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How Words Create Worlds - Help me brainstorm novels for this!


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Looking at using this theme to combine 9th and 11th graders next year for literuature. I have some ideas, but I'd love to hear yours!

 

I'd love the books to include some from the following categories: an ancient work, a play, an American novel, a non-Western novel, a British novel, a sci fi novel.

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A Jasper Fforde book might fit (although I think he is from Wales). I really liked The Big Overeasy which uses fairy tales for the world of the book, but I'm currently reading The Eyre Affair which would work too (the characters are all adults and there are a fair amount of interjected expletives)

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The first thing that came to mind with your course title is books in which the author created words/languages as part of their world building. All of these works do that -- they are all fantasy or sci-fi:

U.S.
- The Goblin Emperor (Addison) -- fantasy; incredible world-building and "politicking", with invented words
- Thick as Thieves (Turner) -- 5th book in The Thief series, but can mostly stand alone -- one of the characters tells mythic stories in a stylized way that mimics Gilgamesh -- fantastic!
- A Wizard of Earthsea (Le Guin) -- in this book, words have power: speaking creates the spells/magic in this world

U.K.
- The Lord of the Rings trilogy (Tolkien) 
- Out of the Silent Planet (Lewis)
- Watership Down (Richard Adams) 
- Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
- Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Carroll) 
- Nineteen Eighty-Four (Orwell) -- preview!
- A Clockwork Orange (Burgess) -- preview!


Another way of looking at the idea of "words create worlds" is to focus on author's use of language. That would open up some older works and works in other genres.

For example, epics are written in the poetic epic form, so those use language in very descriptive and metaphoric ways. Any of the 4 epics listed below would use language in arresting ways to build their worlds. For Beowulf, use the Heaney translation -- beautiful, poetic use of language. For the other 3, compare translations to find the one that works with words that best fits your students AND best fits your course parameters of "how words create worlds". (See this brief New Yorker article about what a difference translation makes.)

- Gilgamesh -- ancient
- Iliad -- ancient -- compare translations to find the one that works with words that b
- Odyssey  -- ancient
- Beowulf (Heaney translation) -- medieval

A few other works that are popping into my head that use language in a beautiful or unique way to create their world:
- Mrs. Dalloway (Woolf) -- British -- probably not high interest for a 9th grade boy, though
- Lord of the Flies (Golding) -- British
- Wuthering Heights (Bronte) -- British
- Something Wicked This Way Comes (Bradbury) -- U.S.


And finally, some other ideas that might also work with the list of variety of lit. you want to include, beyond the ideas above:

play
- something by Shakespeare -- wonderful ways of working with words/language
- A Raisin in the Sun -- African American family / language / culture of the early 1960s
- Oedipus the King -- Ancient Greek with formal language/structure 
sci-fi
- Fahrenheit 451 -- Bradbury uses language like no other
- A Canticle for Leibowitz -- language and rhythms of the Catholic monastic church maintains civilization in a post-apocalyptic world
Ancient
- Till We Have Faces (Lewis) -- not actually ancient, more thematic than word-based:  pagan mysticism / Greek rationalism / Christian themes
- Circe (Miller) -- a retelling + extension of the goddess Circe from the Odyssey (NOTE: some mature moments); exquisite language use -- she is heavily influenced by the Ancient Greek epics, but makes the language and story her own
- if not an epic, then perhaps an Ancient Greek play; not so much word-based, but choices/themes build a world
American
- The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald) -- quintessentially American; beautiful use of language builds a scintillating yet sad world of the Lost Generation
- Their Eyes Were Watching God (Hurston) -- African American 1930s, use of language builds the world of black culture/Deep South
British
- something by Dickens -- his words build amazing characters within his worlds
- something by one of the Bronte sisters
- a mystery by Agatha Christie or Dorothy Sayers -- how words can used by a detective to unravel the world built by the murderer
non-Western
- Things Fall Apart (Achebe)
- Artist of the Floating World (Ishiguro)
- Haiku poetry
- Bible: one of the prophets -- poetic/prophetic language builds the world of coming judgement for sin, coming Savior for redemption, and the world of future Zion (heaven)

Edited by Lori D.
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1 hour ago, Lori D. said:

The first thing that came to mind with your course title is books in which the author created words/languages as part of their world building. All of these works do that -- they are all fantasy or sci-fi:

U.S.
- The Goblin Emperor (Addison) -- fantasy; incredible world-building and "politicking", with invented words
- Thick as Thieves (Turner) -- 5th book in The Thief series, but can mostly stand alone -- one of the characters tells mythic stories in a stylized way that mimics Gilgamesh -- fantastic!
- A Wizard of Earthsea (Le Guin) -- in this book, words have power: speaking creates the spells/magic in this world

U.K.
- The Lord of the Rings trilogy (Tolkien) 
- Out of the Silent Planet (Lewis)
- Watership Down (Richard Adams) 
- Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
- Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Carroll) 
- Nineteen Eighty-Four (Orwell) -- preview!
- A Clockwork Orange (Burgess) -- preview!


Another way of looking at the idea of "words create worlds" is to focus on author's use of language. That would open up some older works and works in other genres.

For example, epics are written in the poetic epic form, so those use language in very descriptive and metaphoric ways. Any of the 4 epics listed below would use language in arresting ways to build their worlds. For Beowulf, use the Heaney translation -- beautiful, poetic use of language. For the other 3, compare translations to find the one that works with words that best fits your students AND best fits your course parameters of "how words create worlds". (See this brief New Yorker article about what a difference translation makes.)

- Gilgamesh -- ancient
- Iliad -- ancient -- compare translations to find the one that works with words that b
- Odyssey  -- ancient
- Beowulf (Heaney translation) -- medieval

A few other works that are popping into my head that use language in a beautiful or unique way to create their world:
- Mrs. Dalloway (Woolf) -- British -- probably not high interest for a 9th grade boy, though
- Lord of the Flies (Golding) -- British
- Wuthering Heights (Bronte) -- British
- Something Wicked This Way Comes (Bradbury) -- U.S.


And finally, some other ideas that might also work with the list of variety of lit. you want to include, beyond the ideas above:

play
- something by Shakespeare -- wonderful ways of working with words/language
- A Raisin in the Sun -- African American family / language / culture of the early 1960s
- Oedipus the King -- Ancient Greek with formal language/structure 
sci-fi
- Fahrenheit 451 -- Bradbury uses language like no other
- A Canticle for Leibowitz -- language and rhythms of the Catholic monastic church maintain civilizations in a post-apocalyptic world
Ancient
- Till We Have Faces (Lewis) -- not actually ancient, more thematic than word-based:  pagan mysticism / Greek rationalism / Christian themes
- Circe (Miller) -- a retelling + extension of the
- if not an epic, then perhaps an Ancient Greek play; not so much word-based, but choices/themes build a world
American
- The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald) -- quintessentially American; beautiful use of language builds a scintillating yet sad world of the Lost Generation
- Their Eyes Were Watching God (Hurston) -- African American 1930s, use of language builds the world of black culture/Deep South
British
- something by Dickens -- his words build amazing characters within his worlds
- something by one of the Bronte sisters
- a mystery by Agatha Christie or Dorothy Sayers -- how words can used by a detective to unravel the world built by the murderer
non-Western
- Things Fall Apart (Achebe)
- Artist of the Floating World (Ishiguro)
- Haiku poetry
- Bible: one of the prophets -- poetic/prophetic language builds the world of coming judgement for sin, coming Savior for redemption, and the world of future Zion (heaven)

I feel like I need to pay you for these thoughtful responses!

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So, a few questions:
- Do you have a specific emphasis, or a particular "thread" that you want to follow through the works in your DIY Literature of "How Words Create Worlds"?
- Or do you have a nonfiction resource that is discussing use of words and language in the creating of literature? 
- And are you wanting just traditional "classics," or are unusual titles (i.e., not frequently mentioned or used in lit. courses) but with "meat" for discussing okay too?
- Or is there a list of books you really do want to cover before the end of high school, and are looking to use this course as a way of selecting titles that will "flow together" or will yield good conversation when juxtaposed in the same year?
- And what about poetry or short stories?

Answers to some of those questions could help us do a better job of coming up with specific titles that fit your "overarching theme"... 😄 

Also -- because I just thought of *another* set of works that use words in strongly descriptive ways to create atmosphere/mood: Gothic works!

Edited by Lori D.
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3 hours ago, Lori D. said:

The first thing that came to mind with your course title is books in which the author created words/languages as part of their world building. All of these works do that -- they are all fantasy or sci-fi:

U.S.
- The Goblin Emperor (Addison) -- fantasy; incredible world-building and "politicking", with invented words
- Thick as Thieves (Turner) -- 5th book in The Thief series, but can mostly stand alone -- one of the characters tells mythic stories in a stylized way that mimics Gilgamesh -- fantastic!
- A Wizard of Earthsea (Le Guin) -- in this book, words have power: speaking creates the spells/magic in this world

U.K.
- The Lord of the Rings trilogy (Tolkien) 
- Out of the Silent Planet (Lewis)
- Watership Down (Richard Adams) 
- Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
- Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Carroll) 
- Nineteen Eighty-Four (Orwell) -- preview!
- A Clockwork Orange (Burgess) -- preview!


Another way of looking at the idea of "words create worlds" is to focus on author's use of language. That would open up some older works and works in other genres.

For example, epics are written in the poetic epic form, so those use language in very descriptive and metaphoric ways. Any of the 4 epics listed below would use language in arresting ways to build their worlds. For Beowulf, use the Heaney translation -- beautiful, poetic use of language. For the other 3, compare translations to find the one that works with words that best fits your students AND best fits your course parameters of "how words create worlds". (See this brief New Yorker article about what a difference translation makes.)

- Gilgamesh -- ancient
- Iliad -- ancient -- compare translations to find the one that works with words that b
- Odyssey  -- ancient
- Beowulf (Heaney translation) -- medieval

A few other works that are popping into my head that use language in a beautiful or unique way to create their world:
- Mrs. Dalloway (Woolf) -- British -- probably not high interest for a 9th grade boy, though
- Lord of the Flies (Golding) -- British
- Wuthering Heights (Bronte) -- British
- Something Wicked This Way Comes (Bradbury) -- U.S.


And finally, some other ideas that might also work with the list of variety of lit. you want to include, beyond the ideas above:

play
- something by Shakespeare -- wonderful ways of working with words/language
- A Raisin in the Sun -- African American family / language / culture of the early 1960s
- Oedipus the King -- Ancient Greek with formal language/structure 
sci-fi
- Fahrenheit 451 -- Bradbury uses language like no other
- A Canticle for Leibowitz -- language and rhythms of the Catholic monastic church maintains civilization in a post-apocalyptic world
Ancient
- Till We Have Faces (Lewis) -- not actually ancient, more thematic than word-based:  pagan mysticism / Greek rationalism / Christian themes
- Circe (Miller) -- a retelling + extension of the goddess Circe from the Odyssey (NOTE: some mature moments); exquisite language use -- she is heavily influenced by the Ancient Greek epics, but makes the language and story her own
- if not an epic, then perhaps an Ancient Greek play; not so much word-based, but choices/themes build a world
American
- The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald) -- quintessentially American; beautiful use of language builds a scintillating yet sad world of the Lost Generation
- Their Eyes Were Watching God (Hurston) -- African American 1930s, use of language builds the world of black culture/Deep South
British
- something by Dickens -- his words build amazing characters within his worlds
- something by one of the Bronte sisters
- a mystery by Agatha Christie or Dorothy Sayers -- how words can used by a detective to unravel the world built by the murderer
non-Western
- Things Fall Apart (Achebe)
- Artist of the Floating World (Ishiguro)
- Haiku poetry
- Bible: one of the prophets -- poetic/prophetic language builds the world of coming judgement for sin, coming Savior for redemption, and the world of future Zion (heaven)

Fun list.

I think Their Eyes Were Watching God has some content that, like Circe, would be considered mature.

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One of the best books I've read in a few years is The Murmur of Bees, by Sofia Segovia. She is Mexican and sets the book in Mexico around 1918-24.

One of the main characters has a cleft palate and cannot be understood by most of the other characters. Yet he understands the people around him and more besides. I would put the story into magical realism or just this side of it.

 

What a fun question. I'm going to be thinking of this for a while.

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I thought of several on Lori's list. I'll add Haroun and the Sea of Stories as a book that's ALL about words, stories, and their power.

Silence and finding a voice are themes in Purple Hibiscus. It's... dark though. But I've read it with high schoolers.

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress might be another option for non-Western. The words change everyone's lives. 

Slightly on the young end for your 11th grader, but if you wanted to chip in a YA novel in verse, The Poet X might be a good one.

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OH.

And you simply must must kick this theme off by reading "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius" by Jorge Luis Borges. I remember reading this for the first time in high school and it was like, my whole mind was blown. 

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