How to Read Literature Like a Professor

The One Story Symbol Analysis

The One Story Symbol Icon

Throughout the novel Foster refers to the idea that “there is only one story,” and that all works of literature are part of this same enormous, universal narrative. Of course, Foster does not mean this in a literal sense. There is no actual story memorized or written down anywhere from which other pieces of literature are lifted. Rather, the idea of a single story emerges from the sense that, although people’s lives are infinitely varied, we all share a single human experience.

The concept of there being “one story” also helps to understand intertextuality. Although an author might not explicitly reference other literary works, the idea of the single story suggests that all texts are always in dialogue with one another. Readers must therefore search for clues of how this dialogue plays out in a text.

The One Story Quotes in How to Read Literature Like a Professor

The How to Read Literature Like a Professor quotes below all refer to the symbol of The One Story. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Surface Reading vs. Deeper Reading Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Harper Perennial edition of How to Read Literature Like a Professor published in 2014.
Chapter 4 Quotes

There is only one story. Ever. One. It's always been going on and it's everywhere around us and every story you've ever read or heard or watched is part of it.

Related Symbols: The One Story
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation long mobile

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other How to Read Literature Like a Professor quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!
Interlude: One Story Quotes

Don't bother looking for the originals, though. You can't find the archetype, just as you can't find the pure myths. What we have, even in our earliest recorded literature, are variants, embellishments, versions, what Frye called "displacement" of the myth.

Related Symbols: The One Story
Page Number: 199
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

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.

Related Symbols: The One Story
Page Number: 200
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Get the entire Read Like a Professor LitChart as a printable PDF.
How to read literature like a professor.pdf.medium

The One Story Symbol Timeline in How to Read Literature Like a Professor

The timeline below shows where the symbol The One Story appears in How to Read Literature Like a Professor. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 4: Now, Where Have I Seen Her Before?
Symbol and Metaphor Theme Icon
Archetype and Pattern Recognition Theme Icon
Intertextuality Theme Icon
Literature, Life, and Society Theme Icon
Foster claims that the reason this network of intertextuality exists is because “there is only one story .” This universal story has always been happening all over the world, and thus connects... (full context)
Chapter 7: Hanseldee and Greteldum
Archetype and Pattern Recognition Theme Icon
Intertextuality Theme Icon
Literature, Life, and Society Theme Icon
...danger of temptation. Like Shakespeare and the Bible, fairy tales are all part of “ one big story ” and so are inherently connected to later works of literature. (full context)
Interlude: One Story
Archetype and Pattern Recognition Theme Icon
Intertextuality Theme Icon
Literature, Life, and Society Theme Icon
In this second interlude, Foster returns to the argument that “there is only one story .” He imagines the reader asking what this story is about, but admits that it’s... (full context)
Archetype and Pattern Recognition Theme Icon
Intertextuality Theme Icon
Literature, Life, and Society Theme Icon
While not all writers might think of this “ one story ” in the way that Foster does, pretty much every author will know that it... (full context)