This synopsis will contain spoilers!
There is no plot for Read Like a Professor to summarize. Instead, I will give a brief overview of the main argument he makes with the text, as well as a few of the "rules" which he encourages the reader to use when engaging literature. Ultimately, Foster wants the reader to ask "why?" when they read. Why did the author choice this word, phrase, setting, structure, death, illness, or violence? What is she trying to tell us through these tools? By considering these choices, as well as the connections authors make with previous works, we can find a depth of understanding that is not at first evident.
Most of the meat of the book consists of Foster giving us specific examples of these occurring in literature. In addition to the brief summary above, I would also like to list a few of the bolded elements that Foster brings attention to: "The real reason for a quest is always self knowledge" "Ghosts and vampires are never only about ghosts and vampires" "It's never just rain" "When writers send characters south, it's so they can run amok" Of course, Foster also points out that these rules, as with any rule in literature, do not always hold true. However, they are meant to be useful guidelines for readers to consider. Providing more detail of Foster's argument seems pointless, however, as it is the examples themselves that are the meat of the work. Also, it is easy to use as a reference so further summarization feels fruitless.
How to Read Literature Like a Professor was simultaneously fascinating, frustrating, entertaining, motivating, and discouraging. I would like to consider each of these individually. The fascinating part came in all …- Feb. 22, 2010
"We - as readers or writers, tellers or listeners - understand each other, we share knowledge of the structures of our myths, we comprehend the logic of symbols, largely because we have access to the same swirl of story. We have only to reach out into the air and pluck a piece of it."Thomas C. Foster in How to Read Literature Like a Professor