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17654Re: old favorites and sagging canon

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  • Merlin DeTardo
    Dec 23, 2006
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      Around the time I graduated high school in 1990, I remember
      encountering a similar but longer list of books based on a poll of
      English professors, who were asked what they wanted incoming
      freshman to have read.

      I think most of the books on the new list are read by some high
      school students, but probably no high school student reads all of
      them. From the list, I remember encountering these in my (public)
      high school:

      1. Some of The Works of Shakespeare: Hamlet, King Lear, Macbeth,
      Othello, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Romeo and Juliet, The Taming of
      the Shrew, The Tempest, Twelfth Night, various sonnets.
      2. The Declaration of Independence.
      3. Excerpts from Mark Twain's work but no complete novel.
      4. Some Dickinson poems.
      5. Some Frost poems.
      6. Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter.
      7. Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby.
      8. Orwell, but Animal Farm not 1984.
      9. No Homer.
      10. Dickens's Great Expectations but not A Tale of Two Cities.
      11. No Chaucer.
      12. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye.
      13. Nothing from the Bible.
      14. Excerpts from Thoreau's Walden.
      15. Sophocles's Oedipus.
      16. Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath.
      17. Some Emerson poems.
      18. No Austen.
      19. Some Whitman poems.
      20. Faulkner's As I Lay Dying but nothing else.
      21. Excerpts from Melville.
      22. No Milton.
      23. No Vergil.
      24. Excerpts from Plato.
      25. Excerpts from Marx.
      26. Excerpts from Machiavelli.
      27. Excerpts from Tocqueville.
      28. No Dostoevski.
      29. No Aristotle.
      30. No Tolstoy.

      The foreign language works were in English translation, of course.

      I expect others here officially read about as many as I did, though
      titles will vary between us. By comparision, I wonder: what would
      Tolkien have read at King Edward's? Obviously many of these works
      are too new. Is there a curriculum in Carpenter's biography, or
      perhaps in Hammond and Scull's new book?

      -Merlin DeTardo

      >>---jane Bigelow <jbigelow@...> wrote:
      >> Egad. I indulge in a bit of lamenting the ignorance of the
      younger generation now and then myself, but that book list is
      completely unreasonable. How many people are ready to read *and
      understand* most of those titles before the age of eighteen? Also,
      I'm all for classical scholarship, but I do think we should have
      some contact with modern writers such as, say Tolkien. ;-) As a
      librarian I respect reading tremendously, but people may need to get
      up and do something else now and then, too.
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