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S/O If you could assign only one book for 9th grade honors English, what would it be?


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Posted (edited)

In the Anne of Green Gables post, several people mentioned that only one book was assigned in classes they were familiar with, and it was commonly To Kill a Mockingbird. It is a safe choice, but not the one I would pick. If you could only assign one book (novel, play, or novel-length poem) for a 9th grade honors class, which book would it be?

eta: To be clear, I don't condone assigning only one book. I was just considering it in terms of an interesting thought experiment.

Edited by Amoret
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14 minutes ago, Porridge said:

Wait, really? Kids only read one full length book in an Honors 9th grade English class? Is that a normal thing?

There is a huge push to have kids read non fiction texts - articles and such - and then respond with short answer essay style questions, quoting the text with their answers. That seems to be the only thing some english classes are doing, from what I've heard from some teachers. It's an important skill, but hardly seems right for it to be the focus for all of highschool. 

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Posted (edited)

If only allowed to cover 1 full-length work in Honors 9th grade... Since I see that a lot of contemporary works and works by diverse voices/points of view are already being covered by schools, I would choose an older Western Civ. classic for timeless themes and skill in writing, but also something that could stand alone as a "first exposure to great literature" type of work -- so many of the classics--and contemporary novels--are best understood after having a few "benchmark" classics under your belt, so that's why I would lay that foundation in 9th grade with a classic that has it all...

Maybe:

- a Shakespeare play -- Macbeth, or, Hamlet
Amazing how relevant the issues wrestled with by the characters in his tragedies are to issues today. The human condition, and powerful themes. Plus his rich vocabulary, the beauty of his language use, and his creative, poetic images and metaphors.

- The Odyssey, The Iliad, or the Aeneid
So many contemporary cultural references go back to the characters of Ancient Greek (and Roman) epics. Again, the power of the written word in epic poetry structure, plus the timeless themes about the struggles of what it means to be human.

- A Tale of Two Cities
No one uses language like Dickens. Or creates as memorable characters as Dickens. Intense situations with characters making choices that put them on a specific path that defines how they see the world and others: great callousness and the dehumanization of the soul -- or great sacrifice and the ennobling of the soul.

- The Lord of the Rings
Rich use of language and images of choices/consequences, deep themes of spiritual truths and beauty, plus a bit of a twist on the archetypal "hero's quest cycle."

Edited by Lori D.
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Posted (edited)

From a STEM public school:

9th grade English:

I was a teenage Space Reporter by David Chudwin

Plus short stories

10th grade English:

Night by Elie Wiesel

plus short stories and a play

 

ETA: I wish the school did more and I encourage reading and discussing literature at home. 
ETA again: there are no honors classes offered at this school. My oldest had different teachers but still only had one book a year, though I  don’t remember which ones.

Edited by Acorn
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My off the cuff reaction was the Lord of the Rings story, which is technically three books. 

The book that touched my current highschooler the most was The Hate U Give. (The siblings above him were obsessed with LOTR and it feels too btdt for him anyway.)

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We’re currently reading The Hate U Give for Gr.10, and it is a powerful book.  It is not very complex in writing style, though, and it has a lot of swearing - very believable, but this would bother some people for Gr. 9. 
 

My first thought if I had to pick just one was Twelfth Night, but it might be better to have a much more contemporary book.  I’m not sure how to balance really exceptional language with relatively easy reading but a significant story that is more accessible.  Shakespeare takes some working up to which 1 book probably doesn’t allow. 

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1 hour ago, Acorn said:

From a STEM public school:

9th grade English:

I was a teenage Space Reporter by David Chudwin

Plus short stories

10th grade English:

Night by Elie Wiesel

plus short stories and a play

 

ETA: I wish the school did more and I encourage reading and discussing literature at home. 
ETA again: there are no honors classes offered at this school. My oldest had different teachers but still only had one book a year, though I  don’t remember which ones.

I can't believe that out of the all the books written over millennia that those were the selections.  I couldn't even finish Night.  The baby being tossed in the air and killed was too graphic for me.  It gave me nightmares for weeks.

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24 minutes ago, Eilonwy said:

 I’m not sure how to balance really exceptional language with relatively easy reading but a significant story that is more accessible.

I think in this case, I'd give up easy and accessible and go with exceptional language and a significant story, but then spend time working through the language and helping students to appreciate the depth and complexity of the work. My own preferences and interests align with LoriD's list above. I had the most success when I was teaching undergrad lit classes was when we did difficult texts that were new to the students, but then worked through them slowly. One semester, I taught the entire Faerie Queene. It was tough for the students, but also very, very fun. The challenge of teaching these older, harder works, though, is that you need to know them pretty well in order to help your students understand them. There are tons of resources for Shakespeare and Homer, but not as many for less commonly read works.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Eilonwy said:

We’re currently reading The Hate U Give for Gr.10, and it is a powerful book.  It is not very complex in writing style, though, and it has a lot of swearing - very believable, but this would bother some people for Gr. 9. 
 

My first thought if I had to pick just one was Twelfth Night, but it might be better to have a much more contemporary book.  I’m not sure how to balance really exceptional language with relatively easy reading but a significant story that is more accessible.  Shakespeare takes some working up to which 1 book probably doesn’t allow. 

Not trying to be deliberately argumentative here, as I understand where you are coming from. 😄 

The problem I am seeing with a number of the easier / accessible contemporary works is that they have a tendency to be narrow in scope. Yes, these works do a great job of giving voice to a specific point of view that has not previously been a part of the Great Conversation of Literature -- or that is dealing directly with a specific-to-this-time issue.

IMO, those can be super books for fleshing out a literature class and providing variety and diversity of culture and topics, and new ways of thinking about/looking at things. BUT, often it is at the expense of missing out much of what makes literature so worth reading:

rich use of language, image, and metaphor that add depth to the work
creative, beautiful, skilled writing
universal/timeless themes
complex characters
wrestling with the big issues and questions that all humans wrestle with

So, just me, but if ONLY allowed 1 book for early high school (the OP says "Honors 9th grade"), I would much rather take the time to work through an older classic with all the richness of writing, and the depth and breadth of topics that speak to many people across many cultures, over the centuries -- than to choose 1 contemporary YA book that speaks to a single specific current issue, without the richness of language and breadth of themes...

I find in teaching lit. at my co-op classes that when you provide students with the challenge of a more difficult work, they almost always rise to the occasion--and often really enjoy being "pushed" out of their comfort zone a bit. 😉

Edited by Lori D.
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5 hours ago, ktgrok said:

There is a huge push to have kids read non fiction texts - articles and such - and then respond with short answer essay style questions, quoting the text with their answers. That seems to be the only thing some english classes are doing, from what I've heard from some teachers. It's an important skill, but hardly seems right for it to be the focus for all of highschool. 

It's a much more important skill than literary analysis. 

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If I had to choose one novel for 9th grade English, I'd choose Frankenstein, not because I think it's the greatest book in the universe but because there are a whole bunch of ways you could riff off it.  Technology, science, unintended consequences, monsters, human connection, family, making mistakes, the list goes on and on.

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, Amoret said:

I think in this case, I'd give up easy and accessible and go with exceptional language and a significant story, but then spend time working through the language and helping students to appreciate the depth and complexity of the work. My own preferences and interests align with LoriD's list above. I had the most success when I was teaching undergrad lit classes was when we did difficult texts that were new to the students, but then worked through them slowly.

This makes a lot of sense to me, and when I’ve introduced a Shakespeare play with my kids, I started by reading an adaptation or two, in increasing detail & length, then we watched it, then we read the whole thing.  If I were actually in this situation, I’d probably do the same, covering that one work, but several times.  Maybe I could find one that has a contemporary novel adaptation, like Margaret Atwood’s version of The Tempest.  
 

There’s still a part of me that doesn’t want to dismiss the accessible work that everyone could read and that brought more voices to the table, though.  Maybe something like Things Fall Apart, or a contemporary translation of Beowulf like Maria Dahvana Headley’s, both of which have really interesting use of language. 

Edited by Eilonwy
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26 minutes ago, EKS said:

It's a much more important skill than literary analysis. 

Writing and quoting non-fiction is a much lower level skill than literary analysis and so much loss simply from not reading works which are essentially representations of the human condition.  This transition comes from CB and was one that was expressed as a needed objective about 10 yrs ago.  As a society we keep attempting to solve the problems of lack of education by reducing and eliminating what makes one well-educated in the first place.  Students can't write, so eliminate literature and literary analysis and focus on the worker ant skills of basic writing (which should have been mastered in middle school or assignments coming from history, social sciences, or science.)  

It is the same mistake as thinking that having little kids write reams of garbage when they are little will somehow produce quality writing, so assign essays to 3rd graders.  

Just bc it is what they are doing does not mean that it is a more important skill and one that should be focused on at the expense of reading literature or writing literary analysis.  Great literature elevates the mind beyond the narrow scope of one's bubble view of existence. 

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4 minutes ago, Eilonwy said:

This makes a lot of sense to me, and when I’ve introduced a Shakespeare play with my kids, I started by reading an adaptation or two, in increasing detail & length, then we watched it, then we read the whole thing.  If I were actually in this situation, I’d probably do the same, covering that one work, but several times.  Maybe I could find one that has a contemporary novel adaptation, like Margaret Atwood’s version of The Tempest.  
 

There’s still a part of me that doesn’t want to dismiss the accessible work that everyone could read and that brought more voices to the table, though.  Maybe something like Things Fall Apart, or a contemporary version of Beowulf like Maria Dahvana Headley’s, both of which have really interesting use of language. 

I have been teaching my kids Shakespeare for probably 24 yrs.  We start in elementary school.  I have a "formula" I follow bc since I started teaching it this way, Shakespeare has been one of my kids' favorite authors.  (I'm even teaching 4 plays to a group of friends this yr and we will be doing this approach exactly.)

1- read a children's version (Leon Garfield's are my favorite)

2-watch an adaptation (Youtube has so many to choose from.  Some of the Lego ones are great.  :))

3-read along while listening to an audiobook performance

4-watch a performance

5-kids perform their own version or parallel plot line (This past school yr my then 8th grade dd and 7th grade granddaughter created several hilarious plays...Shakespeare Hogwart's style.  Midsummer's Night Dream and Romeo and Juliet were my 2 favorites.....the plot lines were so good and their characterizations were spot on.  And....they loved it.  They beg to more Shakespeare bc the storylines are so compelling and they love immersing themselves in the language.)

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I'd do a Greek play or something Shakespeare even though I don't like Shakespeare because kids think it is ancient and irrelevant, and learning they are wrong about that is an important skill and not even very difficult to teach. Learning that they own this inheritance as much as anyone else does, and that they're allowed to adapt aka play with it is also an important thought to have.

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20 minutes ago, 8filltheheart said:

Writing and quoting non-fiction is a much lower level skill than literary analysis and so much loss simply from not reading works which are essentially representations of the human condition.  This transition comes from CB and was one that was expressed as a needed objective about 10 yrs ago.  As a society we keep attempting to solve the problems of lack of education by reducing and eliminating what makes one well-educated in the first place.  Students can't write, so eliminate literature and literary analysis and focus on the worker ant skills of basic writing (which should have been mastered in middle school or assignments coming from history, social sciences, or science.)  

It is the same mistake as thinking that having little kids write reams of garbage when they are little will somehow produce quality writing, so assign essays to 3rd graders.  

Just bc it is what they are doing does not mean that it is a more important skill and one that should be focused on at the expense of reading literature or writing literary analysis.  Great literature elevates the mind beyond the narrow scope of one's bubble view of existence. 

QFT!  What a great post and so true, unfortunately.  This is the reason I pulled dd out of ps and started homeschooling her.  I was horrified to discover that she couldn't write and wasn't being taught.  She's my youngest and her ps education was so different than what her older siblings experienced.  Very little reading and no writing instruction.  It wasn't surprising at all that her college peers couldn't write - it's just not being taught in school anymore.  I blame high-stakes testing and so much teaching to the tests.  If reading literature and writing isn't being tested, it's not going to be taught. 

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Probably the bible (we're not christian, but it's rather foundational to Western culture and history). 

Not sure what kind of dystopia we'd have to live in to only be able to use one book... so, maybe some kind of novel that is about living in a dystopia. Many possible choices there, would need to know more to decide which one. XD

When I was looking for online English classes a couple of years ago, I came across one that does a year-long analysis of Dante's Divine Comedy. It looks really nice, but I don't think my kids would like it (plus, they're a christian company, and my kids are pretty outspoken about thinking it's silly to believe in all that - not sure I could get them to bite their tongues for a whole year, lol). It says grades 10-12, but I could see it working for honors 9th for at least some kids. I haven't ever read the book though (we watched a movie version this past year). 

My oldest did Essentials in Writing's online classes for 9th and 10th grade. For 10th grade, they did short stories, poems, and such, and To Kill a Mockingbird (you can find lists of readings on their website). For 9th grade the novel was The Hobbit. That was a normal, not an advanced/honors class though. That said, they seem to have discontinued their online classes (without informing currently enrolled students - I noticed several months ago that that section disappeared from their website, but luckily I was already planning out my own course for next year anyway... still thought it was lame they didn't give us a heads up since surely some of my kid's classmates' parents were counting on using it next year). I wonder what happened, since companies typically don't jump through the hoops to become accredited and then a couple of years later say "nah, never mind." 

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, 8filltheheart said:

Writing and quoting non-fiction is a much lower level skill than literary analysis and so much loss simply from not reading works which are essentially representations of the human condition. 

I have four degrees--bachelor's degrees in biochemistry (from 35 years ago) and math (two months ago) and master's degrees in education (2017) and the humanities (interdisciplinary; 2019).  I have also worked professionally as a scientist (in a lab) and later on as a scientific writer.  I have a whole lot of writing experience, experience that is, frankly, much more varied than most people have.

I wrote several literary analysis papers for the humanities degree, including for the capstone project.  Writing them was fun and interesting, but it wasn't a higher level skill than writing coherent papers about facts that actually offer new ideas (or even just manage to articulate old ideas well; I'm thinking here about some papers I wrote for a history of math class which were by far the most difficult papers I've ever written).  In contrast, literary analysis is like a parlor trick in that it allows one to conjure some sort of reality about a make believe world that can seem weirdly correct once the paper is done.  When you write about the real world, on the other hand, you are constrained by reality.  Or at least you should be.

That said, I absolutely agree that students should read a ton of literature.  You can have students read literature and discuss it but still focus on writing that isn't literary analysis.  Unless they end up majoring in English in college, they will probably never write another literary analysis paper again.

 

 

Edited by EKS
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Posted (edited)
6 hours ago, EKS said:

I have four degrees--bachelor's degrees in biochemistry (from 35 years ago) and math (two months ago) and master's degrees in education (2017) and the humanities (interdisciplinary; 2019).  I have also worked professionally as a scientist (in a lab) and later on as a scientific writer.  I have a whole lot of writing experience, experience that is, frankly, much more varied than most people have.

I wrote several literary analysis papers for the humanities degree, including for the capstone project.  Writing them was fun and interesting, but it wasn't a higher level skill than writing coherent papers about facts that actually offer new ideas (or even just manage to articulate old ideas well; I'm thinking here about some papers I wrote for a history of math class which were by far the most difficult papers I've ever written).  In contrast, literary analysis is like a parlor trick in that it allows one to conjure some sort of reality about a make believe world that seems absolutely correct once the paper is done.  When you write about the real world, on the other hand, you are constrained by reality.  Or at least you should be.

That said, I absolutely agree that students should read a ton of literature.  You can have students read literature and discuss it but still focus on writing that isn't literary analysis.  Unless they end up majoring in English in college, they will probably never write another literary analysis paper again.

High school kids with zero writing skills are not reading non-fiction and offering independent insight.  They are writing what is equivalent to elementary report writing with inserted quotes reiterating what they read/wrote. 

I agree, non-fiction analysis has its place---in history, science, social sciences, etc---as I stated in my OP. 

Eliminating literature from English classes serves no greater purpose.  It is simply a reduction of what was once a norm.  You can have both non-fiction writing analysis AND literature/literary analysis (just like the education of generations of other students).  Instead, we simply continue to reduce, simplify, and lower standards.  (When I was in high school, we read a long list of novels, wrote literary essays, and research papers. There is no doubt in my mind that educational standards are lower.  I lived in a poor school district in a southern state and my education was light yrs beyond what kids are getting today.)

I am not sure how you were taught to write literary analysis, but parlor tricks would fail you in my home.  For example, comparing the Green Lady in Perelandra to Eve in Genesis and Lewis's development of her character without the fall.  There is no parlor trick.  It is evidentiary based on what is written in black and white in both sources and the student has to prove it with examples in their writing.

 

Edited by 8filltheheart
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I'd be tempted to choose To Kill A Mockingbird, but I think I'd go with a Dickens book.  Maybe David Copperfield or A Tale of Two Cities.  But I think I'd lean toward Copperfield.  

 

 

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Posted (edited)
10 hours ago, EKS said:

In contrast, literary analysis is like a parlor trick in that it allows one to conjure some sort of reality about a make believe world that can seem weirdly correct once the paper is done.

How are you defining "literary analysis" in this context? What does the process involve, in your view?  A concrete, specific example or two of how it is like a parlor trick would be helpful for understanding your point here.

Edited by Amoret
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11 hours ago, 8filltheheart said:

Eliminating literature from English classes serves no greater purpose. 

I wasn't advocating to eliminate literature from English classes.  

11 hours ago, 8filltheheart said:

I am not sure how you were taught to write literary analysis, but parlor tricks would fail you in my home.  For example, comparing the Green Lady in Perelandra to Eve in Genesis and Lewis's development of her character without the fall.  There is no parlor trick.  It is evidentiary based on what is written in black and white in both sources and the student has to prove it with examples in their writing.

I can assure you that you would be very happy with how I write literary essays.  It's just that you call "evidentiary," I consider, at bottom, to be a parlor trick.

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2 hours ago, Amoret said:

How are you defining "literary analysis" in this context? What does the process involve, in your view?  A concrete, specific example or two of how it is like a parlor trick would be helpful for understanding your point here.

It has to do with the truth value of the claim and where it is derived from.  In a literary essay, I make a claim about a literary work and then find evidence within that work (say) to support it.  But during the process, in my mind the truth value of the claim goes from possible to absolute.  The same thing happens during the process of writing in the humanities more generally.  In other words, in the humanities, at bottom it's all argument because claims don't have a truth value.  But the process of making the argument will make it seem like the claim is true.  That is what I mean by a parlor trick.  It's the process that conjures "truth" out of something with no truth value.

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12 hours ago, EKS said:

In contrast, literary analysis is like a parlor trick in that it allows one to conjure some sort of reality about a make believe world that can seem weirdly correct once the paper is done.

I teach both writing and close reading of literature, and the approach to literary analysis that @EKS is describing here often gets a passing grade in English courses, but it could not be called good literary analysis.

When an essay of literary analysis is well conceived, well founded, and well written, it makes us better readers — i.e., it gives us insight into the the author, into the work itself, or both.

The fact that @EKS was able to thrive in academia by treating literary analysis as a parlor trick and by conjuring a make-believe world just exposes part of the fraudulent nature of the enterprise, i.e., the enterprise of academic literary analysis. Each year in our schools, millions of students engage in this academic exercise of producing bad literary analysis — essays that do NOT make us better readers, do NOT give us genuine insight into the work or the author.

One of the things I routinely do in my own literature classes is distribute to my students fine examples of literary analysis — essays that are rock-solid and insightful — so that they can see for themselves that there's nothing phony about real literary analysis. With real analysis, evidence is actually evidence — real evidence, not support for some fictitious confection of a thesis.

I'm attaching an example of what I consider "good" literary analysis. It's an essay on Macbeth, and it's no accident that this essay was published in 1904; scholars seldom write this way today. It's real scholarship, and the insights are grounded in historical realities touching on:

  • the only text we have for Macbeth — the 1623 First Folio;
  • Shakespeare's principal source for the play — Holinshed’s 1577 Chronicles of England, Scotlande, and Irelande;
  • Scandinavian & Anglo-Saxon vocabulary and mythology.
12 hours ago, EKS said:

That said, I absolutely agree that students should read a ton of literature.  You can have students read literature and discuss it but still focus on writing that isn't literary analysis.  Unless they end up majoring in English in college, they will probably never write another literary analysis paper again.

I concur, and I really appreciated @EKS's saying it.

2 minutes ago, EKS said:

In a literary essay, I make a claim about a literary work and then find evidence within that work (say) to support it.  But during the process, in my mind the truth value of the claim goes from possible to absolute.  The same thing happens during the process of writing in the humanities more generally.  In other words, in the humanities, at bottom it's all argument because claims don't have a truth value.  But the process of making the argument will make it seem like the claim is true.

Sorry, @EKS, but what you're describing here is a fraudulent process, and teaching it to high-school-age students teaches them that the whole literary enterprise is pretentious posing & silliness. — No thank you. I'll stick to teaching the real thing.

 

Albert Harris Tolman - The Weird Sisters.pdf

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8 minutes ago, royspeed said:

I teach both writing and close reading of literature, and the approach to literary analysis that @EKS is describing here often gets a passing grade in English courses, but it could not be called good literary analysis.

I don't think you know what my approach to literary analysis is. 

 

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9 minutes ago, EKS said:

It has to do with the truth value of the claim and where it is derived from.  In a literary essay, I make a claim about a literary work and then find evidence within that work (say) to support it.  But during the process, in my mind the truth value of the claim goes from possible to absolute.  The same thing happens during the process of writing in the humanities more generally.  In other words, in the humanities, at bottom it's all argument because claims don't have a truth value.  But the process of making the argument will make it seem like the claim is true.  That is what I mean by a parlor trick.  It's the process that conjures "truth" out of something with no truth value.

You remain entirely in the abstract here. Can you explain some of these things using concrete, specific examples? What do mean when you say that the "truth value of the claim goes from possible to absolute"?  What IS your approach to literary analysis? If literary analysis has no truth value and is nothing more than a parlor trick, then why do you think students should read "a ton of literature"?

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Absolutely, Roy. In the Lewis example, it wasn't some student created hypothesis. It is well documented simply based on Lewis himself. The analysis isn't original in terms of the hypothesis but the student going through the exercise of proving it themselves is. It is an excellent exercise in learning to read analytically and understand an author.

I also find it ironic that somehow science is exempt from fictitious analysis. We are living in a time where so much published in science journals is based on self-selecting fulfillment bias. But that is a completely different conversation outside of what qualifies as appropriate high school assignments.

 

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3 minutes ago, EKS said:

I don't think you know what my approach to literary analysis is.

I don't think you read my posting in its entirety, @EKS. — Please do so. Also, please look at the Tolman essay.

 

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12 minutes ago, royspeed said:

Sorry, @EKS, but what you're describing here is a fraudulent process, and teaching it to high-school-age students teaches them that the whole literary enterprise is pretentious posing & silliness. — No thank you. I'll stick to teaching the real thing.

How is making a claim and supporting it using textual evidence a fraudulent process? 

What you are calling fraudulent is my interpretation of it.  

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2 minutes ago, EKS said:

How is making a claim and supporting it using textual evidence a fraudulent process? 

@EKS: You yourself write: 

In a literary essay, I make a claim about a literary work and then find evidence within that work (say) to support it.  But during the process, in my mind the truth value of the claim goes from possible to absolute...

Shifting from possible to absolute is fraudulent in literary analysis, as it would be in science. Everything must always remain open to doubt and further testing, further analysis.

 

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3 minutes ago, Amoret said:

Can you explain some of these things using concrete, specific examples?

I'm not interested in spending the time to do this.

4 minutes ago, Amoret said:

What do mean when you say that the "truth value of the claim goes from possible to absolute"?

Note that the actual quote is "in my mind the truth value of the claim goes from possible to absolute."  What I wrote above was about an internal experience.

6 minutes ago, Amoret said:

If literary analysis has no truth value and is nothing more than a parlor trick, then why do you think students should read "a ton of literature"?

First and foremost, for cultural literacy.  Also as a springboard for discussion of the human condition.  I'm not saying that literary analysis should be eliminated from the curriculum.  I'm saying that it shouldn't necessarily be centered.

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1 minute ago, royspeed said:

Shifting from possible to absolute is fraudulent in literary analysis, as it would be in science. Everything must always remain open to doubt and further testing, further analysis.

Please--I realize that it isn't really absolute.  It just feels that way.

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9 minutes ago, 8filltheheart said:

I also find it ironic that somehow science is exempt from fictitious analysis.

Who was saying this?

The difference between science and literature in this context is that the real world imposes a truth value on scientific claims.  Whether we can find that truth is another matter entirely.

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Posted (edited)
15 minutes ago, EKS said:

"in my mind

14 minutes ago, EKS said:

It just feels that way.

You are welcome to your own views of literary analysis, but it is unjust to dismiss an entire field of academic inquiry as a mere parlor trick without making a much stronger case than you have presented here.

Edited by Amoret
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Posted (edited)

The same is true with literature.  I'm not sure why the insistence that literary analysis can claim anything as valid. If the claim was made that the Space Trilogy is purely randomized fiction with no Lewis belief system influenced writing, it would be false and "truth" exists that imposes evidence against the claim.

Your argument is based on allowing anything goes in terms of analyzing lit which again is a modern educational construct which proclaims lit exists only for the reader's pleasure and therefore their interpretation is their truth which is based on a construct that is objectively false.

Edited by 8filltheheart
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4 minutes ago, Amoret said:

You are welcome to your own views of literary analysis, but it is unjust to dismiss an entire field of academic inquiry as a mere parlor trick without making a much stronger case than you have presented here.

I'm sorry that you don't like my take on it, but I am not obligated to make a case for anything.  This is a message board.

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Another value of literary analysis in the high school classroom is the development of compassion and emotional maturity within the student - this is NOT a specific goal (or at least shouldn't be), but is an invaluable byproduct. In my experience & observation, that lack of emotional development is one (of many) factors contributing to widespread mental health challenges among teenagers today. I realize that's a rabbit trail, but . . . the metacognitive value of the emotional intelligence often born out of literary analysis would definitely be an influential factor in my personal selection of ONE novel for an honors 9th grade. 

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18 minutes ago, Lucy the Valiant said:

Another value of literary analysis in the high school classroom is the development of compassion and emotional maturity within the student - this is NOT a specific goal (or at least shouldn't be), but is an invaluable byproduct. In my experience & observation, that lack of emotional development is one (of many) factors contributing to widespread mental health challenges among teenagers today. I realize that's a rabbit trail, but . . . the metacognitive value of the emotional intelligence often born out of literary analysis would definitely be an influential factor in my personal selection of ONE novel for an honors 9th grade. 

That is a good pt bc good literature explores the human condition and often involves sacrifice and overcoming hardship.  

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I would probably choose Dante’s Divine Comedy if I had to choose a single text. I read Inferno with my 10th graders this year and they loved it and many of them were actually upset that we didn’t have time to read the rest of the Comedy. 
 

Writing about literature doesn’t always have to take the form of a standard literary analysis essay. My students wrote essays in which they identified and explained the philosophical ideas behind Inferno - Aristotle’s philosophy of the soul and his ethics, Boethius’ conception of justice, how Dante expanded on medieval cosmology, etc.  They also wrote categorical essays in which they had to establish the criteria of an ideal Anglo-Saxon king and then decide if Beowulf actually met the criteria or not. I like to assign essays that are based on ideas and concepts that I want my students to grapple with and think deeply about: what is ideal kingship, what makes us human (and what dehumanizes us), what is virtue, why do bad things happen to good people, etc. and literature is a great medium for that.  I teach plenty of writing and argumentation skills along the way, but when technical skills take precedence over big ideas and imaginations are not engaged, students check out, and many teaching opportunities are missed.

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On 7/2/2024 at 10:32 AM, Porridge said:

Wait, really? Kids only read one full length book in an Honors 9th grade English class? Is that a normal thing?

My just finished 9th grade in public school Honors English kid did a full length book per semester + lots of other material. She had units on poetry, short stories, plays, historical documents, and excerpts from other books. She had several bound skinnier books she was given through the year to mark up and keep for textual analysis. 
 

Honestly, I find Dante and To Kill a Mockingbird and a number of other usual favorites dated and dry. Aenid and Odyssey are rich and complex and fascinating with the Vandiver lectures to provide historical context and support for analysis. That said, I think those ancient works are better suited for adults than 14 year olds. 14 year olds dont have enough life experience to really connect and relate. I’d much rather focus on bits of the things mentioned above than the whole if I only get One Book to dig into. For One Book, I’d rather not fight archaic language or style or form. I can do those things through excerpts. I want my One Book to be an emotional connection, something that develops empathy, something that allows us to discuss values and decisions made in a way slightly different than my kid’s usual take on life. The Hate U Give, mentioned above, would be a strong contender for me in a One Book situation. 
 


 

 

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On 7/2/2024 at 7:20 PM, EKS said:

It's a much more important skill than literary analysis. 

EKS had so few defenders in this thread that I'll chime in. From a practical perspective, I totally agree. Preferencing literary analysis for all students is downright silly. Being able to read and comprehend basic nonfiction texts and appreciate literature and stories is so much more important than being able to perform an autopsy on a work of fiction, even though I quite enjoy a bit of literary analysis.

I also reject the premise of the opening question. No, not choosing a single book.

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, Farrar said:

I also reject the premise of the opening question. No, not choosing a single book.

It was just supposed to be a fun thought experiment, but like so much else right now, it turned divisive and in need of defenders. I was genuinely interested in understanding EKS's point. I would never argue in favor of prioritizing literary analysis over other types of writing (although I do think it is a valuable one), and I think the idea of literary analysis as an "autopsy" is quite sad, but I can see why people might see it that way. I regret dipping into these waters.

Edited by Amoret
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1 hour ago, Farrar said:

EKS had so few defenders in this thread that I'll chime in. From a practical perspective, I totally agree. Preferencing literary analysis for all students is downright silly. Being able to read and comprehend basic nonfiction texts and appreciate literature and stories is so much more important than being able to perform an autopsy on a work of fiction, even though I quite enjoy a bit of literary analysis.

I also reject the premise of the opening question. No, not choosing a single book.

I think maybe it depends on if we are saying only analyzing in depth/writing about one book, versus only READING one work of fiction/literature. I can totally support an emphasis on writing about non fiction works, research papers, etc. Writing a literary analysis isn't something most adults need to do, but they do need to be able to write summaries of information, presentations, etc. But even if students are not writing about literature, I think it is vital they are reading it (or listening to it), and hopefully discussing it. I'd be fine with most kids graduating into adult life having had what amounts to a book club level of literature classes, and the ability to read and write about factual information. But I wouldn't want kids to only READ nonfiction and brief excerpts of fiction works. Reading fiction has a lot of benefits to the brain and soul even if kids never dive deeper into the analysis of it. 

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I've enjoyed the conversation, Amoret. ❤️

I agree with the OP that To Kill a Mockingbird would not be my choice. Reading or at least watching it could be good for the references and allusions and an example of irony. I'm not spending more time on it than that. 

My older kids would have had me saying pick a classic or a Shakespeare. My younger kids have taught me that's not a good blanket decision for everyone. I've had to reteach myself for these guys. 🤷‍♀️ A year exploring shorts, excerpts, poetry, articles, etc and a deep dive into The Hate U Give would have been a great English 9 year for the current highschooler. He did read (and enjoy) Odyssey for a mythology elective that year, but he would have fried if I'd tried making that heavy work a constant English lesson. 

For my rising 9th grader I'm looking for a hero's journey story. Difficulty that is overcome, an protagonist he can look up to and relate to, and quite intentionally a story that isn't too heavy. I'm having a really hard time choosing just one though! Hitchhiker's Guide and Hobbit are the most challenging titles on my list. He needs space to heal this season but this could work for a typical honors class too. Like the Anne of Green Gables example there's so much that could be unpacked. 

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Posted (edited)
28 minutes ago, SilverMoon said:

For my rising 9th grader I'm looking for a hero's journey story. Difficulty that is overcome, an protagonist he can look up to and relate to, and quite intentionally a story that isn't too heavy.

When we did hero's journey stories, my kids enjoyed Watership Down (we also read The Hobbit and the Hitchhiker's Guide). It's a great book and fits most of your criteria, but the characters probably aren't ones your DC can look up to (being rabbits and all).

Edited by Amoret
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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, SilverMoon said:

...For my rising 9th grader I'm looking for a hero's journey story. Difficulty that is overcome, a protagonist he can look up to and relate to, and quite intentionally a story that isn't too heavy. I'm having a really hard time choosing just one though! Hitchhiker's Guide and Hobbit are the most challenging titles on my list...

Yes, The Hobbit is especially good for showing the Hero's Journey stages. And as fantasy, that helps keep a bit of distance from the violent or hard parts, plus there's humor and comic relief sprinkled throughout. And Hitchhiker's Guide is light and funny.

Maybe some of these as part of a series of books for 9th grade lit. that are all variations on the theme of a Hero's Journey -- I couldn't quite tell if you wanted full high school level, or if upper middle school was okay, so here's a mix: 😉

- A Wizard of Earthsea (Le Guin) -- ending shows the author's interests in Taoism, which makes for an interesting twist
- The Great and Terrible Quest (Lovett) - medieval-like setting; boy and knight heroic quest
- The Martian, classroom edition (Weir) -- sci-fi; shipwreck adventure survival on Mars
- The Thief (Turner) -- 1st in series, works as a stand-alone; fantasy, Greek myth-like world, trickster type protagonist as hero
- The Blue Sword (McKinley) -- fantasy; female protagonist; Beduin-like horse-riding world; can also discuss Colonialism
- Island of the Blue Dolphins (O'Dell) -- realistic fiction; based on a real woman
- Star Wars (the original book from the 1st film to come out) (George Lucas/Alan Dean Foster) -- classic hero's cycle; and Foster is a pretty decent writer! 😄

Edited by Lori D.
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7 hours ago, Zoo Keeper said:

Just throwing this older thread into the discussion...

 

There were a lot of opinions thrown around in that thread^, and it made for interesting reading. 

Some of it was over my head, but I learned some things and enjoyed reading this old thread. Thanks for posting it!

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