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Required Reading: Why Our American Classics Matter Now
In an age of uncertainty over our literary heritage, Andrew Delbanco reconsiders our greatest writers and how they enlarged our sense of American possibilities and the expressive range of our Language. Whether he writes of Herman Melville or Zora Neale Hurston, Harriet Beecher Stowe or Richard Wright, Delbanco's understanding of their imaginative force is deep and apprecia ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published November 1st 1998 by Noonday Press
(first published 1997)
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I was hoping to find out why I should encourage my kids to read classics. While it wasn't what I was looking for- in a reverse sort of way, I guess I found what I wanted. Rather than learning why to have my kids read certain classics, I learned just what authors I want my kids to stay away from- at least until they are adults. Delbanco seems to prefer authors that like to write books with precisely the opposite of my worldview; and the racier the better, as far as I can tell. I skimmed whole cha ...more
In this short book, Andrew Delbanco writes highly perceptive essays about eleven American authors, which he follows with a chapter entitled, "Reading for Pleasure." He rejects the modern critical view that literary works are all about content and that language is merely a trap that one must overcome. He similarly rejects the view that the purpose of all literature is simply to express or address social ills. He says that modern ciritics have taken the "pleasure" out of reading and that one of th ...more
The book is a collection of essays on significant authors and their books as seen by the author. It was on my "books to read" list for many years and I finally got to it. Among the less expected authors he highlights are Harriet Beecher Stowe, Stephen Crane, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Dreiser - and Delbanco puts each in a new light with insightful essays. He also covers authors I would have expected such as Herman Melville, Nathanial Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau. Delbanco is a very clea ...more
A fine collection of essays that respects American literature and made me want to read Melville, Thoreau, Lincoln, and Adams again. He finds Melville's style sacramental and examines Thoreau and death. I find his delight in language infectious and the final essay on reading made me want to read much more than Alan Jacobs tiresome book on reading I read earlier in the year.
Andrew H. Delbanco (born 1952) is Director of American Studies at Columbia University and has been Columbia's Julian Clarence Levi Professor in the Humanities since 1995. He writes extensively on American literary and religious history.More about Andrew Delbanco...