.

By understanding the sonnet form and its characteristics, readers can enhance their literary analysis skills while appreciating the beauty of this classic poetic form.

6 Tips for Identifying Intertextuality in Literature

Tips for Identifying Intertextuality in Literature

Intertextuality can be a challenging concept for readers to identify, but it is a critical aspect of literary analysis. Here are six tips to help you identify intertextuality in literature:

  1. Pay attention to the author’s choice of language: Authors frequently use intertextuality by including references to other texts through direct quotes, similar phrasing, or allusions. Paying attention to the language used can often reveal these references.
  2. Use contextual clues: Oftentimes, a reference to another text will be related to the overall context of the story. By identifying these contextual clues, you may be able to identify the reference to another text.
  3. Research the author’s influences: Many authors are influenced by the works of other writers and may incorporate elements of those works into their own. By researching the author’s influences, you may be able to identify intertextual references in their literature.
  4. Read the footnotes & annotations: Some literary works come with annotations or footnotes that can help readers identify intertextual references. These annotations will often provide background information and context about specific references in the text.
  5. Understand the historical context: Historical context can provide insight into the literary works that an author may have been influenced by or referencing. Understanding the historical context of a literary work can help identify intertextual references.
  6. Compare & contrast: Comparing and contrasting the literary works of different authors can help identify intertextual references. Analyzing the similarities and differences between works can reveal commonalities, such as themes and motifs.

By using these tips, readers can better identify intertextuality in literature and gain deeper insight into the meaning and context of a literary work.

Shakespeare’s Literary Legacy

Shakespeare's Literary Legacy

William Shakespeare is one of the most influential writers in the English language. His works have been studied and analyzed for centuries, and his impact on literature is evident in modern storytelling. Chapter 6 of “How to Read Literature Like a Professor” explores Shakespeare’s legacy and provides strategies for identifying Shakespearean elements in literature today.

Many writers, from Dickens to Hemingway, have been heavily influenced by Shakespeare’s work. His plays still resonate with readers today because of their timeless themes, relatable characters, and inventive language. Understanding Shakespeare’s impact on modern literature can help readers identify patterns and allusions that enhance their appreciation of literary works.

Shakespearean Elements in Modern Literature

Shakespearean Elements in Modern Literature

Chapter 6 also provides readers with tips on how to identify Shakespearean elements in modern literature. One way to do this is to look for references to Shakespeare’s plays, characters, or themes. For example, if a character in a novel is described as “star-crossed,” this is likely a reference to Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.”

Additionally, Shakespearean language can be identified by its use of puns, metaphors, and allusions. These devices were commonly used by Shakespeare to add depth and complexity to his writing, and they can still be found in modern literature as homage to Shakespeare’s influence.

Why Understanding Shakespeare Matters

Why Understanding Shakespeare Matters

Understanding Shakespeare’s impact on literature is essential for readers who want to gain a deeper understanding of the stories they read. By recognizing Shakespearean elements, readers can appreciate the ways in which modern writers have built upon his legacy and used his language and themes to create new works of literature.

This knowledge is also critical for students who are studying English literature. Familiarity with Shakespeare’s work is often a prerequisite for a comprehensive understanding of English literature, as many writers and works have been shaped by his influence.



Chapter 6 of “How to Read Literature Like a Professor” offers valuable insights into the ways in which Shakespeare’s legacy can be found in modern literature. By recognizing references to Shakespeare’s plays and language, readers can deepen their appreciation and understanding of literary works and gain insight into the ways in which English literature has evolved over time.

Furthermore, understanding Shakespeare’s influence is essential for students of English literature who want to develop a comprehensive understanding of the subject. By building a solid foundation of knowledge about Shakespeare’s work, students can better appreciate the influences and references that appear throughout English literature, enriching their experience and understanding of the subject.

The Bible as a Source of Inspiration

Bible as a Source of Inspiration

The Bible has had a tremendous impact on literature throughout history. Biblical stories, motifs, and characters have inspired writers and artists from all over the world. The stories of Adam and Eve, Noah’s Ark, the Tower of Babel, and the Crucifixion are just a few examples of biblical references that appear in literature. Understanding these references is crucial to understanding the context and themes of the story.

Identifying Biblical References

Identifying Biblical References

Identifying biblical references may seem difficult at first, but it becomes easier with practice. It is important to read the Bible or at least consult a reference book to familiarize oneself with the stories and characters. One should also be able to recognize common biblical imagery such as angels, devils, floods, and plagues. Additionally, paying attention to the language used by the author can also be helpful. For example, if the author uses phrases such as “prodigal son,” “den of thieves,” or “good Samaritan,” these are direct allusions to specific stories in the Bible.

The Role of Religion in Literature

The Role of Religion in Literature

Religion has played a significant role in literature throughout human history. Many works of literature have religious undertones or themes, and some are explicitly religious in nature. Religion can be used to explore complex philosophical and moral questions, to provide comfort and guidance to readers, and to critique social and political issues. Understanding the role of religion in literature can help readers to appreciate the depth and complexity of the work and to connect with the characters and themes on a deeper level.

Biblical Symbolism

Biblical Symbolism

Biblical symbolism is a powerful tool that writers use to convey meaning and create themes in their work. The Bible is full of symbolic language, and writers often draw on this language to create their own symbols and motifs. For example, water is a common biblical symbol representing death and rebirth, while light represents wisdom and knowledge. By identifying these symbols, readers can gain a deeper understanding of the themes and messages of the work.

Religious Allusions

Religious Allusions

Religious allusions are references to religious themes or symbols that appear in literature. These allusions can be direct, such as a character quoting a passage from the Bible, or more subtle, such as the use of biblical imagery to create a mood or atmosphere. Understanding these allusions requires a basic knowledge of religious history, but it can also be helpful to consider the context in which the allusions appear. By analyzing these allusions, readers can gain a deeper understanding of the author’s intentions and messages.

Interpreting Religious Themes

Religious Themes in Literature

Religious themes are common in literature, and they often explore complex philosophical and moral questions. These themes can include redemption, sin, forgiveness, and the role of faith in human life. In order to interpret these themes, readers must be able to recognize the religious references in the work and understand the context in which they appear. It is also important to consider the author’s intentions and to examine the way that the characters respond to these religious themes.

The Bible as Literature

The Bible as Literature

The Bible is one of the most influential works of literature in human history. It is not only a religious text but also a work of literature that has inspired countless writers and artists. The Bible contains a vast array of literary forms, including poetry, prophecy, history, and wisdom literature. Many of the stories, characters, and themes in the Bible continue to resonate with readers today, and they continue to inspire new works of literature and art.

The Importance of Context

Importance of Context

Understanding the context in which biblical references appear is crucial to interpreting their meaning. The Bible was written in a specific historical and cultural context, and it is important to consider these factors when interpreting its messages. Additionally, the author’s intentions and the intended audience should also be taken into account. By considering the context of the work, readers can gain a deeper understanding of the themes and ideas that are being conveyed.



Understanding biblical references is essential to understanding many works of literature. By familiarizing oneself with biblical stories, symbols, and allusions, readers can gain a deeper understanding of the themes and messages of the work. Additionally, recognizing the role of religion in literature can help readers to appreciate the depth and complexity of the work and connect with the characters and themes on a deeper level. Ultimately, understanding the context in which these references appear is crucial to interpreting their meaning and understanding the work as a whole.

What Makes a Story a Fairy Tale?

fairy tale books

In Chapter 8 of How to Read Literature Like a Professor, author Thomas C. Foster discusses how to differentiate fairy tales from other types of stories and how understanding the characteristics of fairy tales can help uncover the deeper meaning of a literary work.

According to Foster, fairy tales typically feature magical or supernatural elements, such as talking animals, witches, and spells. These elements are often used to convey larger themes and ideas, such as the struggle between good and evil or the importance of perseverance. Fairy tales also often feature archetypical characters, like the brave hero, the evil witch, or the wise old wizard.

Another defining characteristic of fairy tales is the use of repetition and motifs. For example, in Hansel and Gretel, the siblings encounter a witch who lives in a house made of candy and lures children inside to eat them. This motif of a seductive, dangerous house appears in other fairy tales, such as “The Three Little Pigs” and “Little Red Riding Hood.”

Fairy tales also tend to have a clear moral or lesson, often communicated through the actions and fates of the characters. In Hansel and Gretel, the children are rewarded for their resourcefulness and bravery in defeating the witch, while the witch herself is punished for her evil actions.

By identifying these elements of fairy tales within a literary work, readers can gain a deeper understanding of the themes and symbolism within the text. For example, a story that features a talking animal or a magical flower may be exploring ideas about humanity’s relationship with nature or the power of imagination.

The Power of Greek Mythology

The Power of Greek Mythology

In Chapter 9 of How to Read Literature Like a Professor, Thomas C. Foster explores the influence of Greek mythology on literature. He discusses how understanding Greek myths can help readers identify references in literature, and ultimately, better understand the meaning and themes of a story. Greek mythology has been a source of inspiration for authors throughout history, and many works of literature make references to the gods, goddesses, and heroes of Greek mythology.

The Importance of Identifying References to Greek Mythology

The Importance of Identifying References to Greek Mythology

Identifying references to Greek mythology in literature is crucial because it provides insight into the author’s intended meaning. Greek myths often embody universal concepts and themes, making them powerful tools for writers to convey complex ideas. By recognizing these allusions, readers can gain a deeper understanding of the story and its underlying themes. Additionally, knowledge of Greek mythology allows readers to appreciate and enjoy literature on a more nuanced level.

Common References to Greek Mythology

Common References to Greek Mythology

One of the most common references to Greek mythology in literature is the use of the Greek gods and goddesses. For example, a reference to Apollo may signal the importance of music or poetry, while mentioning Athena could indicate wisdom or strategy. Similarly, the hero’s journey, which is a common theme in literature, can be traced back to Greek mythology, where heroes like Hercules and Odysseus embark on epic quests. Other common allusions to Greek mythology include the underworld, the concept of fate, and the use of symbolism.

Putting It into Practice

Putting It into Practice

Identifying references to Greek mythology in literature may seem daunting at first, but with a little practice, it becomes easier. When reading a story, be on the lookout for names of Greek gods and goddesses, as well as other important figures like heroes and monsters. Look for patterns in the story that may relate to Greek mythology, such as a character’s journey or their relationship with the gods. Consider how these references contribute to the overall meaning of the story and its themes. Over time, identifying references to Greek mythology will become second nature when reading literature.


Greek mythology literature

Greek mythology has had a profound impact on literature, and understanding its influence is key to analyzing and appreciating literature on a deeper level. By recognizing allusions to Greek mythology, readers can gain valuable insights into a story’s themes and meaning. Identifying references to Greek mythology requires practice, but with time, it becomes easier to spot these allusions and understand their significance. Ultimately, an understanding of Greek mythology enhances the reading experience and allows readers to appreciate literature on a more nuanced level.

Symbolic Weather in Literature

Symbolic Weather in Literature

Weather has always been used as a literary tool. Rain, sunshine, snow, or wind occur on the pages of literature, mainly as a way to reveal the character’s emotions or to give a more profound description of the author’s message. In many stories, the weather plays a more symbolic role, representing themes or ideas presented throughout the work. Chapter 10 of “How to Read Literature Like a Professor” explores weather symbolism and provides examples from various works of literature.

The Symbolism of Rain

Rain Symbolism in Literature

Rain has long been an object of symbolism, but its meaning varies depending on the context in which it appears. In literature, rain can represent sadness, cleansing, rejuvenation, and rebirth, or even signify the presence of danger or evil. In John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath,” rain depicts renewal and hope. The novel’s ending has the protagonist accepting the need to move forward and rebuild in spite of the tragedy, with the rain as a metaphor for a new beginning.

The Symbolism of Snow

Snow Symbolism in Literature

Snow, on the other hand, has often represented isolation and death in literature. In “Ethan Frome” by Edith Wharton, the snow reflects the confined social and personal situations of characters and the absence of hope for the future. The white blanket is emblematic of the frosty and suffocating conditions that are driving the characters to their tragic endings.

The Symbolism of Sunshine

Sunshine Symbolism in Literature

Sunshine is often a symbol of happiness, hope, and positivity. In Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” the character Offred sees the sun as a promise of freedom and hope of escaping from her oppressive surroundings. In this story, the sunshine acts as a positive and empowering force to the character and represents a better future waiting to be achieved.

The Symbolism of Wind

Wind Symbolism in Literature

Wind can represent change or turmoil in literature. In “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the characters are often visited by strong winds that symbolize the transitions and changes happening around them. The wind’s erratic and unpredictable movement represents the instability of the situation, the impossibility of predicting the future, and the feeling of confusion and chaos around them.


Weather Symbolism in Literature

Understanding weather symbolism in literature can provide a more profound reading experience and give a deeper insight into the author’s message. Rain, snow, sunshine, and wind have always played a vital role in literature, and in many cases, it is possible to pick up on the various symbols the weather represents. Chapter 10 of “How to Read Literature Like a Professor” thoroughly analyzes weather symbolism and how to identify and interpret it in various works, enriching the readers’ literary comprehension and experience.

Understanding the Significance of Violence in Literature

Violence in literature

Violence is a dominant theme in several literary works across different genres. It’s used to create an impact, portray a particular message, and evoke a strong emotional response in readers. In Chapter 11 of How to Read Literature Like a Professor, Thomas C. Foster discusses how violence is more than what meets the eye and how it could have more profound meanings than just a physical altercation in the plot.

Foster explores the implications of violent scenes in literature and how they could contribute to character development, thematic exploration, and plot advancement. He suggests that when analyzing violent scenes in literature, it’s vital to pay attention to the context, imagery, and language used to describe the violence. By doing so, readers could decode the deeper meanings and messages therein.

The Different Types of Violence in Literature

Different types of violence in literature

Foster identifies four categories of violence in literature that could offer insight into the story; Narrative violence, character-deployed violence, authorial violence, and symbolic violence. Narrative violence involves violent scenes that are crucial in communicating the plot or events in the story. Character-deployed violence is violence carried out by specific characters in the story, contributing to their development and revealing their motivations. Authorial violence is violence that the writer uses in the story to achieve a particular effect, while symbolic violence is violence that contributes to meaning and theme, often through metaphorical representations.

Foster suggests that understanding the specific type of violence being conveyed, and its purpose is key to breaking down the literary work’s meaning and purpose fully. For instance, the violent murder of Julius Caesar in William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar is a narrative violence that progresses the story’s events. In contrast, a character-deployed violence example would be when Lady Macbeth compels Macbeth to murder King Duncan in Macbeth, which advances character development and motivations.

The Implications of Violence in Literature

Implications of violence in literature

Violence in literature often has essential implications for the story, the characters, and the reader. Foster believes that writers use violence to elicit emotional and intellectual responses in the reader to deepen their understanding of the themes, messages, and morality of the story. Additionally, he suggests that violence can be an effective tool in exposing the darker sides of human nature, society’s shortcomings, and cultural tensions.

Foster advises that to understand the implications of violence in literature; readers must analyze the violence’s context and the literary devices employed in the description. For example, the violence of the lynching of Tom Robinson in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird serves to expose the deep-seated racism prevalent in society and its effects. The novel explores how prejudice could lead to unjust violence against innocent people.


Violence is a common yet intricate theme in literature, often communicating more profound meanings through its literary depictions. Analyzing violence in literature demands readers to consider its context, the literary devices utilized in its description, and its implications for character development, plot advancement, and theme exploration. By doing so, readers could uncover the hidden messages behind the violence in the story.

Introduction to Chapter 12: Is That a Symbol?

Books and symbols

Chapter 12 of How to Read Literature Like a Professor is titled “Is That a Symbol?” In this chapter, author Thomas C. Foster explains the role of symbols in literature and explores how they are used to convey deeper meaning. Symbols can add layers of complexity to a story and provide insight into the characters and themes.

The Purpose of Symbols in Literature

Symbols in literature

Symbols are objects, characters, colors, or events in a story that represent something else, beyond their literal meaning. They are used to express complex ideas, emotions, and themes. Symbols often evoke emotions in the reader and help to create a deeper connection to the story. For example, a red rose can symbolize love or passion, while a skull can symbolize death or danger.

Identifying Symbols in Literature

Reading symbol

Identifying symbols in literature can be challenging, as they are often subtle and require a careful reading of the text. However, there are certain clues that can help readers identify symbols, such as repetition, contrast, and context. If an object or image is mentioned repeatedly throughout the story, it is likely a symbol. Similarly, if two objects or images are contrasted, they may represent opposing ideas or themes.

The Importance of Context

Context in literature

Context is crucial when interpreting symbols in literature. The meaning of a symbol can vary depending on the time period, culture, and historical context of the story. For example, a white flag may symbolize surrender in one culture but represent a truce in another. Similarly, the color black may be associated with death in Western cultures, but in some African cultures, it is a symbol of rebirth and regeneration.

Why Symbols Matter

Symbolism in art

Symbols add depth and complexity to literature, enhancing the reader’s understanding of the story and the characters. They can also create a bridge between the writer and the reader, inviting the reader to interpret and explore the story on a deeper level. Symbols can evoke emotion, create atmosphere, and provide insight into the themes and motifs of the story.



In Chapter 12, Thomas C. Foster highlights the importance of symbols in literature. He explains how symbols can add depth and complexity to a story, and how they can be used to convey deeper meaning and themes. By understanding the role of symbols in literature and learning to identify them, readers can develop a deeper appreciation for the stories they read.


Importance of Reading Literature Like a Professor

If you’re a lover of stories and literature, then you know how some stories can be quite challenging to understand. Reading literature like a professor is a critical skill to have if you want to have a deeper understanding of the stories you read. In this book, author Thomas C. Foster explores how to read literature, what to look for, and ways to uncover the hidden messages and symbols used by authors.

Foster doesn’t merely give readers a step-by-step guide on how to read literature; he provides insights into how authors carefully craft their works to convey their messages. The book opens up a new way of looking at literature, taking readers beyond the surface meanings to discover symbolism and literary tropes.

One of the significant takeaways from the book is that every work of literature should be approached with an open mind, with the intention of uncovering hidden meanings and messages. Foster argues that everything in literature has a deeper meaning; the characters, settings, plot, everything is symbolic and carefully crafted to communicate the author’s intent. The book teaches readers to read between the lines to discover what is not openly stated and to become engaged members of the dialogue between the author and the reader.

Key Lessons from How to Read Literature Like a Professor

The essential lesson of this book is that there is always meaning in great literature, and the ability to unlock these meanings can enhance your reading experience. Foster encourages his readers to examine literature with a curious mind, to ask questions and look beyond the surface. Undoubtedly, this leads to more profound appreciation and understanding of literature.

Ultimately, the book shows that reading literature should not be a passive activity. Readers must become active participants by engaging with the text, seeking not just a surface-level understanding but digging deeper, looking for symbolism, metaphors, and hidden connections that might not be immediately apparent. The evidence of this process’s effectiveness can be seen in how much more enjoyable, and enlightening reading becomes when creative insights are discovered within the pages of a book. This book equips readers with the skills that enable them to embark on this journey and discover these deep insights.

Overall, How to Read Literature Like a Professor is an excellent resource for anyone who loves books. The book equips readers with the tools they need to take their reading to the next level, to enjoy a more profound understanding of literature, and to have a more fulfilling experience. The book’s importance shimmers through in the insights it provides and the feeling of satisfaction that comes when a reader finally understands a character’s journey or discovers a deeper meaning in the symbolism used by an author.

Related posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *