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How to Read Literature Like A Professor: Geography Matters

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on 22 September 2015

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Transcript of How to Read Literature Like A Professor: Geography Matters

by Marcus Dalpe and Marysia Moskal
How to Read Literature Like A Professor: Geography Matters
...So Does Season

Geography Matters... (cont.)
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
(Mark Twain)- The trip couldn't have been on any other river. The Mississippi River traveled through the
right landscape and communities at
the appropriate time. Jim encounters
the deep south, and the further he
goes, the more trouble he encounters.
Without this geography, the entire
story would be altered.
Geography vs.
Geography Matters...
Each story is like planning a vacation, the writer always has to ask where they want their characters, and their story, to go.

Some authors base their stories off the geography, while others allow the decided story and plot to dictate the geography

Where is the story going to take place?

How will this geography influence the story?
-the characters?
-the plot?
-the theme?

for most authors, Foster mentions, these questions are
they start writing
Foster highlights that geography isn't just a hill or plain mentioned in a story, it's
more than a simple, literal setting
The big long list includes:
-economics -communities
-landscape -psychology
-language -attitude
-politics -finance
-history -industry

He asks readers to question the author's intent:
-What does it mean that the novel is here or there?
-How does the geography fit in with the literature?
Foster mentions many of the things "geography" can be, or have an impact on that we may not necessarily notice while reading:

Bean Trees
(Barbara Kingsolver)- the horizons of the mountains act as figurative structures which keep the main character in a rural, option-less world. She escapes out west, away from these mountains blocking her horizon, and she is invited by a landscape that evokes growth and development.
-Frankenstein avoids society in the mountains or country side, where he is physically distant from the general population and secludes himself to seek refuge.

-When Frankenstein leaves the mountains, he faces conflict with reality. Shelley has Frankenstein move south (down the hill) for a reason.

"when writers send characters south, it's so they can run amok" (Foster 171)
"The whole village was roused; some fled, some attacked me, until... I escaped to the open country and fearfully took refuge in a low hovel, quite bare, and making a wretched appearance after the palaces I had beheld in the village" (Shelley 74)

-Shelley chooses the Arctic, where the weather is intolerable and cold, for some of the stories geography. This reflects the inner feelings of Frankenstein, he is isolated and dismal, much like the geography

"Literary geography is typically about humans inhabiting spaces, and at the same time the spaces that inhabit humans" (Foster)
Works Cited
Foster, Thomas C. "Geography Matters.../...So Does Season." How to Read Literature like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading between the Lines. New York: Quill, 2003. 163-84. Print.

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein: Mary Shelley. New York: Dover Publications, 1995. Print.
...So Does Season

Each season has a set of characteristics that have been agreed upon by everyone
Characteristics consist of age, mood, emotion
Spring= rebirth, childhood, innocence, and youth
Summer= passion, love, adulthood, romance, fulfillment
Fall= aging, sadness, decline, tiredness, also harvest-finishing a huge task
Winter= old age, discontent, dissatisfaction, anger, hatred, resentment, death
Seasons connect to the character's experience and behavior in novels
These patterns and ideas are ingrained from cultural experiences.
Foster's Example

Henry James, an American author, wanted to write a novel about youth and enthusiasm, which would illustrate the new American republic coming into contact with the emotionless world of Europe
To make it interesting and creative he:
creates new individuals that represent the seasons and countries
a young American naive girl
she represents spring and sunshine
an older and emotionally closed man who used to live in Europe
represents frosty winter
Name: Frederic
These individuals cause the storyline to represent the historical message he wants to get across
The use of seasons also leads the reader to anticipate the end: nothing young can flourish in the cold of winter.
Seasons in Frankenstein
Shelley uses seasons in her novel
to illustrate Frankenstein's attitude when he is creating his monster
Creating his monster: "The summer months passed while I was thus engaged, heart and soul, in one pursuit" (Shelley 63).
"The leaves of that year had withered before my work drew near to a close; and now every day showed me more plainly how well I had succeeded" (Shelley 65).
Dies in the fall:
Frankenstein dies on the ship near the North Pole when it becomes fall, his desire to kill the monster has taken out every piece of energy from him.
One Sentence Summary
Authors ask themselves:
"For about as long as anyone's been writing anything, the seasons have stood for the same set of meanings" (Foster178).
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