How to Read Literature Like a Professor 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 Explanation • 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 place.” Example • 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 theme. • “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 characters”. 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 uniqueness. 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 High Low 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 hill? 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 hill? 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 Professor 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 relief. A Cinderella Story Click link to see what happens: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WIPMtp3Vc5w A Cinderella Story Click link to see what happens: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WIPMtp3Vc5w A Cinderella Story Click link to see what happens: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WIPMtp3Vc5w A Cinderella Story Click link to see what happens: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WIPMtp3Vc5w So why did it rain? Rain as a plot device • The rain forces people together in very uncomfortable circumstances. The misery factor. • 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. Rainbows • 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. Fog • It almost always signals some sort of confusion. • The fog can be mental and ethical as well as physical. • 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 • 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.