How to Read Literature Like a Professor Summer Reading Questions 1. A Faustian bargain is more commonly known as a deal with the devil. In a Faustian bargain the protagonist is often offered something that he or she wants, but with a price: he or she must give up his or her soul. It appears constantly in literature in many different forms. Faustian bargains are present throughout One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest because of all the bets McMurphy makes. He goes into the ward knowing about the big Nurse’s power, and basically convinces the patients to follow him in her overthrow.
Their price, however, is the risk of being sent to the Disturbed Ward and receiving electro shock treatment or even a lobotomy. In this way, McMurphy can be seen as a satanic figure, who convinces confused and scared patients to bargain what is left of their sanity to take over a Nurse who has ten times more control over their fate. 2. The grammar of literature is what Foster describes as the reader knowing the structure and rules of literature. He says they are a “set of conventions and patterns, codes and rules” that each reader learns and utilizes as they are reading.
They recognize the structure of a paragraph and a sentence and know how to interpret what is on the page in front of them. The reader learns over time this grammar of literature, and he or she develops his or her own way to read and interpret a text. Readers learn the structure of an essay and thus can anticipate with each sentence what is coming next; it is so ingrained in their heads that it comes naturally. We know that a paragraph introduces a topic, gives examples, and then relates those examples back to the initial topic. In this way, the reader has developed a grammar of literature and reading. 3.
Professors use symbols and patterns in a multitude of ways in order to interpret a text. Professors of literature, given their extensive memory and knowledge of literature itself, are bound to recognize the patterns and symbols in nearly every text and relate it to another. They read and think symbolically, meaning they recognize everything as a symbol or something of importance until they realize it’s not employed as a symbol. They constantly question everything in a text in order to find the deeper meaning. They see things as they actually exist, but then also look at the same thing to represent something more substantial.
Professors are also more adapted to recognize patterns in literature, meaning they see within the detail the patterns it reveals. They are able to look beyond the actual story with the plot and the characters and see the patterns the author has implemented. They are able to recognize which elements are actually substantial enough to aid the work and the plot, and which ones are just detail. Their ability to distance themselves from the work is what makes them able to recognize the symbols and patterns that a regular reader may not recognize in a work. 4. There are five characteristics to a quest.
First, there must be a quester. Next, that quester must have a place to go. Third, he or she must have a stated reason to go there. Fourth, there must be challenges and trials during the journey. Lastly, there must be a real reason to go to the place. Usually, the quester doesn’t know it is an actual “quest”. The real reason for the quest is the most important, and usually has nothing to do with the actual, stated reason. 5. The usual reason behind a quest is self-knowledge. Quests are often educational and provide the quester with a learning experience that aids their self-discovery.
The reason for the quester’s youth and immaturity often has something to do with why they are on a quest, and what they end up learning. The only subject that truly matters on a quest is himself or herself. 6. Our questers: McMurphy, Doctor Spivey, and the twelve patients that join them. A place to go: The patients all leave the hospital for a lake to go on a fishing trip. A stated reason to go there: McMurphy wants to teach the boys how to fish and spend some time outdoors. Challenges and trials: The patients first face trouble when they don’t have a signed release form to be allowed to go on the boat, so the captain refuses to take them.
McMurphy then takes the captain back to his office to make some phone calls to sort out the problem. While this happens, the other dock boys start heckling Candy, and the patients, not used to seeing others outside of the hospital, don’t stick up for her and defend themselves. They are not used to having enough confidence to stand up for themselves, since they have never had to, and McMurphy is the only one with enough confidence to yell at the dock boys. Next, the men struggle on the boat when trying to catch fish. None of them know how to reel in a line, and McMurphy is too busy with Candy to help them.
So, they have to learn for themselves how to catch the fish and wrestle it on their own. The real reason to go: the fishing trip marks an important change in all of the patients. They come back even more bonded together than they were before, and full of confidence and personality. They come back and are confident enough to yell back at the dock boys, and even start sharing real, hearty laughs. It teaches all of them that if you try hard enough, you will get what you want. It also made them less afraid of the real world, and made them appreciate what was on the outside. 7. In the real world, breaking bread together is an act of sharing and peace, since if you’re breaking bread you’re not breaking heads”. 8. A meal scene is almost always symbolic because they are so difficult and boring to write. If a writer puts in a detailed meal scene, it must have some symbolic value since meals are almost never of real importance in a story. The writer must have a pretty good reason to include one in his or her story. The meal scene often has to deal with the relationships, good or bad, between characters, and often offer a turning point or pivotal change in the story during said meal.
The typical meal scene is so mundane that for it to be included in a story and take up a lot of writing, it definitely has to have symbolic value. 9. According to Foster, eating in literature may represent a number of things. Firstly, it can represent communion, coming together, and getting along. A meal scene is written to show how characters are getting along or not getting along. It also can be used to form a bond, to find something in common between one character and another. It is a moment and a form of trust. Meal scenes that go wrong are also written for a purpose. Comradeship” at the table is important to convey in a meal scene, whether it is good or bad. The meal scene is vital in portraying the communion of life. 10. A positive communion scene occurs in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest on the last night McMurphy is in the ward. They bring in some wine and open up the drug closet, and have a good time in the ward with no one on duty. It has symbolic meaning because it is one of the few times the patients have an actual fun time together, they bond and realize that life is too short to not have fun.
They enjoy being free of stress and restraints and for once feel like real people again. 11. A negative communion happens in Beloved when Paul D comes to visit 124. He comes and visits Sethe and Denver, both of whom he hasn’t seen in many years and wishes to reconnect with them. However, Paul D’s presence makes Denver uncomfortable and left out. Sethe and Paul D sit down for a meal, and Denver feels alienated. No one comes to their house often, and when someone she doesn’t know comes in who takes her mother’s attention away from her, she is clearly angered. On top of that, Beloved decides to frighten them even more.
She suddenly shakes the house to the point where everyone has to duck and cover, and frightens Paul D. She decides to make the communion negative and show symbolically her disgust and hatred for unwelcome men. 12. There are a couple essentials to a vampire story. First, there is an older figure (typically the “vampire”) that is alluring, dangerous, and representing corrupt values. This older figure then focuses on young, beautiful, innocent women, who are often virginal. This vampire then strips away her youth, her innocence, and corrupts her. When he gets her, he himself grows younger and even more alive than before.
His energy is renewed and his life continues, while hers is sucked away as she becomes more like him. Since he has taken her virtue, her death and or destruction become inevitable. And most times, the motive often has to do with sex. 13. There are a lot of things other than literal vampirism that vampires and ghosts represent in literature. They can represent selfishness, exploitation, and refusal to respect autonomy. The ghost of Hamlet’s father is there to point out a problem, rather than just be a fright. Edward Hyde represents the dark side of every man.
Vampires and ghosts don’t even have to be literal to represent something. They don’t have to appear in visible forms to be considered a vampire or ghost. They are put in a story to scare, haunt, and frighten people, but also to point out problems, teach a lesson, and protect a character. In Beloved, the ghost of Sethe’s murdered daughter embodies the spirit of Beloved as if she were alive. She haunts Sethe’s home and serves as a reminder of what she did. She can be seen as allegorical, as she represents the past haunting the present as a lesson and reminder of the crime Sethe committed.
The relationship between Beloved and Sethe is complicated and often an unhappy one. Beloved’s presence is often destructive to Sethe, Denver, and their home. She creates instability in their household as well as within both women of the house. Though she is dead, she is ever-present, and helps develop the characters of Sethe, Denver, and Paul D. She represents pain and misfortune, but also guidance and hope. 14. Paul Berlin, the protagonist in Going After Cacciato, embodies an author’s “creative process” in many ways. His story is compiled from many other stories, meaning that all the stories ever written all stem from one story.