ONR 2016 Sneak Peek: Interview with Thomas C. Foster

2016 coverThe Fly Came Near It has recently released the latest issue of Old Northwest Review which features an interview with New York Times bestselling author Thomas C. Foster. Below is a Michiganders Post exclusive sneak peek.

THOMAS C. FOSTER grew up in Ohio before attending Dartmouth for his undergraduate education and Michigan State University (MSU) for graduate school. He has taught at MSU and Kalamazoo College, and he retired from the University of Michigan-Flint in 2014. In 2003, HarperCollins published Foster’s literary guide, How to Read Literature Like a Professor, which became a New York Times bestseller. Most recently, Reading the Silver Screen: A Film Lover’s Guide to Decoding the Art Form That Moves was published by Harper Perennial on September 13, 2016. The following interview was conducted by way of digital correspondence via the miracle of the Internet. K.M. Zahrt


KMZ: In all the years of teaching literature that you’ve done, and in writing your books about reading and literature, what do you hope your students or your readers learn about literature?

TCF: Ultimately, I want them to become more aware that they actually have some power in shaping the meaning of the works they read. We were all raised to believe that reading was a fairly passive activity, that the “right” answers were in the back of the teacher’s edition, and that we had to guess at what the writers really meant. Active reading, on the other hand, reveals the reader as co-creator of meaning.


KMZ: What do you see happening in today’s American literature?

TCF: The first thing we need to note is how much American writing is being shaped by greater inclusion. My professional life coincided with an explosion in writing by Native Americans and Asian Americans and Hispanic Americans and African Americans and Indian Americans and on and on. All those new voices have really enriched our literature.


KMZ: Your new book Reading the Silver Screen came out in September. What can you tell us about this book?

TCF: I think what the book tries to do, beyond claiming that film is a separate and equal branch of the literary enterprise, is to argue that the medium has its own language (with its own rules, or grammar) and that much of our difficulty with thinking about movies has to do with our failure to understand that that language is unique. The existence of visual images as the main component of film language separates it from written fiction, and the selective nature of the camera lens distinguishes it from stage drama. As for poetry, while reviewers may speak of a film as “poetic,” no one is in danger of mistaking the one genre for the other.


KMZ: What do you enjoy about living and working here in Michigan?

TCF: It is great to have so many outdoor recreational opportunities when I’m not working, of course. But the people are great. One of the things I really enjoyed about teaching in Flint was that a lot of our students came with great life stories because they had already spent years in some other area of endeavor. It was sad that the factories had closed down, naturally, but often they seemed to just be finding their niche. There are a lot of readers and thinkers on the assembly line, you know. And at the nursing station and the police station and the filling station. They were some of the most enthusiastic students—and demanding—you could ever want.

For more, find the complete interview with Thomas C. Foster in the 2016 issue of Old Northwest Review—available now!


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