What could I say of Hamlet that hasn't already been said? It's place in the literary canon is absolutely necessary. Hamlet, the prince, is the deepes What could I say of Hamlet that hasn't already been said? It's place in the literary canon is absolutely necessary. Hamlet, the prince, is the deepest, most complete character in literary history, unsurpassed previously and ever since. What makes Hamlet so special is his ability to see the world around himself, and to question his own existance within that world:
To be, or not to be, — that is the question: — Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them? — To die, to sleep, — No more; and by a sleep to say we end The heart-ache, and the thousand natural shocks That flesh is heir to, — 'tis a consummation Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep; — To sleep, perchance to dream: — ay, there's the rub; For in that sleep of death what dreams may come, When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, Must give us pause: there's the respect That makes calamity of so long life; For who would bear the whips and scorns of time, The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely, The pangs of despis'd love, the law's delay, The insolence of office, and the spurns That patient merit of the unworthy takes, When he himself might his quietus make With a bare bodkin? who would these fardels bear, To grunt and sweat under a weary life, But that the dread of something after death, — The undiscover'd country, from whose bourn No traveller returns, — puzzles the will, And makes us rather bear those ills we have Than fly to others that we know naught of? Thus conscience does make cowards of us all; And thus the native hue of resolution Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought; And enterprises of great pith and moment, With this regard, their currents turn awry, And lose the name of action.
-Hamlet Act III, Scene I
Reading through this play, I am constantly in awe of it's power, depth, and grace. So much so, I doubt my capacity and understanding to teach it. ...more
5Q/3.8P After showing a current teacher the reading list for my English class, he was quick to recommend this book. I must say I’m glad to have read i5Q/3.8P After showing a current teacher the reading list for my English class, he was quick to recommend this book. I must say I’m glad to have read it. It is a very good book for teaching. The vignette format of the book is something totally fresh and different, both for myself and for any future classroom I’d teach. They’re accessible to students, namely because they’re short, concise expositions that aren’t too intimidating. I find the vignettes fascinating myself, for I think they’d make an excellent writing exercise. Perhaps have the students each compose a vignette and connect their work to a small group of their peer’s vignettes. The vignettes do have a downfall. Because they each deal with very different subjects, and they subjects are often vaguely linked, this book might be difficult for some students to follow, or perhaps become interested in. However, the abstraction of the vignettes is also one of my favorite aspects of the book, it is almost as if each vignette could be read individually, and just as much could be gained from one vignette without having to read the rest of them. It’s a very unique book. Cisneros has a very distinct writing style, as well. Her writing isn’t overly difficult to read, yet it is intricate enough to be challenging, and she deals with a host of advanced topics, especially issues relating to young women, and the societal pressures of adolescent girls. I think female students will respond well to this book, and though boys will be hard to engage with this book, I’d make a point to highlight how important it is for boys and girls to understand one another on a deep, meaningful level, something Cisneros’s book can do. ...more
I was drawn to this book out of my personal preference to island and beach settings. You can tell from t_Island of the Blue Dolphins_ by Scott O’Dell
I was drawn to this book out of my personal preference to island and beach settings. You can tell from the cover art that the subject matter deals with natives of an island. That being said, I didn’t expect the novel to deliver a Tom Clancy-like plot. And it certainly doesn’t. There are little “bumps” of action in the beginning of the book, such as the death of Karana’s tribe, but the simplistic prose of the book numbs the effect of these moments of action considerably. Furthermore, all these moments of action lead up to what basically amounts to a Cast Away-esque second half of the book. Which for me as a reader isn’t a problem, I can curl up on a deserted beach all day and read about being alone on a secluded island; however, for the typical YA reader, this book will present huge problems of engagement.
This is not to say this book is bad, or unsuitable for a classroom. On the contrary, it meets many academic criteria for a middle school classroom. The prose is very simple, yet refined, making this book easy to read. Because there isn’t a complex plot, but rather an obtuse “story” being told, it would be very easy for students to follow this text, and in turn have pointed discussions on the major aspects and themes surrounding the text.
Some of my favorite highlights of the text include:
The female protagonist, Karana: There is much to discuss regarding traditional roles of women, both inside and outside the text, and how Karana challenges such roles.
Survival text, an “island”: It is interesting to note what makes a secluded island unique as a setting for a survival type text. It is a very different scenario than being alone in the rain forest, or the Alaskan wilderness. The island is unique in that it is finite, yet limiting setting. If stuck on an island, it becomes your entire world. Especially if you’ve never seen any other place than that island. There are lots of conversations to be had on the nature of being stuck on an island, vs. other types of “survival” scenarios.
The “romantic” aspect of the island: O’Dell does a good job going into detail on the natural aspects of the island. In this way, it does a great job tying into Romantic (Wordsworth, Coleridge, etc) modes of description. There is a very academic conversation to be had relating tribal appreciation of nature to that of a Westernized poet’s sense of the natural world.
The historical aspect of the novel: It turns out this novel is based on the history of Robinson Crusoe. Students with an interest in history would really enjoy this connection between literature and actual history. This aspect also illustrates how intimately literature and history are related. ...more
I first encountered TKaM in either 9th or 10th grade. Like all literature from high school, I don’t remember much, except that the book was very “goodI first encountered TKaM in either 9th or 10th grade. Like all literature from high school, I don’t remember much, except that the book was very “good” for an English class. Meaning, it covered some topics and themes that I found very relevant, even if I couldn’t remember them some years later. With this in mind, I came to reread the book with optimism, and I wasn’t disappointed.
TKaM deals with some very relevant themes both inside and outside of a classroom. Two of the most relevant issues brought to light in the events of the book are race and social justice. Both are independently explored, as well as intimately linked within the book. The issues are covered in detail, and permeate every aspect of the complex plots that intertwine toward a central conclusion. This leads into the literary composition of the book. It is very well written, with advance vocabulary and excellent attention to detail. The book is extremely relevant for its value as a book of southern literature, as well. Harper Lee’s writing style is like taking a slow walk through a blackberry patch on a summer evening. Her intimate knowledge of the social networks and small southern towns makes TKaM a literary masterpiece just for an accurate experience of the evolving sense of the Southern Gothic. In addition to the culture, there is immense historical knowledge, especially in history and of segregation and racial tension after the Civil War.
The book is not without its faults. It is a fairly long book, and often gets very slow to read. As a book nerd, it isn’t a problem to get through these slow points, but for a high school student who isn’t as interested in literature, the book’s slow pace presents a serious obstacle. That being said, this shouldn’t be a deterrent for not reading TKaM. The themes of racial and social justice are enough by themselves to merit the attention of a classroom. And while Harper Lee is direct enough to present her themes clearly, she does a good job of adding enough depth to her book to make it worthy of discussion and close reading.
I’d first experienced The Giver in either 6th or 7th grade. While I don’t remember any specific details about the book, I do remember the book being “I’d first experienced The Giver in either 6th or 7th grade. While I don’t remember any specific details about the book, I do remember the book being “strange” in content. One of the problems I encounter with “Young Adult” books, The Giver included, is they often don’t stand up to the criticism of the literary purist I’ve become. This is manifest in The Giver as a dichotomy between what the book is and what it should’ve been.
The Giver is a strange read, as I’d remembered. It deals in depth with an almost science fiction society, in which common teaching points of utopia, individuality, and the roles of people within a society are brought up. It also goes beyond such common ideas, and touches on the philosophy of some very deep and difficult topics. Some examples include memory, perceived reality, the nature of language and how it influences thinking (words = colors, music, etc), history and how it affects a society, and even bioethics of euthanasia.
That being said, it’s a shame the book was written for the “young adult” genre. It is almost as if it was edited to be made simpler for younger readers. This book should’ve been a work of literature, full of rich vocabulary, complex characters, and a deep yet moving plot. This is the dichotomy of the book: It was good, but could’ve been so much better. The ideas covered in the book are rich topics, but I honestly don’t think middle school students are old enough to think on a metaphysical level about issues such as society, memory, or ethics. This book should’ve been written in more detail, and presented to students at the high school level.
I'd had previous experience with Sherman Alexie. In a survey level English class on contemporary writers, I'd read a short story and some of his poet I'd had previous experience with Sherman Alexie. In a survey level English class on contemporary writers, I'd read a short story and some of his poetry. My previous impression of Alexie was that he was unremarkable. Well, this novel blew me out of the water, and it's no short of a -must read-, both in a HS classroom, and for conscientious adults everywhere.
Let's be frank, this book does contain some objectionable material. For a long time, I was torn between giving this book 3 stars or 5. I was going to give it 3 stars, because of some of the objectionable material. But after careful review, and meditation, I came to realize that the "objectionable" material is only there because it -has- to be. It comes only in the crux of humor, the most gripping moment of tragedy, or the conveyance of an important theme or message.
I finally decided to rest on my laurels, and stand by giving this book 5 stars, despite the censorship issues. What can be learned from this book FAR outweighs any of the minor qualms that might arise from any of the "objectionalbe material". So what can be learned from this book? This book deals with everything from race and socio-political justice, to issues of friendship, adolescent love, and simply growing up in high-school. This book juxtaposes both high and low themes, and deals with them in a very in depth, engaging, and realistic way (this is where most of the objectionable material comes from, the author keeps it real).
I cannot recommend this book enough. Any self-respecting teacher that considers themselves progressive will easily be able to look over the "objectionable material" within this book, and teach this book for the gold mine of literary wisdom it contains.
5Q/??P (I'm not entirely sure how YA audiences will approach this book..)
I first encountered McCarthy in my senior year of college at UTK. _The Road_5Q/??P (I'm not entirely sure how YA audiences will approach this book..)
I first encountered McCarthy in my senior year of college at UTK. _The Road_ was the final selection of a course on modern American literature. At first, I was a little skeptical of McCarthy, as I’d seen the movie All the Pretty Horses when I was much younger, and wasn’t expecting much from _The Road_. Needless to say, I was happily proved wrong in my expectations. _The Road_ blew me away. Everything from McCarthy’s unique style of writing to the brutally simple ways in which he deals with complex themes are evidence of McCarthy’s talent, as I believe him to be, as one of American’s premier writers. _The Road_ takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, as a boy and his father make their way across the ruins of the southern United States in a nuclear winter, searching for some semblance of hope along the coast. Make no mistake, this book, like much of McCarthy’s work, isn’t for the faint of heart. This book is serious, both in form and function, dealing with a range of subjects that will have you reaching for a bottle of Prozac: dire-starving survival, cannibalism, hopelessness, humane-driven suicide, no sunlight-just the steady fall of snow and ash, just to name a few. All of this takes place in a world where everything that we know has been reduced to ruins. To match the content of the book, McCarthy’s style of writing goes perfectly with the flow of the book, creating this mythic, yet simple style of prose that elevates the simple to the level of the profound, for example, a memory of a time passed:
"From daydreams on the road there was no waking. He plodded on. He could remember everything of her save her scent. Seated in a theatre with her beside him leaning forward listening to the music. Gold scrollwork and sconces and the tall columnar folds of the drapes at either side of the stage. She held his hand in her lap and he could feel the tops of her stockings through the thin stuff of her summer dress. Freeze this frame. Now call down your cold and your dark and be damned."
Despite how dark and terrible the book is, there are moments of eloquent, extreme beauty, mostly in the relationship between the father and son. These are the moments that touch us the most as readers. This is mostly due to the way in which McCarthy juxtaposes the apex of tragedy with the apex of the beautiful: he makes us pay attention to the two in their absolutes.
Ultimately, _The Road_ is about what we, as people in the modern world, are capable of doing to one another when we don’t pay attention, when we aren’t aware.
As far as teaching goes, I’ve wanted to teach this book ever since I first read it. You could even say reading books such as this is part of what inspired me to teach. The lessons that can be learned from literature such as McCarthy’s are as profound as they are elusive. McCarthy is one of America’s best authors, and he’s still alive. He needs to be read and appreciated by contemporary audiences, for his nostalgia for the past as well as his awareness of the present and the future he reflects in his writing. Also, _The Road_ is his most accessible of all his works. I think the apocalyptic world will resound with a young audience, as many modern video games and TV shows deal with the fringes of science fiction. I’m not without my reservations in teaching this book. It is a very advanced book, one I’d have to reserve for HS seniors, and honors classes exclusively. But, even though my educational training is making me more… lenient in my views of literature, I still in many ways remain a purest, and believe that reading the difficult literature, the painful literature, the HARD literature, shows us the most in terms of what it means to gain something from the language arts. ...more
I hate to say it, but unless you have a cultural interest in Japanese, most readers would find this book to be very slow and dense. It is one of the I hate to say it, but unless you have a cultural interest in Japanese, most readers would find this book to be very slow and dense. It is one of the most powerful and amazing character studies I've ever read though, outside of Shakespeare. Worth reading to anyone who is interested on seeing the inner workings of ourselves. ...more