February 7, 2013

If your teenaged son had nightmares after reading "Beloved" in Advanced Placement English class...

... can you imagine responding by seeking to get the book removed from the classroom, engaging in public activism that included talking about the boy's dreams? Quite aside from the censorship angle, is this any way to treat your son?

IN THE COMMENTS: I said:
The book is a pain to read if you're not into [it]. I would never force anyone to read that book. The writing style is enough to give nightmares.
Robert Cook said:
Oh, rather like THE GREAT GATSBY, eh?
Let me answer that here on the front page, because this is important. Yes. It is like "The Great Gatsby." Neither book should be forced on anyone. It's destructive of the capacity to appreciate exactly what is most notable, the strange locutions. If you are not in the mood to get inside those sentences and luxuriate and ideate, it's a damned pain. If you've been assigned the book and so you feel like powering through it, everything that's good about it will feel like a speed bump. People hate speed bumps. These English teachers who imagine they are serving up delight are making it hateful.

I've said this already, but I don't keep repeating it as I've blogged about isolated sentences from "The Great Gatsby" in my "Gatsby" project. So let me point out one place where I made the point clearly:
My initial motivation was love. I thought of all the high school students — I remember being one — who were assigned this book and made to read the whole thing. That being the task, the really interesting sentences are speed bumps. They're completely annoying. You can't take the time to figure them out. What should be loved is hated. Later in life, I reread the book and enjoyed it, because of the worthiness of individual sentences.
The writing style of "Beloved" is, in my opinion, much, much worse than "The Great Gatsby." Chances are, a high school student will resist the project of reading this material, especially since the teacher might not emphasize the artistry of the style. It may be administered medicinally, by a teacher who wants her presumably bland and cosseted students to vicariously inhabit the condition of slavery. This is a terrible idea. Recommend "Beloved" for optional, outside reading and give the students the 19th century narratives written by Americans who were themselves enslaved. That's real and that's free of the pretensions of poetry.

101 comments:

Seeing Red said...

Catcher in the Rye, Huck Finn, why not show Sophie's Choice?

Or the last episode of MASH where HawkEye was haunted by the same thing the Korean mother did?

phx said...

People with a strong sense of self-righteousness do a lot of silly shit.

When I questioned stuff that was going on in my child's classroom I said "You have to learn in SPITE of your teachers sometimes."

I still believe that. Today I'd add, "And don't get all self-righteous over it either."

edutcher said...

If my kid was having those kind of dreams, I'd make sure there wasn't something else bothering him.

As for "engaging in public activism", which would be quickly condemned as RRRAAACCCIIISSSSTTTT, how about getting the curriculum to include some of that DWM stuff that has some literary value rather than a book written by the moron who dubbed Willie Whitewater The First Black President?

chuck said...

Yes, I can imagine that, but I don't need to, it is the modern reality. Maybe the school system can substitute Barney until the case is decided. Playful pink predators is what modern children are accustomed to.

Robert Cook said...

The mother here assumes naively that her son and his peer group do not already discuss or even make jokes about such subject matter. I suspect she did not like the idea of her son reading the book and so she has claimed he suffered nightmares as a result of reading it.

MadisonMan said...

AP English is a joke.

The Company that runs the farce that is AP has done an excellent job marketing their tests, getting buy-in from Colleges (who then don't have to have their precious English Faculty soil their hands with mere freshman) and from Parents who can boast to their oh-so-impressed neighbors that little Johnny is taking AP English. I am very happy that my kids' High School downplays AP curricula.

Inga said...

Small doses of horror inoculates a child and teen from the real horrors of life. Overprotective parents don't do their children any favors.

madAsHell said...

You're a junior in high school, and you're telling Mommy about nightmares? Jeez, in high school my dreams were full of cheerleaders!

This kid has other problems.

Seeing Red said...

Oh, geez, is this kid on Adderall?

Sorun said...

LOL! WaPo's standard photo: subject is looking thoughtfully out a window. (And they include three shots!) Can't they come up with something else?

edutcher said...

Inga said...

Small doses of horror inoculates a child and teen from the real horrors of life.

So we drop Edgar Allan Poe?

phx said...

I love the photo of the mother, too. Man, is she pissed. Her human rights have been violated. Her child's rights have been violated!

There's today's lesson for you sonny.

Revenant said...

It isn't clear from the article what "banned" means in this context.

Does it just mean "not included in the school curriculum"?

Sorun said...

She's not going to be happy reading the comments over at WaPo.

BarrySanders20 said...

Fierce mama queen bee needs to stop hovering near her delicate little flower boy. The school's not the problem, the book's not the problem.

Someone should give this kid a copy of Pink Floyd's The Wall.

And where the hell is dad? Off doing what he's told?

EDH said...

WaPo's standard photo: subject is looking thoughtfully out a window. (And they include three shots!) Can't they come up with something else?

Yea, something for the cougar boudoir collection!

Seeing Red said...

Reading books, how quaint.


How many kills did they get on Soldier IV or whatever the hot game is?

Rob said...

Take his mind off it. Show him "Deliverance."

ricpic said...

The brothers Grimm have a lot to answer for.

YoungHegelian said...

This book actually gave me nightmares when I would read it before going to bed.

It's still a kick-ass book, though, and greatly recommended for anyone interested in the Soviet Gulag system.

As for mom in the WaPo story, DC is just full of self-involved, tightly wound women like this, and they're just best avoided if at all possible. Probably tough to do if you're the principal of her kid's school...

Aridog said...

Someone should give this kid a copy of Pink Floyd's The Wall.

Then give him Burgess' "Clockwork Orange" ... by then it should fuck the little tyke up real gud, eh?

Jane said...

Generally, schools allow students to elect to substitute for a book which they or their parents find objectionable. It's not clear where this was the case here. However, I was not particularly impressed with the book and (a) don't think it's great literature and (b) object to the mindset that some people seem to have that it's great because of the brutish content.

Ann Althouse said...

The book is a pain to read if you're not into. I would never force anyone to read that book. The writing style is enough to give nightmares.

One person's poetry...

Chip Ahoy said...

In the book the mother kills her baby so it won't have a life of slavery and other horrors that actually did happen, a, what's the word for that?, an amalgamation, a melange, a composite, or perhaps a laminate, I forget.

Son, the time has come for you to know the truth about yourself for these disturbing dreams signal the awakening of your true nature. You see, Son, all along, all of our activities have revolved around your proper development, a delicate matter, yes, centered on you to prepare you for this challenge and now your report of disturbing dreams confirms the blossoming of your spirit into your mature manifestation of the fountainfhead from which you sprang and all mankind awaits your taking up of robe and this here orb and scepter. Take 'em. Take 'em, I said.

It was just a book, Ma.

Well what are you reading now?

Helter Skelter, Churchill's collected WWII memoirs, Kissingers Years of Upheaval, Sarem, Something about the holocaust, Caligula, Aztec, and for fun Elm Street.

phx said...

I agree, it was not a great read. It seemed to take forever and I didn't really take away anything memorable. YMMV.

BarrySanders20 said...

Hush now baby, baby, don't you cry.
Mama's gonna make all your nightmares come true.
Mama's gonna put all her fears into you.
Mama's gonna keep you right here under her wing.
She won't let you fly, but she might let you sing.
Mama's gonna keep baby cozy and warm.
Ooooh baby, ooooh baby, oooooh baby,
Of course mama's gonna help build the wall.

Patrick said...

From the article: "I have to be a responsible parent,” said Murphy, of Fairfax Station. “I want to make sure every kid in the county is protected.”

A sure sign of trouble.

phx said...

I don't know why more schools don't mandate Jack London's Martin Eden.

Synova said...

A sure test for "this sucks so bad you wouldn't read it if you weren't forced is"... when you're forced.

I question the modern notion of giving teenagers depressing, fatalistic, emotion-jerking, literature "because that's what they're into". They also commit suicide at higher rates than other ages and go on mass murdering rampages. So?

Lastly... "chose something else" is not censorship or "banning". Every book that is assigned represents the "banning" of 99.99% of English language literature.

Synova said...

"Small doses of horror inoculates a child and teen from the real horrors of life. Overprotective parents don't do their children any favors."

Are we supposed to inoculate ourselves to horror?

Synova said...

Honestly... I don't really care. I don't know if the book is inappropriate or not, but if a 17 year old can't go to a rated R movie, I don't really see a problem restricting the content that is forced on students in school.

It also occurs to me that a lot of these high-achieving kids are the same ones who are more likely to have some emotional fragility. And teen years are a fragile time.

Alex said...

Not forcing some boy to read THIS book is akin to censorship and oppression by the white male patriarchy.

Rusty said...

Robert Cook said...
The mother here assumes naively that her son and his peer group do not already discuss or even make jokes about such subject matter. I suspect she did not like the idea of her son reading the book and so she has claimed he suffered nightmares as a result of reading it.

Once again, comrade Bob, trying to hijack the narrative by arguing facts not in evidence.

I suppose "The Road" is out of the question.
Or"V"

LordSomber said...

Again, the problem isn't "kids these days."
It's the parents.

Revenant said...

Small doses of horror inoculates a child and teen from the real horrors of life. Overprotective parents don't do their children any favors.

Exactly. Twenty years from now this kid will hear about a school shooting and demand massive federal intervention to deal with the "epidemic of gun violence".

Synova said...

The book is probably assigned for the *purpose* of upsetting the kids, so they get upset about slavery. Maybe?

Would *not* being upset by it be an appropriate response? Maybe read the baby killing part out loud to your jerk friends during lunch and laugh about it?

(Yes, I have residual anger, still, about being made to chose Truman Capote over Edgar Rice Burroughs for my research paper in English in 11th grade.)

Revenant said...

if a 17 year old can't go to a rated R movie

Minor quibble: R is "children under 17 not admitted without a guardian". High school seniors are pretty much all allowed to see R-rated films, in theaters at least, without parental permission.

Synova said...

LOL, oops. It's been a long time since I worried about getting into an R rated movie.

ALP said...

The kid in question is a senior? Really? Isn't that nearly old enough to sign up for military service?

Sheeeet - I had nightmares as a much younger kid when my Brownie troop decided to study civil defense, nuclear war, and radiation poisoning in the mid 1970's. Graphic details regarding how we were all going to be fried by the Russians was the order of the day. No detail was spared: melting eyeballs, vomiting, hair loss....

I had nightmares about nuclear war - and went on to live a pretty normal life.

ALP said...

Science needs to develop a tool to detect the "aggressive busy body gene" so we can stamp it out.

Lucien said...

I guess you wouldn't wants those high school honors students reading the Iliad, Oedipus Rex, Iphigenia at Aulis, or the Old Testamant either.

Marshal said...

Synova said...
The book is probably assigned for the *purpose* of upsetting the kids, so they get upset about slavery. Maybe?


Driving home the monstrousness of slavery is step 1. Step 2 is alleging white guilt. The emotionalism of step 1 breaks down people's will to resist step 2 and makes it easier for them to believe those resisting are defending slavery rather than denying guilt for the actions of other people.

Shanna said...

Lastly... "chose something else" is not censorship or "banning".

This. I haven't read the book, so I don't have a good sense in what was bothersome, but I think a case could be made that something might be too gruesome to include. But by high school, you should be able to handle most stuff - otherwise history would be impossible.

Kirk Parker said...

So they don't card you at the supermarket or pub anymore either, Synova?

So sorry, but it happens to us all sooner or later. ;-)

Inga said...

No Synova, we can never be totally be immune from life's horrors. It's advantageous to a child and especially a teen to have been exposed to some of life's less please realities, age appropriate of course. So when the hit their freshman year they don't have a nervous breakdown or drink themselves silly ( some will anyway).

I've seen my children's friends who came from overly protective homes flounder in freshman year and drop out and move back home to mom and dad.

Geoff Matthews said...

I read "Beloved" in college, and thought it was the most boring dribble I'd come across.
But then I'm a white male.
Couldn't imagine having nightmares from it.

Inga said...

*pleasant*

Robert Cook said...

"I would never force anyone to read that book. The writing style is enough to give nightmares."

Oh, rather like THE GREAT GATSBY, eh?

The Godfather said...

A) How did Fairfax County resolve the challenge to Huck Finn? That would tell you a lot about how seriously they treat challenging literature.

B) The person from American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom seemed to suggest that objecting to this book might be racist. What a cheap shot! Yes, I know that Virginia was in the Confederacy, but Fairfax County is pretty liberal.

C) When I was in Army AIT (that's the training after Basic and before the Army sends you out to actually do something)in the middle of the Viet Nam War, my buddies and I saw the "Wild Bunch" at the post movie theater. There were guys who were heading to Viet Nam in a few weeks who got nightmares from that movie. I doubt that the movie "innoculated" them from the horrors of war, but I really don't see the need to wrap a 17-year-old in a cocoon to keep him/her from being scared.

D) And Ann you are right that the kid is (or at least should be) pissed off as Hell at his mom for embarrassing him this way.

chickelit said...

How did Fairfax County resolve the challenge to Huck Finn?

Hasn't the new Huckleberry Finn edition been properly expunged? Imagine a world where major works of American fiction get whitewashed and blogs go untouched. It's only a matter of time.

CEO-MMP said...

you suppose this is momma?

http://mylittlemessenger.com/Home.html

I've read it is.

Explains...a lot.

Diamondhead said...

At what age are you supposed to stop discussing things that disturb you with your parents? I think it's preposterous that this women is trying to have the book banned because of the reaction of her son, but that isn't the kid's fault. At the same time, anyone saying this is a helicopter parent who needs to butt out is misguided. Parents should be involved in the education of their children. It's better if this involves knowing what they're being taught and counteracting that where necessary. But the grievance culture is vibrant because of the left's careful nurtering and it's funny to see a bit of blowback.

The "we should be exposing kids to as much great literature as possible" isn't too convincing when school districts have been all too willing to ban (actual) great literature that offended certain sensibilities when those sensibilities derive from a politically correct worldview.

Diamondhead said...

At what age are you supposed to stop discussing things that disturb you with your parents? I think it's preposterous that this women is trying to have the book banned because of the reaction of her son, but that isn't the kid's fault. At the same time, anyone saying this is a helicopter parent who needs to butt out is misguided. Parents should be involved in the education of their children. It's better if this involves knowing what they're being taught and counteracting that where necessary. But the grievance culture is vibrant because of the left's careful nurtering and it's funny to see a bit of blowback.

The "we should be exposing kids to as much great literature as possible" isn't too convincing when school districts have been all too willing to ban (actual) great literature that offended certain sensibilities when those sensibilities derive from a politically correct worldview.

SteveR said...

You better start dealing with that scenario well before your kids get into high school. And yeah he's got other problems.

Balfegor said...

"If your teenaged son had nightmares after reading "Beloved" Advanced Placement English class..."

I'm surprised he had such a strong reaction to the book. I found it deadly dull, myself.

Kirk Parker said...

Didn't Althouse have something a while back about getting rid of so much fiction in English classes? I'd say if you want to have the kids think about slavery, Frederick Douglass' memoirs would be a lot more worthwhile than any mere novel could possibly be.

The Godfather said...


CEO-MMP says it would "explain a lot" if the mother in our discussion is connected to the children's angel book he/she links to.

What would that explain?

This isn't snark. I would like to know.

Blue@9 said...

Who the hell assigns Beloved in a HS class? I had difficulty reading that book in law school. It is a great book, but it takes work, and it is disturbing as all fuck.

Inga said...

I thought Beloved was an excellent read. Disturbing but not so much so to give an average 17 year old nightmares. At 17, to me, old horror movies at midnight when I was alone babysitting was far more frightening.

Ann Althouse said...

"Oh, rather like THE GREAT GATSBY, eh?"

I answered you on the front page. The answer is yes, and that the POINT of the Gatsby project.

DADvocate said...

When I was 12 or 13 I ready a book that gave me nightmares, The Biography of a Grizzly. I was scared to death or a being attacked by a grizzly. Eventually I realized, except for zoos, the closest grizzly was 2,000 miles or more away.

But, I tried to get all my friends to read it because it was great. I loved reading scary books.

Revenant said...

I don't understand the idea of reading historical fiction to gain an understanding of history. You're learning to understand the author's imagination, not history.

Read a history book. Actually history is more interesting -- and educational -- than any historical novel.

sydney said...

I read that book when I was in my twenties, and I don't remember much about it at all. I can't even recall the plot basics.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Didn't Althouse have something a while back about getting rid of so much fiction in English classes? I'd say if you want to have the kids think about slavery, Frederick Douglass' memoirs would be a lot more worthwhile than any mere novel could possibly be.

Those are completely separate concepts. English as a language and the way the author uses the tools of the language are the study of English: the elements of speech, grammatical rules and the deliberate breaking of the rules, stylistic uses of language, use of imagery, similes, analogies, poetic devices. Description? Depth of characters. These and many other things are the study of English and English writing classes.

If you want to know "about" a subject like slavery and read Douglass for the historical perspective and not necessarily the literary qualties THAT is something else entirely.

Sure, English Literature, would and should put the piece of work you are studying into historical perspective.....such as The Great Gatsby. It makes more sense of the novel if you also understand the dynamics of the historical period and the cultural issues surrounding the characters in the book. BUT>>>>> the historical aspects are secondary to the literary aspects.

Two separate courses of study.

Kirk Parker said...

DBQ,

Yeah, but there's not one chance in a million that your explanation is actually why they're assigning Beloved in that particular high school (or any high school.)

T J Sawyer said...

There is really no point in reading any fiction until you finished all the true stuff.

I suggest the boy and his mother both read "The Boys of 67," "The Outpost," and "The Korean War: Pusan to Chosin: An Oral History" for starters. That will give them insight into what eighteen-year-olds have dealt with in the not so distant past.

Nightmares get a lot worse than what this kid might be having.

William said...

From what I understand, Frederick Douglas's memoirs were to a certain extent fiction.....I didn't read Beloved. The plot points sound depressing, but fortunately the writer's style is too turgid and murky to cause the material to get under your skin.......I suppose you can justify the assignment in that, as an adult, one is forced to read much eye glazing material and write many eye glazing reports oneself. So the project has character building aspects to it. My suspicion, however, is not that the book was assigned to inform the readers of the horrors of slavery so much as it was to let the readers know how awful white people were.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

There is really no point in reading any fiction until you finished all the true stuff.

I don't think you understand the difference between fact and fiction and why BOTH are important. Fiction is vital to growing minds to be able to use their imaginations. To be able to envision themselves in the situation or in the plot. To.... SEE the story in their minds eye.

Non fiction is good as instructive, historical, scientific learning experiences. A really GOOD non fiction book can do both. Stimulate the imagination and instruct in history or science. Good historical fiction can cross the divide as well. I've read some excellent historical fiction books of Peter the Great and some fascinating non fiction biographies.

History should be taught in HISTORY class and advance placement English should focus on ...oh...I don't know....how about ENGLISH literature instead of indoctrination and propaganda. I agree with Kirk. The purpose of the book was not to study English or Literature.

Perhaps if our little precious snowflake in this news article had been allowed to read the ORIGINAL Grimm fairy tales (which were really pretty scary) ,when he was a child, he would have not been such a panty waisted wuss.

Inga said...

Arrrrrggg, gotta agree with DBQ on this one!

Dust Bunny Queen said...

@ Inga

LOL!!! Hurts don't it?

:-D

Kirk Parker said...

DBQ,

Also, I do disagree with the equivalence you're making ("English" == "literature" == "fiction".) There's more to the study of language than just literature, and a lot more to literature than just fiction.

But perhaps I misunderstand you...

buwaya said...

9/10's of high school kids (or middle school kids in fact) would get more value from their English classes if the required reading was a larger volume of more interesting material. The bottom line is that few kids read any books other than those they are required to, and part of the distaste for reading seems to be rooted in educators eccentric literary choices. And teachers seem to take a tremendously long time on a single detestable book.

Many of the educators choices are dreadful, like this one, especially for boys. Nearly anything in the line of popular non-fiction would be an improvement, as would most popular male-oriented fiction.

When I was very young I was a fan westerns, of Zane Grey and Louis L'Amour. These would still work today. A nice literary choice in this line would be Wisters The Virginian.

Maguro said...

Someone should give this kid a copy of Pink Floyd's The Wall.

Oh yeah, that'll fuck him up good. Especially the part where Bob Geldof shaves off all his body hair!

buwaya said...

Boys should be assigned true American masterpieces of history written in the old literary manner. Modern academic history is done with no juice.

Prescott, Parkman, Morison are superb.

Healthy male imaginations are better stimulated by the scope and detail of their work than any character-obsessed emotional pit of personal issues.

buwaya said...

Modern novels for boys - badly needed in modern education -

The Killer Angels - Shaara
Gates of Fire - Pressfield

Dust Bunny Queen said...

There's more to the study of language than just literature, and a lot more to literature than just fiction.

True. There is also poetry. Semantics, linguistic anthropology and my very favorite-- linguistic etymology.

However, I was under the impression that this class in question was an advanced English placement class and as such would be studying the written words in English. Generally that means fiction....however.... a good non fiction or science based book could be interesting. HOWEVER.... the point of the class is not to learn science but to study the written language.

There are many books that are great fun to read that aren't fabulous works of literature. You need to read those types of books to get the love of reading. Edgar Rice Burroughs (hi Synova) was one of my childhood favorites. Loved the Mars series. I read everyone more than once.

THEN there are those great works of fiction that will kill dead any love of reading that you might have: Great Expectations comes to mind.

Many of the educators choices are dreadful, like this one, especially for boys. Nearly anything in the line of popular non-fiction would be an improvement, as would most popular male-oriented fiction.

Agreed. The reading needs to not only be something that the teacher use to illustrate the subject of ENGLISH writing...but also be something enjoyable that the students will like to read.

I'm pretty indiscriminate in my reading that I will read almost everything I can get my hands on. Almost.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

@ buwaya

Ya....but....but....those books have icky guns and people shooting them and....and...every THING!!! I mean GUNS!!!


OMG. Violence and boys are so mean and icky already....and if they read that stuff, they will go off and start wars and things....oooooh.....

/wink.

What we need is to have more male teachers and let the boys be boys and the girls be girls. I'm even in favor of single gender classrooms. Except that I wouldn't have been able to take all of those science classes and shop classes...so nevermind :-)

mtrobertsattorney said...

I read somewhere that in the'30s that the Roosevelt administration, as part of its Writers' Project, sent writers out to record the experiences of elderly blacks who actually lived under slavery. These tapes are somewhere in the Library of Congress.

You would think there would have been alot of interest these tapes, but for some reason there hasn't been much attention paid to them. Why? Who knows?

Terry said...

Bloved? Read it. Morrison says every one who is white is evil, yet many people consider it an anti-racist book.
It's weird what intellectuals do when they get together and talk among themselves.

Alex said...

Actually "The Wall" lyrics are pretty grotesque at times.

Paddy O said...

There has been only one time in my life that an English teacher or professor has led me to like a book better, to get more interested in it. There have been many books that I read before getting it assigned in class that the teacher actually ruined for me. They took a book I liked and made a book I didn't like.

The only book that a teacher helped me like? Paradise Lost. We were assigned some excerpts to read before class. I barely read any of it. BORING! After the lecture, I bought the whole book and read through the whole thing (and Paradise Regained) in about 5 days over an extended weekend break.

rcocean said...

Toni Morrison sucks. If you're going to read a book for English Lit read a piece of great literature - not a quota novel.

If you wish to read about Slavery, read "Twelve Years a Slave: A Narrative of Solomon Northup, a citizen of New-York, kidnapped in Washington city in 1841, and rescued in 1853, from a cotton plantation near the Red River in Louisiana"

David said...

The best thing that can be said of Toni Morrison's writing is that it's not as bad as Maya Angelou's, which is genuinely atrocious.

As Althouse suggested, read the 19th Century writings by former slaves. The very best is Fredrick Douglass' autobiography (his first of three) written in 1845. Most of these students, unfortunately, probably have little or no idea of who Frederick Douglas was.

Or read James Baldwin or W.E.B. DuBois. They could write.

rcocean said...

Also, Booker T Washington,Ralph Ellison, Robert Wright, Walter Mosley.

There are plenty of good Black writers - Toni Morrison isn't one of them.

rcocean said...

Ooops - Richard Wright. Although I'm sure Bob Wright wishes he were a great black writer.

Astro said...

It can't be any worse than having to read (or trying to read) the completely unreadable 'Cry, the Beloved Country'.

Years later I saw some graffiti sprayed onto a bridge overpass, "Sucks syntax" that described that book perfectly.

Astro said...

MadisonMan said... AP English is a joke.

My son took AP courses. I've known friends whose kids took AP courses. -- I think all AP courses are a joke. Too much work for very little reward even if the kid passes the AP test. Not enough kids pass the tests to justify their continuance. For a lot of kids their hard work earns the 'reward' of a lower GPA.

Revenant said...

I'm even in favor of single gender classrooms.

I dunno, I think the only thing that keeps middle schoolers from being forces of pure evil is the need to conceal their malevolence from the opposite sex.

wyo sis said...

I had nightmares after reading Myra Breckinridge in high school. Sadly, it wasn't assigned in school. I had to keep my nightmares to myself because my mother would have grounded me for life if she'd known about it. Think of the fun I denied her.

Kovacs said...

Thank god, Althouse, you're a law professor and not a lit professor. In fact, novels are something greater than a collection of sentences--or at least they should be. And "Beloved" is about something more profound than the evils of slavery. It's about a whole cohort of a race of Americans who, born into almost unimaginably brutal conditions, have a really tenuous grip on their own humanity. And so all their relationships--mother and child, man and woman--are poisoned by that. I, and many other readers, find that a deeply affecting theme; and I personally think that you're lacking something as a person if you're not also moved by that. It's not ridiculous that it would give a reader nightmares--it's a nightmarish book. And if you think that there's something evil about a work of art that gives you nightmares, mom in Virginia, then I kind of feel sorry for you.

I also, by the way, think that "Gatsby" is a great work. But I don't think its greatness can be discovered in randomly selected sentences.

Nichevo said...

I think I opened that at random at my cousins house and looked in it and it was chokingly scatological and I put it down like a poisoned thing. Or am I thinking of 'their eyes were watching god?'

Revenant: would like to know, no sarc, what you would assign as reading list for superior coverage to Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin saga.

Robert Cook said...

"Once again, comrade Bob, trying to hijack the narrative by arguing facts not in evidence."

And what, dear Rusty, is "the narrative" that you accuse me of trying to hijack?

Rusty said...

Robert Cook said...
"Once again, comrade Bob, trying to hijack the narrative by arguing facts not in evidence."

And what, dear Rusty, is "the narrative" that you accuse me of trying to hijack?

Why. The facts not in evidence ,comrade Bob.
How can you suppose what the narrator meant or what they were thinking. Do you deconstruct everything someone says and then infer meaning?

Robert Cook said...

Rusty boy...your answer is...unintelligible...at least to me. But then, I'm just a dim "Stalinist," so it's to be expected I cannot parse your meaning.

Michael said...

It is child abuse to force a child to read anything writen by Morrison. Felonious to compel them to witness her speaking about any topic.

Shanna said...

That will give them insight into what eighteen-year-olds have dealt with in the not so distant past.

I just finished listening to some ‘hardcore history’ podcasts on the Mongols and the Russian front during WWII. Both were very disturbing (but interesting and highly recommended!). Compared to what people have dealt with throughout history, we have it easy.

THEN there are those great works of fiction that will kill dead any love of reading that you might have: Great Expectations comes to mind.

I hate that story too. But so long as English class is giving you a wide range of literature to read, I don’t see the problem. If you read a lot of books, you are going to run across things you like and things you don’t but you can’t know until you actually read them.

What I hated was the obsessive level of detail they asked on tests, to try to weed out the people who just read cliffs notes or watched the movies. I don't like to read a story trying to obsessively memorize what was on the table in chapter 3 as I go along. That will kill your love of reading quickly, just as having to memorize a thousand dates and little else can kill your love of history, which is actually fascinating.

Shanna said...

Ooops - Richard Wright.

I had to read Native Son in high school. Now that book I found disturbing. I still get creeped out by the idea of that girl getting cut up and loaded into a furnace. (or something like that)

Aridog said...

Dust bunny Queen said ...

... the study of English: the elements of speech, grammatical rules and the deliberate breaking of the rules, stylistic uses of language, use of imagery, similes, analogies ...

Oh, you mean like Chief Justice John Glover Roberts!!

//ducks-hides

Synova said...

Why is it, that when it's "literature" and an English teacher assigns it, that reading really horrific things is good for you, and when it's Grand Theft Auto, it's evil?

Certainly when one reads, one enters into events every bit as much as when playing a video game.

SOJO said...

It's funny. I used to love the Great Gatsby. I was very into the 1920s and I wrote my high school senior paper on FSF's works. Loved Erte, art deco, suffragettes in bobs blah blah blah.

Now I CANNOT STAND IT. Not into the 20s style anymore either. No deep comment, just odd. Life changes a person so much.

rcocean said...

"I had to read Native Son in high school. Now that book I found disturbing. I still get creeped out by the idea of that girl getting cut up and loaded into a furnace. (or something like that)"

Yes, that's the odd part but overall its very good. I think Baldwin is my favorite AA novelist. The problem with Literature is some people don't appreciate style while others obsess about it. You see the same thing in Movies. You have "The mob" - who only appreciate plot and action vs. "the snobs" - who can only appreciate great photography and symbolism.