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Re: [mythsoc] old favorites and sagging canon

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  • David Bratman
    ... And to have them force-fed. Tom Stoppard recently wrote a play featuring some famous 19th century Russian intellectuals as characters, and was surprised
    Message 1 of 18 , Dec 24, 2006
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      >At 08:45 PM 12/23/2006 -0700, jane Bigelow wrote:

      >My objection is to the idea
      >that a beginning college student should have read all of them,
      >especially in those cases where there's just an author listing. All
      >of Dickens? All of Shakespeare?

      And to have them force-fed. Tom Stoppard recently wrote a play featuring
      some famous 19th century Russian intellectuals as characters, and was
      surprised by a lack of interest in staging it in Russia. It turned out
      that the Russians had had these guys stuffed down their throats in high
      school, and were sick of them.

      >This is being referred to as the canon. Even in the case of
      >Shakespeare, there are some plays that are now done only by groups
      >determined to do the entire canon of his works--and if you attend
      >one, you can usually see why they're done so seldom!

      Some, yes, but even bad Shakespeare is better than a lot of other people,
      and there are some hidden gems, especially if they're performed well. The
      Henry VI plays are dynamite on stage, especially Part III, which introduces
      the evil Richard of Gloucester and is actually a much better play than its
      better-known successor with his name on it. I also like Coriolanus, the
      tragedy of an exasperated man surrounded by a sea of cluelessness. Somehow
      I empathize.

      David Bratman
    • jane Bigelow
      Ah yes, standardized tests. It s the CSAP here in Colorado, and it eats weeks of time. An Arizona cousin of mine has quite teaching grade school because she
      Message 2 of 18 , Dec 24, 2006
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        Ah yes, standardized tests. It's the CSAP here in Colorado, and it
        eats weeks of time. An Arizona cousin of mine has quite teaching
        grade school because she can no longer try to give her students what
        they need because of the time pressure from their version of the monster.

        Sorry, I think I may be getting off topic there. Drilling people for
        test scores does make it hard to pass along great ideas.

        Jane

        At 01:44 AM 12/24/2006, you wrote:

        >Most of the list appears every summer on the various summer
        >reading lists I see at the bookstore, although the more challenging
        >works usually are assigned by the Catholic schools. I can tell by
        >what books the parent or student asks for the high school the
        >child is attending . Seamus Heaney's " Beowulf" for example
        >usually means the customer's list is from Boston College High
        >School. Recently a split developed on Homer. Some of the
        >schools prefer the Fitzgerald translation to the new Fagles.
        >
        >The biggest problem, IMHO, to a student reading all of the list
        >is the education system itself. It's not the individual teacher's fault
        >but they can only teach or assign so much in one year. How many of
        >us who took US History in high school ever got up to present day,
        >for example? And now at least in Mass. they spend time preparing
        >and reviewing for the MCAS exams. I'm all for improving test
        >scores but what about education?
        >
        >Ah well. I plan to spend some time reading the older Butler prose
        >translations of Homer and Vergil I picked up for half price at the
        >store. Not as beautiful as the verse versions but it's nostalgia for
        >me. I read The Odyssey back in the 3rd or 4th grade.
        >
        >
      • Katie Glick
        Okay, I have to play. I only graduated high school 13 years ago so I m guessing the outlook isn t as bleak as the people who wrote the article might think,
        Message 3 of 18 , Dec 24, 2006
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          Okay, I have to play. I only graduated high school 13 years ago so I'm
          guessing the outlook isn't as bleak as the people who wrote the article
          might think, unless things have drastically declined in the past decade.
          I'll also say that I read many more things in high school in addition to the
          selections from the list that were read, and most were just as worthy of
          being included--like previously mentioned Thomas Hardy and TS Eliot, Richard
          Wright, a great deal of "world literature" that I think was much more
          interesting than "War and Peace", short stories and poems of different
          literary periods, and much more. In fact, I could conceive of a high school
          curriculum that contains NONE of the things on the list and still provides a
          great and well-rounded education. So there.

          1. The Works of Shakespeare (read Romeo & Juliet in 9th grade, Macbeth &
          Othello and several sonnets in 12th grade for English classes, and was a
          "drama geek" so I had read several others in high school on my own, mostly
          comedies and a few tragedies. Read all works by sophomore year in college as
          I had to take three Shakespeare classes in freshman and sophomore year.)

          2. The Declaration of Independence (Yes, we read this in 11th grade history
          class)

          3. Twain, Mark, Huckleberry Finn (11th grade English)

          4. The poems of Emily Dickinson (read several in 11th grade English, was
          given "The Complete Poems" by my aunt, so I read them all by the time I was
          18)

          5. The poems of Robert Frost (we read a few in 11th grade English, not my
          favorite so I haven't read anymore)

          6. Hawthorne, Nathaniel, Scarlet Letter (11th grade English)

          7. Fitzgerald, Scott F., The Great Gatsby (11th grade English)

          8. Orwell, George, 1984 (In 12th grade government class we had to do
          independent book reports on one fictional and one nonfiction book having to
          do with government. I chose 1984 and All the President's Men. 1984 scared
          the crap out of me, and still does.)

          9. Homer, Odyssey and Iliad (We read these in 10th grade English)

          10. Dickens, Charles, Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities (read
          Great Expectations in 9th grade English and again in 12th grade drama class
          and then again in my college literature survey. Still have not read a Tale
          of Two Cities, but did read Oliver Twist, The Pickwick Papers, Bleak House,
          and David Copperfield before I was 18. I had an inexplicable love for
          Dickens and my parents had the complete works at home)

          11. Chaucer, Geoffrey, The Canterbury Tales (read in 12th grade English and
          in college)

          12. Salinger, J.D., Catcher in the Rye (11th grade English--I do think this
          is an important part of the high school canon because it's one of the few
          things you'll read in a literature class where you are able, as a teenager,
          to relate to the main character (at least for ME it was, others may vary).
          It definitely stands out for me as being something that immediately took
          hold of me, because it was the first thing I read for school that seemed to
          speak to my immediate situation. Up until that point, for me, reading
          "literary" books had been difficult, and I thought only the kind of juvenile
          literature that I read for pleasure could be relatable. This book changed
          everything for me. I realized there was real literature out there that could
          speak directly to my own experience of life.)

          13. The Bible (read in 10th grade English [as a piece of "world
          literature."])

          14. Thoreau, Henry David, Walden (11th grade English)

          15. Sophocles, Oedipus (Did not read for class, but read on my own [drama
          geek again], read again in college in history of theatre class)

          16. Steinbeck, John, the Grapes of Wrath (11th grade English)

          17. Ralph Waldo Emerson's essays and poems (11th grade English, not all, but
          some essays. I was sure he was on drugs.)

          18. Austen, Jane, Pride and Prejudice (12th grade English, I also read all
          other Jane Austen on my own that year, because I loved it so much. Read
          again in college.)

          19. Whitman, Walt, Leaves of Grass (11th grade English)

          20. The novels of William Faulkner (Read "As I Lay Dying" in 11th grade
          English. Or rather--attempted to read it. I hated it. But still remember to
          this day the chapter that simply read: "My mother is a fish.")

          21. Melville, Herman, Moby Dick (We also attempted to read Billy Budd in
          11th grade. It was hopeless. I tried to get through chapter one three times,
          then threw the book across the room. Our teacher gave up and gave us a 10
          question multiple choice test that "could be answered if you read the Cliff
          Notes." I'm sure it's a great book, but not for me at 16.)

          22. Milton, John, Paradise Lost (12th grade English. Did not have to read in
          college, although many English majors took a whole class on him in first or
          second year, which I was exempt from.)

          23. Vergil, Aeneid (did not read, read on my own while in college)

          24. Plato, The Republic (did not read. Read in college philosophy class)

          25. Marx, Karl, Communist Manifesto (did not read. Read in college
          philosophy class-"Psychological (Freudian) Marxism." I don't recommend this
          branch of philosophy.)

          26. Machiavelli, Niccolo, the Prince (did not read. Read in college class on
          the Italian Renaissance)

          27. Tocqueville, Alexis de, Democracy in America (have never read this)

          28. Dostoevski, Feodor, Crime and Punishment (did not read. Read in college
          Russian Literature class)

          29. Aristotle, Politics (did not read. Read in college philosophy class)

          30. Tolstoy, Leo, War and Peace (attempted to read on my own in high school.
          Got bored and watched the movie instead).

          So I did read most of these, and I read almost all by the time I was 20.
          Although I will say that I was a big reader of things on my own, and I was
          in honors English classes, which required extra reading that regular classes
          did not do. Also I was an English major in college so whatever I missed, I
          picked up soon thereafter.

          HOWEVER. I don't think it's necessary for everyone to enjoy reading or to
          have read these books in order to be a respectable person. If you're a
          "humanities" person, it's a good idea to have read a lot of them, but I
          wouldn't ask anyone to trudge through them if they don't like them, or if
          they would rather spend their time painting or cooking or fixing a car or
          writing a computer program or whatever. There are all kinds of experiences
          to be had in life, and although I love to learn and read, I don't think
          reading any certain books is necessarily important for everyone. I think
          what's important is that you spend a lot of time learning about subjects
          that interest you, rather than forcing yourself to learn about subjects that
          don't because someone says you should. And I certainly don't think it makes
          me better or smarter than anyone else to have read these particular books.

          -kt


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        • WendellWag@aol.com
          You know, I hate to think how I would have been judged if a college had decided whether to accept me or not based on how much of this list I had read when I
          Message 4 of 18 , Dec 24, 2006
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            You know, I hate to think how I would have been judged if a college had decided whether to accept me or not based on how much of this list I had read when I graduated from high school. I think I had read a cut version of a couple of Shakespeare's plays in our lousy literature textbooks. I'd read the Declaration of Independence, I think. I'd read 1984 on my own. I'd read some short selections from Homer in our literature books. I'd read a cut version of a Dickens novel in our textbooks. I'd read large parts of the Bible. And that's it. Depite this, I was easily the biggest reader in my high school class

            The same thing was true in other academic areas. I entered college not only planning to study math but hoping to get a Ph.D. in it. Yes, my education was lousy at that point. I recovered from it. And if a college looked at my SAT's (719 V, 772 M), they could tell that I would do well. I shudder to think what they would have done if they had judged my ability by how much I had learned up to that point. Yes, it would be nice for students to be well educated in high school, but the fact is that some students come to college poorly educated and still do well in college.

            Wendell Wagner

            >Here's the entire list, by the way. Remember, they're being
            >criticized for not having read all thirty before leaving high school.
            >
            >1. The Works of Shakespeare
            >
            >2. The Declaration of Independence
            >
            >3. Twain, Mark, Huckleberry Finn
            >
            >4. The poems of Emily Dickinson
            >
            >5. The poems of Robert Frost
            >
            >6. Hawthorne, Nathaniel, Scarlet Letter
            >
            >7. Fitzgerald, Scott F., The Great Gatsby
            >
            >8. Orwell, George, 1984
            >
            >9. Homer, Odyssey and Iliad
            >
            >10. Dickens, Charles, Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities
            >
            >11. Chaucer, Geoffrey, The Canterbury Tales
            >
            >12. Salinger, J.D., Catcher in the Rye
            >
            >13. The Bible
            >
            >14. Thoreau, Henry David, Walden
            >
            >15. Sophocles, Oedipus
            >
            >16. Steinbeck, John, the Grapes of Wrath
            >
            >17. Ralph Waldo Emerson's essays and poems
            >
            >18. Austen, Jane, Pride and Prejudice
            >
            >19. Whitman, Walt, Leaves of Grass
            >
            >20. The novels of William Faulkner
            >
            >21. Melville, Herman, Moby Dick
            >
            >22. Milton, John, Paradise Lost
            >
            >23. Vergil, Aeneid
            >
            >24. Plato, The Republic
            >
            >25. Marx, Karl, Communist Manifesto
            >
            >26. Machiavelli, Niccolo, the Prince
            >
            >27. Tocqueville, Alexis de, Democracy in America
            >
            >28. Dostoevski, Feodor, Crime and Punishment
            >
            >29. Aristotle, Politics
            >
            >30. Tolstoy, Leo, War and Peace
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            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          • William Cloud Hicklin
            ... Al-Hazred is a fictional character of a H.P. Lovecraft s... ... Cthulhu Mythos of Lovecraft s imagining, as well as being a fictional artifact... No!
            Message 5 of 18 , Dec 24, 2006
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              --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, Jonathan Michael Reiter
              <jmrmpd@...> wrote:
              >
              > I think we're talking about real time Arab Scholars. Abdul
              Al-Hazred is a fictional character of a H.P. Lovecraft's...
              > As is The Necronomicon, another fictional character in the
              Cthulhu Mythos of Lovecraft's imagining, as well as being a
              fictional artifact...


              No! Really?? </heavy sarcasm>


              > Jonathan Michael Reiter
              > jmr
              > ----- Original Message -----
              > From: William Cloud Hicklin
              > To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
              > Sent: Saturday, December 23, 2006 10:50 PM
              > Subject: [mythsoc] Re: old favorites and sagging canon
              >
              >
              > --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, jane Bigelow <jbigelow@>
              > wrote:
              > >....No scholars from the Arab
              > > world?
              >
              > You mean like the Necronomicon :)
              >
              >
              >
              >
              >
              >
              > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              >
            • jane Bigelow
              Wendell, I would ve been denied college admission myself if reading even most of the items on that list were a prerequisite. Many were not required by my high
              Message 6 of 18 , Dec 25, 2006
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                Wendell,

                I would've been denied college admission myself if reading even most
                of the items on that list were a prerequisite. Many were not
                required by my high school Way Back Then, so the decline of
                civilization must date back quite awhile. Since I now have my MLS
                and have published nonfiction, short stories and a novel, I guess I
                also recovered!

                It's been decades since I graduated from high school, so I no longer
                recall what I read then and what much later. Can remember thinking
                Jane Austen was a total bore, though I loved the Brontes, which I
                believe I read on my own. It's probably lucky for me that I didn't
                encounter anyone remotely like Heathcliff in my Kansas City, MO neighborhood.

                We did briefly encounter Greek tragedy in my senior year. We weren't
                supposed to look in the back of the book where some of the comedies
                were, but some of us did. Lysistrata was quite a revelation! It did
                keep me from ever thinking of the classics as dusty or dull.

                I do think it's a good idea to be exposed to some things that you
                don't think you'll like. Sometimes you're surprised, as I was when
                my husband dragged me to a talk on medieval civil engineering. I
                just think that a list of such length and complexity is too much to
                expect as a baseline. At the same time, it leaves out too much that
                would help to establish a shared core of (not necessarily accepted)ideas.

                Jane


                At 06:44 PM 12/24/2006, you wrote:

                >You know, I hate to think how I would have been judged if a college
                >had decided whether to accept me or not based on how much of this
                >list I had read when I graduated from high school. I think I had
                >read a cut version of a couple of Shakespeare's plays in our lousy
                >literature textbooks. I'd read the Declaration of Independence, I
                >think. I'd read 1984 on my own. I'd read some short selections from
                >Homer in our literature books. I'd read a cut version of a Dickens
                >novel in our textbooks. I'd read large parts of the Bible. And
                >that's it. Depite this, I was easily the biggest reader in my high school class
                >
                >The same thing was true in other academic areas. I entered college
                >not only planning to study math but hoping to get a Ph.D. in it.
                >Yes, my education was lousy at that point. I recovered from it. And
                >if a college looked at my SAT's (719 V, 772 M), they could tell that
                >I would do well. I shudder to think what they would have done if
                >they had judged my ability by how much I had learned up to that
                >point. Yes, it would be nice for students to be well educated in
                >high school, but the fact is that some students come to college
                >poorly educated and still do well in college.
                >
                >Wendell Wagner
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