Thomas C. Foster
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I grew up in West Cornfield, Ohio. Donít look for it on a map; itís unincorporated. When you have a cornfield for a backyard, soybeans across the road, and no classmates for a mile in any direction, books become your friends. And my greatest friend was the bookmobile, that travelling chunk of library that is truly a gift of the gods.
My early literary infatuations were Robert Louis Stevenson and Mark Twain. I think fifth grade is perfect for Kidnapped or Tom Sawyer; at least it was for me.
I studied English at Dartmouth College and then Michigan State University, moving forward from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to the twentieth in the process. My academic writing has concentrated on twentieth-century British, American, and Irish figures and movementsóJames Joyce, William Faulkner, Seamus Heaney, John Fowles, Derek Mahon, Eavan Boland, modernism and postmodernism. But I read and teach lots of other writers and periods: Shakespeare, Sophocles, Homer, Dickens, Hardy, Poe, Ibsen, Twain.
Iíve been teaching literature and writing since 1975, the last twenty-one years at the University of Michigan-Flint. In that time, Iíve learned more about literature from my students than in all the classes I ever took. Amazing what questions, explanations, and the odd doubting look can accomplish.
In addition to How to Read Novels Like a Professor (Summer 2008) and How to Read Literature Like a Professor (2003), both from HarperCollins, I am the author of Form and Society in Modern Literature (Northern Illinois University Press, 1988), Seamus Heaney (Twayne, 1989), and Understanding John Fowles (University of South Carolina Press, 1994).