Julie Davis's Reviews > The Politically Incorrect Guide to English and American Literature

The Politically Incorrect Guide to English and American Liter... by Elizabeth Kantor
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Jan 06, 2012

it was ok

This is one of the books from my nonfiction section of my personal reading challenge for this year. The library had it. I picked it up. Haven't done more than flip through it, but I am mystified by the complete lack of Steinbeck from the index.

However, I'm interested to see what the author says and what books I may become interested in while reading it.

The next book I've chosen from my personal "challenges" list. Thus far I am disappointed by the repetitive scorn heaped on current thinking from college professors. I get it, I get it ... they've hijacked classic literature, poetry and plays for their own uses. Can we get on with it?

Once I have gotten past the denunciations of hijacking professors, I am enjoying the insights into different time periods of writers and their overall messages. For example, the author's comments about the variety and enjoyment of diversity in medieval literature has made me interested in Chaucer, which has surely never been the case before. Very interesting and I'm sure I'll be adding to my "to read" list as I work my way through the book.

This is two, two, two books in one. There is the enthusiastic author who loves classic literature, understands the context and wants us to read it. And we do want to read it after she discusses it so lovingly.

There there is the angry, bitter hater of modern interpreters who twist the classics' meanings for their own purposes. I get it. I even understand that such is part of the schtick of the Politically Incorrect Guide format. However, this book would have been so much stronger substituting thoughtful "modern interpreters may teach that ... blah, blah, blah ... and here's where they go astray" than in labeling everyone in sight and blasting them into a crater with angry, angry words. It weakened the main message and lessened my respect for the author.

I believe her on both counts, the enthusiastic and the bitter, but since most of the people reading this book already know that the modern twisting exists there was a lot of space wasted in "convincing" us.

Also, as many already have mentioned, Kantor gives American literature unnecessarily short shrift. No Steinbeck? No examination of our longer literary pieces? Despite her claim that we are a short literature and short story nation, there is evidence to the contrary. For example, let's look at one of my newest favorite books, East of Eden. Oh, wait, it's by John Steinbeck and therefore invisible. (ha!)

I still give this good marks because it made me want to read books I'd never considered before. I now wish that Ms. Kantor would write a straight forward, more comprehensive guide to literature that I could use as my own guide in exploring the classics.
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Reading Progress

January 6, 2012 – Started Reading
January 6, 2012 – Shelved
January 21, 2012 –
page 50
January 23, 2012 –
page 75
January 25, 2012 –
page 100
January 30, 2012 –
page 175
January 30, 2012 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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message 1: by Patrick (new)

Patrick I'd be mystified at missing Steinbeck, too! Maybe it's a case of the dog not barking in the night...

Melinda For someone who has been exposed a great deal to the hijacking professors, I thought this book was a breath of fresh air. I really enjoyed how she quoted the original source literature, then quoted what hijacking professors said about it.. and then marvel at the manipulative garbage that they have come up with which has little to do with the original text!

Unfortunately, reading the great books of literature is not emphasized as much nowadays, so I think there is less of an attention span to really dig into the Great Books. I fault myself here also, I am trying to increase my attention span for those books who have been considered classics for so many years, but it is hard. It is effort. But when I do "get it", it is really worth the effort.

So I got a completely different take on this..... so sorry that you didn't get much out of it.

Julie Davis Melinda ... I have just begun the book and my comment was an ongoing comment only, based on the first 50 pages. My status, thus states it.

I am by no means indicting the book ... or author.

I am merely saying that it is laid on thick. I know that is the format and to be sensational about it is part of the gig. The points I have read thus far could have been made in a calmer, less sensational manner and would have gone over better for me. Also, I am fully aware of the points being made thus far so that is "preaching to the choir" ... which also may contribute to my ennui with strong attacks on hijacking teachers.

message 4: by Ivy (new)

Ivy Reisner Did this edition correct that earlier one where it says all English and American literature is written by white, European and American men, like Jane Austen?

The gender flaw there aside, isn't it kind of obvious that all great American literature is written by Americans, just as all great Chinese literature is written by Chinese, all great Italian literature is written by Italians, and all great Canadian literature is written by Margaret Atwood?

Julie Davis Oh, Ivy, how you make me laugh! That would make the Canadian section even shorter than the American section ... wouldn't it! :-D

This was a library book and may have been the first edition for all I know. I didn't catch that ... and it probably did say that very thing!

message 6: by Naomi (new)

Naomi Young Ivy, those are those inclusive men who include the females. Not to be confused with cross-dressers. :)

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