How to Read Literature Like a Professor


Thomas C. Foster

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Archetype and Pattern Recognition Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Surface Reading vs. Deeper Reading Theme Icon
Symbol and Metaphor Theme Icon
Archetype and Pattern Recognition Theme Icon
Intertextuality Theme Icon
Literature, Life, and Society Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in How to Read Literature Like a Professor, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Archetype and Pattern Recognition Theme Icon

Archetypes are figures which are imprinted on readers’ minds through repetition in myth and other cultural narratives, and which are imitated, modified, and subverted within works of literature. The archetype of the hero, for example, began in ancient myths, and was defined by certain qualities such as strength, courage, and physical beauty. Nowadays, a hero figure may appear in literature who shares some of these qualities but not others, and yet is still recognizable as representing the hero archetype.

Identifying archetypes can be tricky, as they can sometimes come in unlikely forms. For example, a character fitting the hero archetype in contemporary literature might be female, whereas in Ancient Greek times all heroes were male. Discovering archetypes depends on the reader’s ability to see patterns, one of the key skills laid out in the book. Pattern recognition consists not only of identifying patterns within a single text, but between texts as well (and is thus closely related to the concept of intertextuality).

As with symbol and metaphor, there is also a specific section of the book dedicated to archetype, which discusses the concept in the context of C.G. Jung’s psychoanalytic writings and how this was then transferred to literary criticism by Northrop Frye. Foster also examines a selection of key archetypes, including the young person on the brink of adulthood, the vampiric predator, the hero (and his unfortunate sidekick, the surrogate), and the Christ figure. Although all these examples are characters, archetypes can take other forms as well, such as the archetype of the sleepy suburb, dysfunctional family, or haunted house.

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Archetype and Pattern Recognition Quotes in How to Read Literature Like a Professor

Below you will find the important quotes in How to Read Literature Like a Professor related to the theme of Archetype and Pattern Recognition.
Introduction Quotes

The professor, as the slightly more experienced reader, has acquired over the years the use of a certain "language of reading," something to which the students are only beginning to be introduced. What I'm talking about is a grammar of literature, a set of conventions and patterns, codes and rules, that we learn to employ in dealing with a piece of writing.

Page Number: xxv
Explanation and Analysis:

Memory. Symbol. Pattern. These are the three items that, more than any other, separate the professorial reader from the rest of the crowd.

Page Number: xxvii
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 1 Quotes

"Always" and "never" are not words that have much meaning in literary study. For one thing, as soon as something seems to always be true, some wise guy will come along and write something to prove that it's not.

Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:
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:
Chapter 14 Quotes

Fiction and poetry and drama are not necessarily playgrounds for the overly literal. Many times I'll point out that a character is Christlike because he does X and Y and you might come back with, "But Christ did A and Z and his X wasn't like that, and besides, this character listens to AC/DC."

Related Characters: Jesus Christ
Related Symbols: The Bible
Page Number: 129
Explanation and Analysis:
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:

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:
Chapter 27 Quotes

There, just inside the door, stood a wide, shallow tray full of pots of pink lilies. No other kind. Nothing but lilies—canna lilies, big pink flowers, wide open, radiant, almost frighteningly alive on bright crimson stems.

Page Number: 267
Explanation and Analysis: