Lecture 6-Foster GeoSeasonRain

How to Read Literature Like a
By: Thomas C. Foster
Chapter 19: Geography Matters
What Is Geography?
• By definition geography
is the science that
describes the surface of
the earth and its
features, inhabitants,
and phenomena.
• Examples: rivers, hills,
valleys, mountains,
islands, and etc.
Geography Plays a Major Role in
the Plot of a Literary Work
• Without a setting a story,
poem, or any other piece of
literary work has no mood.
A setting brings mood,
history, and culture to a
story. Without a setting
where would a story be?
When reading the first
question asked is usually
“where did the story take
• In Finding Forrester the
geography plays a major role in
Jamal’s character arch. Set in an
urban Bronx neighborhood poor
black people in New York, the
setting is important in showing
the reader Jamal’s cultural
lifescape and therefore that he is
expected to above all a
basketball player. Thus, setting
develops character as well as
external and internal conflict.
Foster’s Argument
• The second setting is
Forrester’s apartment in the
Bronx. The lighting is dim,
and Forrester has books all
over his apartment.
Forrester’s apartment is his
self imposed cage.
Therefore, setting develops
• “Geography in literature
can also be more. It can
be revelatory of
virtually any element in
the work. Theme?
Sure. Symbol? No
problem. Plot. Without
a doubt?”
Foster’s Argument
“ Geography can also define or even develop
Setting Builds Character In
Edward Scissorhands
• The eerie sameness of all the homes in the
little town that our protagonist Edward is
thrown into contrasts greatly with his
Setting Builds Character In
Edward Scissorhands
• As he attempts to integrate himself into the
community through his topiary designs, his
character becomes more familiar to the
audience. He becomes less of an oddball
Burton creation and more human.
Foster’s Argument
“Geography can also, frequently does, play quite
a specific plot role in a literary work”.
Setting and Plot in Catching Fire
• Much of the action in Catching Fire is set in a
beach and forest environment. This island
setting functions as a plot device to put the
tributes in danger. Moreover as we learn that
the land functions like a ticking clock the
island becomes a living anthropomorphic
character out to destroy.
Foster’s Argument
“ When writers send characters south, its so
they can run amok”.
Blu the Macaw protagonist in Rio is taken from his
cozy home in Minnesota to run amok in Brazil.
Extended Examples
The word high is usually
associated with purity, greater
than, power, etc. So why did
the chicken cross the road?
Why did Jack and Jill go up the
Maybe it was because a higher
power instructed them to or
maybe the next destination
was of better interest than
their previous destination.
The word low is usually
associated with darkness,
unpleasantness, less than, worst,
death, hell, etc. Why in a scary
movie must someone be taken
down to the cellar to be killed?
Why must we always fall down a
People are most likely to go down
to a cellar to hide evidence or to
even hide the killing. At also adds
to the suspense of the thriller.
We fall down the hill because of
gravity, plane and simple.
Foster’s Main Point
“ So, high or low, near or far, north or south,
east or west, the places of poems and fiction
really matter. It isn’t just the setting that
hoary English class topic. It’s place and space
and shape that bring us to ideas and
psychology and history and dynamism.”
How to Read Literature
Like a Professor
By: Thomas C. Foster
If geography matters,
Chapter 20: …So Does Season
Foster’s Argument
• Maybe it’s hardwired into us that spring has to do
with childhood and youth, summer with adulthood
and romance and fulfillment and passion, autumn
with decline and middle age and tiredness but also
harvest, winter with old age and resentment and
death. This pattern is so deeply ingrained in our
cultural experience that we don’t even have to stop
and think about it. Think about it we should, though,
since once we know the pattern is in play, we can
start looking at variation and nuance.
Foster’s Argument
• When our writers speak of harvests, we
know it can refer not only to agricultural but
also to personal harvests, the results of our
endeavors, whether over the course of a
growing season or a life.
How to Read Literature Like a
By: Thomas C. Foster
If geography matters and so does season then
Chapter 10: It’s More Than Just Rain or Snow
Foster’s Argument
• “weather is never just weather. It’s never just
rain. And that goes for snow, sun, warmth,
cold, and probably sleet”
Foster’s Argument
• So what’s special about rain? Ever since we crawled
up on the land, the water, it seems to us, has been
trying to reclaim us. Periodically floods come and try
to drag us back into the water, pulling down our
improvements while they’re at it. You know the story
of Noah: lots of rain, major flood, ark, cubits, dove,
olive branch, rainbow. I think that biblical tale must
have been the most comforting of all to ancient
humans. The rainbow, by which God told Noah that
no matter how angry he got, he would never try to
wipe us out completely, must have come as a great
A Cinderella Story
Click link to see what happens:
A Cinderella Story
Click link to see what happens:
A Cinderella Story
Click link to see what happens:
A Cinderella Story
Click link to see what happens:
So why did it rain?
Rain as a plot device
• The rain forces people together in very
uncomfortable circumstances. The misery
• Rain can be more mysterious, murkier, more
isolating than most other weather conditions.
Fog is good, too, of course.
Rain as Symbol
• Rain is clean.
• One of the paradoxes of rain is how clean it is coming down
and how much mud it can make when it lands. So if you want
a character to be cleansed, symbolically, let him walk through
the rain to get somewhere. He can be quite transformed
when he gets there. He may also have a cold, but that’s
another matter. He can be less angry, less confused, more
repentant, whatever you want. The stain that was upon him –
figuratively – can be removed.
• On the other hand, if he falls down, he’ll be covered in mud
and therefore more stained than before.
On the other hand,
rain is also restorative.
• Rain is the principal element of spring. April
showers do in fact bring May flowers. Spring is
the season not only of renewal but of hope, of
new awakenings.
• Rain mixes with sun to create rainbows. The main
function of the image of the rainbow is to symbolize
divine promise, peace between heaven and earth.
God promised Noah with the rainbow never again to
flood the whole earth. No writer in the West can
employ a rainbow without being aware of its
signifying aspect, its biblical function. Rainbows are
sufficiently uncommon and gaudy that they’re pretty
hard to miss, and their meaning runs as deep in our
culture as anything you care to name. Once you can
figure out rainbows, you can do rain and all the rest.
• It almost always signals some sort of
• The fog can be mental and ethical as well as
• In almost any case I can think of, authors use
fog to suggest that people can’t see clearly,
that matters under consideration are murky.
• Snow is clean, stark, severe,
warm (as an insulating blanket,
paradoxically), inhospitable,
inviting, playful, suffocating, filthy
(after enough time has elapsed).
You can do just about anything
you want with snow.

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