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the Literary Canon and high school reading lists

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  • David Lenander
    And what a stupid list, at that. Why only two novels by Dickens, and one by Austen (supposedly the two greatest novelists in English) but (??all!!!?) the
    Message 1 of 4 , Dec 23, 2006
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      And what a stupid list, at that. Why only two novels by Dickens, and
      one by Austen (supposedly the two greatest novelists in English) but
      (??all!!!?) the novels of William Faulkner?? Now, actually, that's
      closer to my own experience in high school, I'd definitely read
      _Absalom, Absalom_ and a number of other Faulkner novels, but no
      Dickens and only two or three Austen novels (none of these for school,
      by the way). Most of the kids who, like my daughter, have read _Great
      Expectations_ seem to have hated it. Only by comparison did she like
      _A Tale of Two Cities_, by the way. (and I think _Great Expectations_
      a surpassingly great book, but I didn't read it until my late
      twenties). If this is really true of a lot of high school kids, I
      don't think they should read _Great Expectations_. I still love
      Faulkner, and Austen, and I still haven't read enough Dickens to really
      say if I like his work overall, but the rest of this list is similarly
      problematic. "The poems of Robert Frost" all of them? I have read
      most of them, but really.... Why so much Frost and no Eliot, Yeats or
      Pound? Or Auden? What about the great 19th C. poets, both Romantic and
      Victorian? How about short fiction (on the whole, I'd pick a selection
      of Hawthorne stories over _The Scarlet Letter_, which however is a
      beautiful book--then again I prefer all of his other novels). How
      about Poe? And the disparity between the "works of Shakespeare" and
      the Declaration of Independence just underlines the absurdity of this.
      At least they're getting some 16th C. sonnets, I guess, along with such
      dubious inclusions as "Troilus and Cressida" and "All's Well that Ends
      Well." Are high school students really ready for (all??) of the
      Canterbury Tales (in Middle English?), or even _Paradise Lost_? (But
      please don't make them read just the first three books, as occurred in
      my College Freshman English class). How about _Samson Agonistes_ or
      "Lycidas" or "L'Allegro," and then fit in some Donne and maybe some
      Cavalier poetry. Why not ask them to read Beowulf and James Joyce's
      _Finnegan's Wake_ while we're at it, and how about the _Confessio
      Amantis_ (which had an enormous impact on me, I could see why CSL liked
      it so well--of course I was in a college Middle English Poets class),
      and _The Pearl_ and _Piers Plowman_. No Hemmingway, but _Catcher in
      the Rye_? _1984_? _Animal Farm_ is a lot better, and easier to read,
      too. But as a stylist and writer and even thinker, Orwell and Salinger
      don't belong on a list with Shakespeare, Milton and Chaucer, or even
      with Melville, Hawthorne and Twain. Why Tolstoy, but not Borges or
      Grass or Cervantes or Goethe, Moliere or Chekhov or .... Well, if
      they've read all of these, what will they read in college?

      But many of these dubious inclusions on a list of 30 great classics of
      Western Civilization do belong on a list of recommended reading for
      high school kids, along with _To Kill A Mockingbird_, books by Toni
      Morrison and Louise Erdrich, Ursula K. Le Guin, Jane Yolen, Terry
      Pratchett (not a lot of humor on that list, was there?), and maybe _The
      Lord of the Rings_. Some of the great classics, like _The Prince_ or
      any number of Shakespeare's plays, or some of the Canterbury Tales
      (adapted into contemporary English, perhaps), or other great classics
      like some of Andersen's fairy tales, _Tom Jones_, _Barchester Towers_,
      _A Passage to India_, _Frankenstein_ or _Alice In Wonderland_, and lots
      and lots of short stories, by writers like Faulkner, Hemmingway, Grace
      Paley, Gene Wolfe, James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, Edith Wharton, Katherine
      Mansfield, and many others. Personally, I think that a number of
      Faulkner short stories would work terrifically in high school English
      classes, and it's fine for individual students to read Faulkner if they
      want to, but how would you teach the great works, _The Sound and the
      Fury_ or _Absalom, Absalom!_ in a high school English class and get
      through the trimester? Likewise, _Middlemarch_ is one of the great
      novels in English, but I really don't think it's practical to put it on
      a high school syllabus. _Wuthering Heights_ can work, though, or _Pride
      and Prejudice _ (especially with wonderful movies and television
      adaptations that students have seen and loved). But this kind of list
      I'm suggesting is exactly what they seem to be teaching in high school
      in my (limited) experience. Well, o.k., I haven't seen Terry Pratchett
      on any lists, or Gene Wolfe, for that matter, but they should be.
      Incidentally, if they want to include some literary or cultural
      critique, some of Harold Bloom would be a great inclusion, but avoid
      Bennett and Will. I asked my high school daughter what she's liked
      best among the books she's had to read for school: her picks: The
      Odyssey and Gilgamesh, but she loved _To Kill a Mockingbird_ best.
      Hated _Tom Sawyer_ and _Great Expectations_. She was also able to pick
      _Briar Rose_ by Jane Yolen from a list for a paper topic, and she liked
      that.

      On Dec 23, 2006, at 7:32 AM, mythsoc@yahoogroups.com wrote:

      > The second is a typical lament about how the younger generation is
      > Letting The Side Down, this time by not having read all thirty of
      > what Wm Bennett, George Will, and Harold Bloom consider essential
      > books before they graduate high school. Leaving aside the fact that I
      > wouldn't trust Bennett or Will to pick my brand of toothpaste, much
      > less arbitrate culture, since I didn't read a number of these until
      > college, and still haven't read some, it doesn't sound like the last
      > trump of doom to me.
      >
      > <>----------------------------------------------------------
      >
      > Time takes its toll on the classics -- among students
      > COLONIE, N.Y. -- The literary canon may not be dead across
      > America's college campuses, but its heartbeat has grown weak and
      > erratic.

      David Lenander
      d-lena@...
      2095 Hamline Ave. N.
      Roseville, MN 55113
      651-292-8887
      http://www.umn.edu/~d-lena/RIVENDELL.html


      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Walter Padgett
      Wow! Now that s a list! What can we do for our children, our pupils or students? It s the ideas, the great ideas that can be found in books that we want them
      Message 2 of 4 , Dec 24, 2006
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        Wow! Now that's a list!

        What can we do for our children, our pupils or students? It's the ideas,
        the great ideas that can be found in books that we want them to understand.
        The artistry, the eloquence are the things we all appreciate and can share
        in together. But the ideas have a power within themselves for those with
        the patience or persistence to comprehend them. Isn't that what literature
        is all about?

        Yet perhaps it is wise to consider what is written by the Preacher in
        Ecclesiastes 12:12 : ". . . of making many books there is no end; and much
        study is a weariness of the flesh."

        I am a believer that books find people rather than the converse.

        Good books come purposefully and in their own unique moment, and they bring
        with themselves the time to read them, to learn from them, to heal and grow.

        Let them all read juvenile fiction, but let us write it and teach it-- the
        wealthy ideas, I mean. Get their attention and they will profit.

        Teaching about Tolkien, at some point, must begin to address the tangential
        or referential connections to other works of literature that express
        meaningful conceptions and feelings of value.

        So all of these works David L. mentions, whether one likes them or not (for
        whatever subjective impressions they make upon our developing tastes), can
        add to an one's meta-contextual reading of _The Lord of the Rings_, as well
        as many other excellent works, whether they are currently counted in
        the Western canon or not, I would argue.

        Adding a few Arab or Hindu works to the list only enriches the soup. If it
        weren't satisfactorily favorable as a "Western" stew, a dose of African or
        Brazilian literature might transform it into something that tastes more like
        "World" stew, or "Powerful" gruel.

        Read them and reread them, I suggest. But only if you can. If not, maybe
        it is better to read something else. Or better yet, watch a movie that
        catches your interest. Maybe a video game is a better way to experience
        literary value. I don't know.

        I hate this part of the argument, when I have to confront the relativism
        expressed in the late Joseph Campbell's pleasant admonition to "Follow your
        bliss!" But I guess that's what I'm expressing here.

        Each to his own, but everyone as a student needs the interest and guidance
        of a teacher. At some point students have an identifiable direction. Let
        us hope always that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear!

        Yet how much of our teaching and guidance do we receive from those living
        now through their words written so long ago that their physical bodies have
        died? Many, and many more yet, I deem.

        Beware Nietzsche, Sartre and the legion of godless Saurons who have marched
        the long march down into the void. They are known by their fruits, are they
        not? Yet they have revealed many lessons to the wise, I guess.

        I'm starting to trip out here. Better just say:

        Thanks, Walter.

        ----------------
        PS

        Let me shoot a thanks to Jane for her congratulations to me for having wit
        and luck in High School. I will admit that between episodes of alcoholic
        stupor, the tragedy of unrequited love, and the healing experience of
        reading Tolkien's works, I did open my mind to the quiet suggestions of a
        couple of attentive teachers during my "lost" adolescence. Perhaps it is to
        their efforts that I can look when next adding a couple more lucky stars to
        my gratitude list.

        Thanks, Walter.


        On 12/24/06, David Lenander <d-lena@...> wrote:
        >
        >
        >
        > And what a stupid list, at that. Why only two novels by Dickens, and
        > one by Austen (supposedly the two greatest novelists in English) but
        > (??all!!!?) the novels of William Faulkner?? Now, actually, that's
        > closer to my own experience in high school, I'd definitely read
        > _Absalom, Absalom_ and a number of other Faulkner novels, but no
        > Dickens and only two or three Austen novels (none of these for school,
        > by the way). Most of the kids who, like my daughter, have read _Great
        > Expectations_ seem to have hated it. Only by comparison did she like
        > _A Tale of Two Cities_, by the way. (and I think _Great Expectations_
        > a surpassingly great book, but I didn't read it until my late
        > twenties). If this is really true of a lot of high school kids, I
        > don't think they should read _Great Expectations_. I still love
        > Faulkner, and Austen, and I still haven't read enough Dickens to really
        > say if I like his work overall, but the rest of this list is similarly
        > problematic. "The poems of Robert Frost" all of them? I have read
        > most of them, but really.... Why so much Frost and no Eliot, Yeats or
        > Pound? Or Auden? What about the great 19th C. poets, both Romantic and
        > Victorian? How about short fiction (on the whole, I'd pick a selection
        > of Hawthorne stories over _The Scarlet Letter_, which however is a
        > beautiful book--then again I prefer all of his other novels). How
        > about Poe? And the disparity between the "works of Shakespeare" and
        > the Declaration of Independence just underlines the absurdity of this.
        > At least they're getting some 16th C. sonnets, I guess, along with such
        > dubious inclusions as "Troilus and Cressida" and "All's Well that Ends
        > Well." Are high school students really ready for (all??) of the
        > Canterbury Tales (in Middle English?), or even _Paradise Lost_? (But
        > please don't make them read just the first three books, as occurred in
        > my College Freshman English class). How about _Samson Agonistes_ or
        > "Lycidas" or "L'Allegro," and then fit in some Donne and maybe some
        > Cavalier poetry. Why not ask them to read Beowulf and James Joyce's
        > _Finnegan's Wake_ while we're at it, and how about the _Confessio
        > Amantis_ (which had an enormous impact on me, I could see why CSL liked
        > it so well--of course I was in a college Middle English Poets class),
        > and _The Pearl_ and _Piers Plowman_. No Hemmingway, but _Catcher in
        > the Rye_? _1984_? _Animal Farm_ is a lot better, and easier to read,
        > too. But as a stylist and writer and even thinker, Orwell and Salinger
        > don't belong on a list with Shakespeare, Milton and Chaucer, or even
        > with Melville, Hawthorne and Twain. Why Tolstoy, but not Borges or
        > Grass or Cervantes or Goethe, Moliere or Chekhov or .... Well, if
        > they've read all of these, what will they read in college?
        >
        > But many of these dubious inclusions on a list of 30 great classics of
        > Western Civilization do belong on a list of recommended reading for
        > high school kids, along with _To Kill A Mockingbird_, books by Toni
        > Morrison and Louise Erdrich, Ursula K. Le Guin, Jane Yolen, Terry
        > Pratchett (not a lot of humor on that list, was there?), and maybe _The
        > Lord of the Rings_. Some of the great classics, like _The Prince_ or
        > any number of Shakespeare's plays, or some of the Canterbury Tales
        > (adapted into contemporary English, perhaps), or other great classics
        > like some of Andersen's fairy tales, _Tom Jones_, _Barchester Towers_,
        > _A Passage to India_, _Frankenstein_ or _Alice In Wonderland_, and lots
        > and lots of short stories, by writers like Faulkner, Hemmingway, Grace
        > Paley, Gene Wolfe, James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, Edith Wharton, Katherine
        > Mansfield, and many others. Personally, I think that a number of
        > Faulkner short stories would work terrifically in high school English
        > classes, and it's fine for individual students to read Faulkner if they
        > want to, but how would you teach the great works, _The Sound and the
        > Fury_ or _Absalom, Absalom!_ in a high school English class and get
        > through the trimester? Likewise, _Middlemarch_ is one of the great
        > novels in English, but I really don't think it's practical to put it on
        > a high school syllabus. _Wuthering Heights_ can work, though, or _Pride
        > and Prejudice _ (especially with wonderful movies and television
        > adaptations that students have seen and loved). But this kind of list
        > I'm suggesting is exactly what they seem to be teaching in high school
        > in my (limited) experience. Well, o.k., I haven't seen Terry Pratchett
        > on any lists, or Gene Wolfe, for that matter, but they should be.
        > Incidentally, if they want to include some literary or cultural
        > critique, some of Harold Bloom would be a great inclusion, but avoid
        > Bennett and Will. I asked my high school daughter what she's liked
        > best among the books she's had to read for school: her picks: The
        > Odyssey and Gilgamesh, but she loved _To Kill a Mockingbird_ best.
        > Hated _Tom Sawyer_ and _Great Expectations_. She was also able to pick
        > _Briar Rose_ by Jane Yolen from a list for a paper topic, and she liked
        > that.
        >
        > On Dec 23, 2006, at 7:32 AM, mythsoc@yahoogroups.com<mythsoc%40yahoogroups.com>wrote:
        >
        > > The second is a typical lament about how the younger generation is
        > > Letting The Side Down, this time by not having read all thirty of
        > > what Wm Bennett, George Will, and Harold Bloom consider essential
        > > books before they graduate high school. Leaving aside the fact that I
        > > wouldn't trust Bennett or Will to pick my brand of toothpaste, much
        > > less arbitrate culture, since I didn't read a number of these until
        > > college, and still haven't read some, it doesn't sound like the last
        > > trump of doom to me.
        > >
        > > <>----------------------------------------------------------
        > >
        > > Time takes its toll on the classics -- among students
        > > COLONIE, N.Y. -- The literary canon may not be dead across
        > > America's college campuses, but its heartbeat has grown weak and
        > > erratic.
        >
        > David Lenander
        > d-lena@... <d-lena%40umn.edu>
        > 2095 Hamline Ave. N.
        > Roseville, MN 55113
        > 651-292-8887
        > http://www.umn.edu/~d-lena/RIVENDELL.html
        >
        > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        >
        >
        >


        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • jane Bigelow
        Walter, I meant the congratulations sincerely, and mean them all the more for knowing a little about the obstacles you faced. However, there is always some
        Message 3 of 4 , Dec 24, 2006
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          Walter,

          I meant the congratulations sincerely, and mean them all the more for
          knowing a little about the obstacles you faced. However, there is
          always some luck involved in life. It starts with small things like
          getting across a street safely--a young family here in Denver didn't,
          just recently. They were crossing quite properly with the light, at
          a marked intersection.

          Wishing you more stars,

          Jane

          Let me shoot a thanks to Jane for her congratulations to me for having wit
          >and luck in High School. I will admit that between episodes of alcoholic
          >stupor, the tragedy of unrequited love, and the healing experience of
          >reading Tolkien's works, I did open my mind to the quiet suggestions of a
          >couple of attentive teachers during my "lost" adolescence. Perhaps it is to
          >their efforts that I can look when next adding a couple more lucky stars to
          >my gratitude list.
          >
          >Thanks, Walter.
          >
          >On 12/24/06, David Lenander <<mailto:d-lena%40umn.edu>d-lena@...> wrote:
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > > And what a stupid list, at that. Why only two novels by Dickens, and
          > > one by Austen (supposedly the two greatest novelists in English) but
          > > (??all!!!?) the novels of William Faulkner?? Now, actually, that's
          > > closer to my own experience in high school, I'd definitely read
          > > _Absalom, Absalom_ and a number of other Faulkner novels, but no
          > > Dickens and only two or three Austen novels (none of these for school,
          > > by the way). Most of the kids who, like my daughter, have read _Great
          > > Expectations_ seem to have hated it. Only by comparison did she like
          > > _A Tale of Two Cities_, by the way. (and I think _Great Expectations_
          > > a surpassingly great book, but I didn't read it until my late
          > > twenties). If this is really true of a lot of high school kids, I
          > > don't think they should read _Great Expectations_. I still love
          > > Faulkner, and Austen, and I still haven't read enough Dickens to really
          > > say if I like his work overall, but the rest of this list is similarly
          > > problematic. "The poems of Robert Frost" all of them? I have read
          > > most of them, but really.... Why so much Frost and no Eliot, Yeats or
          > > Pound? Or Auden? What about the great 19th C. poets, both Romantic and
          > > Victorian? How about short fiction (on the whole, I'd pick a selection
          > > of Hawthorne stories over _The Scarlet Letter_, which however is a
          > > beautiful book--then again I prefer all of his other novels). How
          > > about Poe? And the disparity between the "works of Shakespeare" and
          > > the Declaration of Independence just underlines the absurdity of this.
          > > At least they're getting some 16th C. sonnets, I guess, along with such
          > > dubious inclusions as "Troilus and Cressida" and "All's Well that Ends
          > > Well." Are high school students really ready for (all??) of the
          > > Canterbury Tales (in Middle English?), or even _Paradise Lost_? (But
          > > please don't make them read just the first three books, as occurred in
          > > my College Freshman English class). How about _Samson Agonistes_ or
          > > "Lycidas" or "L'Allegro," and then fit in some Donne and maybe some
          > > Cavalier poetry. Why not ask them to read Beowulf and James Joyce's
          > > _Finnegan's Wake_ while we're at it, and how about the _Confessio
          > > Amantis_ (which had an enormous impact on me, I could see why CSL liked
          > > it so well--of course I was in a college Middle English Poets class),
          > > and _The Pearl_ and _Piers Plowman_. No Hemmingway, but _Catcher in
          > > the Rye_? _1984_? _Animal Farm_ is a lot better, and easier to read,
          > > too. But as a stylist and writer and even thinker, Orwell and Salinger
          > > don't belong on a list with Shakespeare, Milton and Chaucer, or even
          > > with Melville, Hawthorne and Twain. Why Tolstoy, but not Borges or
          > > Grass or Cervantes or Goethe, Moliere or Chekhov or .... Well, if
          > > they've read all of these, what will they read in college?
          > >
          > > But many of these dubious inclusions on a list of 30 great classics of
          > > Western Civilization do belong on a list of recommended reading for
          > > high school kids, along with _To Kill A Mockingbird_, books by Toni
          > > Morrison and Louise Erdrich, Ursula K. Le Guin, Jane Yolen, Terry
          > > Pratchett (not a lot of humor on that list, was there?), and maybe _The
          > > Lord of the Rings_. Some of the great classics, like _The Prince_ or
          > > any number of Shakespeare's plays, or some of the Canterbury Tales
          > > (adapted into contemporary English, perhaps), or other great classics
          > > like some of Andersen's fairy tales, _Tom Jones_, _Barchester Towers_,
          > > _A Passage to India_, _Frankenstein_ or _Alice In Wonderland_, and lots
          > > and lots of short stories, by writers like Faulkner, Hemmingway, Grace
          > > Paley, Gene Wolfe, James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, Edith Wharton, Katherine
          > > Mansfield, and many others. Personally, I think that a number of
          > > Faulkner short stories would work terrifically in high school English
          > > classes, and it's fine for individual students to read Faulkner if they
          > > want to, but how would you teach the great works, _The Sound and the
          > > Fury_ or _Absalom, Absalom!_ in a high school English class and get
          > > through the trimester? Likewise, _Middlemarch_ is one of the great
          > > novels in English, but I really don't think it's practical to put it on
          > > a high school syllabus. _Wuthering Heights_ can work, though, or _Pride
          > > and Prejudice _ (especially with wonderful movies and television
          > > adaptations that students have seen and loved). But this kind of list
          > > I'm suggesting is exactly what they seem to be teaching in high school
          > > in my (limited) experience. Well, o.k., I haven't seen Terry Pratchett
          > > on any lists, or Gene Wolfe, for that matter, but they should be.
          > > Incidentally, if they want to include some literary or cultural
          > > critique, some of Harold Bloom would be a great inclusion, but avoid
          > > Bennett and Will. I asked my high school daughter what she's liked
          > > best among the books she's had to read for school: her picks: The
          > > Odyssey and Gilgamesh, but she loved _To Kill a Mockingbird_ best.
          > > Hated _Tom Sawyer_ and _Great Expectations_. She was also able to pick
          > > _Briar Rose_ by Jane Yolen from a list for a paper topic, and she liked
          > > that.
          > >
          > > On Dec 23, 2006, at 7:32 AM,
          > <mailto:mythsoc%40yahoogroups.com>mythsoc@yahoogroups.com<mythsoc%40yahoogroups.com>wrote:
          > >
          > > > The second is a typical lament about how the younger generation is
          > > > Letting The Side Down, this time by not having read all thirty of
          > > > what Wm Bennett, George Will, and Harold Bloom consider essential
          > > > books before they graduate high school. Leaving aside the fact that I
          > > > wouldn't trust Bennett or Will to pick my brand of toothpaste, much
          > > > less arbitrate culture, since I didn't read a number of these until
          > > > college, and still haven't read some, it doesn't sound like the last
          > > > trump of doom to me.
          > > >
          > > > <>----------------------------------------------------------
          > > >
          > > > Time takes its toll on the classics -- among students
          > > > COLONIE, N.Y. -- The literary canon may not be dead across
          > > > America's college campuses, but its heartbeat has grown weak and
          > > > erratic.
          > >
          > > David Lenander
          > > <mailto:d-lena%40umn.edu>d-lena@... <d-lena%40umn.edu>
          > > 2095 Hamline Ave. N.
          > > Roseville, MN 55113
          > > 651-292-8887
          > >
          > <http://www.umn.edu/~d-lena/RIVENDELL.html>http://www.umn.edu/~d-lena/RIVENDELL.html
          > >
          > > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          > >
          > >
          > >
          >
          >[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          >
          >
        • Walter Padgett
          Thanks. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Jane. The Realm of Concrete Reality, where the heart-tearing tragedy of such accidents makes us question the
          Message 4 of 4 , Dec 24, 2006
          • 0 Attachment
            Thanks. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Jane.

            The Realm of Concrete Reality, where the heart-tearing tragedy of such
            "accidents" makes us question the rule of our own conceptions of the divine
            order, is indeed a place with which we must grapple and come to terms with--
            an ongoing struggle of despair and hope against it.

            I make myself clear to you here, as I may, that I felt the sincerity of your
            best wishes. And I sought to acknowledge them.

            Please forgive my wearisome way of writing. It is authentic, if not so
            familiar. Yet I perceive that you know me, as you measure the signs I give
            of my self.

            We all need someone to look up to. It is the members of this list, for me,
            all too often.

            Thanks for your thoughts. Thanks for your care. They are valued here.

            Yet I am not alone. We all share in this community of discourse and
            accountability.

            Perhaps Mr. Bratman is the most exasperated of us all, but it is to him that
            I look for the final word on much of what is discussed in this forum. To
            tell the truth, I should say as much of the others.

            As lights in a darkness surrounding, everyone who has contributed to this
            list over the past couple of years has touched my mind with a sudden
            nearness and familiarity.

            Perhaps I am wallowing in emotionalism, but it is Christmas Eve. And I've
            been blessed by this community.

            Let me give my humble thanks to all.

            Yours, Walter.


            On 12/24/06, jane Bigelow <jbigelow@...> wrote:
            >
            > Walter,
            >
            > I meant the congratulations sincerely, and mean them all the more for
            > knowing a little about the obstacles you faced. However, there is
            > always some luck involved in life. It starts with small things like
            > getting across a street safely--a young family here in Denver didn't,
            > just recently. They were crossing quite properly with the light, at
            > a marked intersection.
            >
            > Wishing you more stars,
            >
            > Jane
            >
            > Let me shoot a thanks to Jane for her congratulations to me for having wit
            > >and luck in High School. I will admit that between episodes of alcoholic
            > >stupor, the tragedy of unrequited love, and the healing experience of
            > >reading Tolkien's works, I did open my mind to the quiet suggestions of a
            > >couple of attentive teachers during my "lost" adolescence. Perhaps it is
            > to
            > >their efforts that I can look when next adding a couple more lucky stars
            > to
            > >my gratitude list.
            > >
            > >Thanks, Walter.
            > >
            > >On 12/24/06, David Lenander <<mailto:d-lena% <d-lena%25>40umn.edu>
            > d-lena@... <d-lena%40umn.edu>> wrote:
            > > >
            > > >
            > > >
            > > > And what a stupid list, at that. Why only two novels by Dickens, and
            > > > one by Austen (supposedly the two greatest novelists in English) but
            > > > (??all!!!?) the novels of William Faulkner?? Now, actually, that's
            > > > closer to my own experience in high school, I'd definitely read
            > > > _Absalom, Absalom_ and a number of other Faulkner novels, but no
            > > > Dickens and only two or three Austen novels (none of these for school,
            > > > by the way). Most of the kids who, like my daughter, have read _Great
            > > > Expectations_ seem to have hated it. Only by comparison did she like
            > > > _A Tale of Two Cities_, by the way. (and I think _Great Expectations_
            > > > a surpassingly great book, but I didn't read it until my late
            > > > twenties). If this is really true of a lot of high school kids, I
            > > > don't think they should read _Great Expectations_. I still love
            > > > Faulkner, and Austen, and I still haven't read enough Dickens to
            > really
            > > > say if I like his work overall, but the rest of this list is similarly
            > > > problematic. "The poems of Robert Frost" all of them? I have read
            > > > most of them, but really.... Why so much Frost and no Eliot, Yeats or
            > > > Pound? Or Auden? What about the great 19th C. poets, both Romantic and
            > > > Victorian? How about short fiction (on the whole, I'd pick a selection
            > > > of Hawthorne stories over _The Scarlet Letter_, which however is a
            > > > beautiful book--then again I prefer all of his other novels). How
            > > > about Poe? And the disparity between the "works of Shakespeare" and
            > > > the Declaration of Independence just underlines the absurdity of this.
            > > > At least they're getting some 16th C. sonnets, I guess, along with
            > such
            > > > dubious inclusions as "Troilus and Cressida" and "All's Well that Ends
            > > > Well." Are high school students really ready for (all??) of the
            > > > Canterbury Tales (in Middle English?), or even _Paradise Lost_? (But
            > > > please don't make them read just the first three books, as occurred in
            > > > my College Freshman English class). How about _Samson Agonistes_ or
            > > > "Lycidas" or "L'Allegro," and then fit in some Donne and maybe some
            > > > Cavalier poetry. Why not ask them to read Beowulf and James Joyce's
            > > > _Finnegan's Wake_ while we're at it, and how about the _Confessio
            > > > Amantis_ (which had an enormous impact on me, I could see why CSL
            > liked
            > > > it so well--of course I was in a college Middle English Poets class),
            > > > and _The Pearl_ and _Piers Plowman_. No Hemmingway, but _Catcher in
            > > > the Rye_? _1984_? _Animal Farm_ is a lot better, and easier to read,
            > > > too. But as a stylist and writer and even thinker, Orwell and Salinger
            > > > don't belong on a list with Shakespeare, Milton and Chaucer, or even
            > > > with Melville, Hawthorne and Twain. Why Tolstoy, but not Borges or
            > > > Grass or Cervantes or Goethe, Moliere or Chekhov or .... Well, if
            > > > they've read all of these, what will they read in college?
            > > >
            > > > But many of these dubious inclusions on a list of 30 great classics of
            > > > Western Civilization do belong on a list of recommended reading for
            > > > high school kids, along with _To Kill A Mockingbird_, books by Toni
            > > > Morrison and Louise Erdrich, Ursula K. Le Guin, Jane Yolen, Terry
            > > > Pratchett (not a lot of humor on that list, was there?), and maybe
            > _The
            > > > Lord of the Rings_. Some of the great classics, like _The Prince_ or
            > > > any number of Shakespeare's plays, or some of the Canterbury Tales
            > > > (adapted into contemporary English, perhaps), or other great classics
            > > > like some of Andersen's fairy tales, _Tom Jones_, _Barchester Towers_,
            > > > _A Passage to India_, _Frankenstein_ or _Alice In Wonderland_, and
            > lots
            > > > and lots of short stories, by writers like Faulkner, Hemmingway, Grace
            > > > Paley, Gene Wolfe, James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, Edith Wharton, Katherine
            > > > Mansfield, and many others. Personally, I think that a number of
            > > > Faulkner short stories would work terrifically in high school English
            > > > classes, and it's fine for individual students to read Faulkner if
            > they
            > > > want to, but how would you teach the great works, _The Sound and the
            > > > Fury_ or _Absalom, Absalom!_ in a high school English class and get
            > > > through the trimester? Likewise, _Middlemarch_ is one of the great
            > > > novels in English, but I really don't think it's practical to put it
            > on
            > > > a high school syllabus. _Wuthering Heights_ can work, though, or
            > _Pride
            > > > and Prejudice _ (especially with wonderful movies and television
            > > > adaptations that students have seen and loved). But this kind of list
            > > > I'm suggesting is exactly what they seem to be teaching in high school
            > > > in my (limited) experience. Well, o.k., I haven't seen Terry Pratchett
            > > > on any lists, or Gene Wolfe, for that matter, but they should be.
            > > > Incidentally, if they want to include some literary or cultural
            > > > critique, some of Harold Bloom would be a great inclusion, but avoid
            > > > Bennett and Will. I asked my high school daughter what she's liked
            > > > best among the books she's had to read for school: her picks: The
            > > > Odyssey and Gilgamesh, but she loved _To Kill a Mockingbird_ best.
            > > > Hated _Tom Sawyer_ and _Great Expectations_. She was also able to pick
            > > > _Briar Rose_ by Jane Yolen from a list for a paper topic, and she
            > liked
            > > > that.
            > > >
            > > > On Dec 23, 2006, at 7:32 AM,
            > > <mailto:mythsoc% <mythsoc%25>40yahoogroups.com>mythsoc@yahoogroups.com<mythsoc%40yahoogroups.com>
            > <mythsoc%40yahoogroups.com>wrote:
            > > >
            > > > > The second is a typical lament about how the younger generation is
            > > > > Letting The Side Down, this time by not having read all thirty of
            > > > > what Wm Bennett, George Will, and Harold Bloom consider essential
            > > > > books before they graduate high school. Leaving aside the fact that
            > I
            > > > > wouldn't trust Bennett or Will to pick my brand of toothpaste, much
            > > > > less arbitrate culture, since I didn't read a number of these until
            > > > > college, and still haven't read some, it doesn't sound like the last
            > > > > trump of doom to me.
            > > > >
            > > > > <>----------------------------------------------------------
            > > > >
            > > > > Time takes its toll on the classics -- among students
            > > > > COLONIE, N.Y. -- The literary canon may not be dead across
            > > > > America's college campuses, but its heartbeat has grown weak and
            > > > > erratic.
            > > >
            > > > David Lenander
            > > > <mailto:d-lena% <d-lena%25>40umn.edu>d-lena@... <d-lena%40umn.edu><d-lena%40umn.edu>
            > > > 2095 Hamline Ave. N.
            > > > Roseville, MN 55113
            > > > 651-292-8887
            > > >
            > > <http://www.umn.edu/~d-lena/RIVENDELL.html>
            > http://www.umn.edu/~d-lena/RIVENDELL.html
            > > >
            > > > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            > > >
            > > >
            > > >
            > >
            > >[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            > >
            > >
            >
            >
            >


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