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...
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