A worthy, comprehensive guide for educators incorporating readings, study questions, and extensive literary analysis.

HOW TO TEACH BRITISH LITERATURE

A manual for high school teachers offers a survey of British literature.

Marlow (The Book Tree, 2008) draws on decades of experience as an English teacher to produce a guide for fellow educators who introduce high school students to British literature, particularly instructors whose pedagogy incorporates a Christian context. The book, which combines suggested readings, an overview of themes and techniques, and discussion questions, is arranged in chronological order, beginning with Beowulf and Chaucer and concluding with C.S. Lewis, George Orwell, and T.S. Eliot. Appendices include a glossary of literary terms, a sample curriculum, guidelines for literary analysis, and sample tests. Marlow addresses not only the content covered in class, but also her techniques for broadening students’ appreciation (“I read the last section of Beowulf accompanied by Dvorák’s Largo from his New World Symphony with classroom lights off”). The author does a creditable job of covering the basic elements of understanding frequently studied classics, and has produced a solid resource for teachers looking to develop a curriculum. The material is useful for instructors in nonreligious schools as well, though the language employed (“the secular professor Harold Bloom”; “the erroneous charge of homosexuality”) and the emphasis on the moral values expressed by works can be off-putting. Though the author criticizes bowdlerization, she has clear views on what volumes are appropriate for 16- to 18-year-olds (“I strongly suggest that teachers avoid The Miller’s Tale”; “One day, they may return to Brontë’s description of married love”). Marlow’s claims that students are “interested,” “impressed,” “amused,” “intrigued,” or “amazed” by elements of literary history may seem somewhat breathless, but her knowledge of and enthusiasm for her subject, as well as for the act of teaching itself, are evident throughout the book and contribute to its value in the classroom.

A worthy, comprehensive guide for educators incorporating readings, study questions, and extensive literary analysis.

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5127-6489-5

Page Count: 500

Publisher: Westbow Press

Review Posted Online: June 19, 2017

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Ill-suited for a book-length work, Kirn’s premise found more effective expression as a feature in The Atlantic.

LOST IN THE MERITOCRACY

THE UNDEREDUCATION OF AN OVERACHIEVER

Slapdash memoir from Time and GQ contributing editor Kirn (The Unbinding, 2007, etc.).

From the moment he aced the SAT at his rural Minnesota high school (he doesn’t reveal his score), the author’s fate, like those of his fellow overachievers, was sealed. “I have…comrades in estrangement,” he writes, “way out here on the bell curve’s leading edge, where our talent for multiple-choice tests has landed us without even the vaguest survival instructions.” Kirn aims to burst the pretensions of the American ideal of meritocracy—astutely analyzed in Nicholas Lemann’s The Big Test (1999)—but the narrative is too narrowly focused on the author’s personal ascent through the ranks, from elementary school through Princeton and Oxford. Many of his experiences—the desire to leave Middle America and reinvent himself as a respected intellectual; his rage against affluent roommates who expected him to cough up a percentage of the expense of buying high-end furniture; his humiliation after being savaged by jealous, less-talented students in a writing workshop; his cocaine-and-sex binge with the daughter of a wealthy art dealer—make for evocative, entertaining reading, but it’s unclear how they advance his argument against the meritocracy. Kirn’s strengths are honesty and humor. He admits that he, like many who attend Princeton and other Ivy League schools, was a social climber driven by the desire be a part of the East Coast Elites, not by a hunger for knowledge. He says he faked his way through college, and that enlightenment came after a mental breakdown. Kirn also uses his considerable powers as a novelist to paint vivid scenes of comic debauchery. Some of the drunken, drug-addled escapades are reminiscent of The Ginger Man, but J.P. Donleavy wisely avoided the temptation to cast his antihero’s drunken recklessness as a metaphor.

Ill-suited for a book-length work, Kirn’s premise found more effective expression as a feature in The Atlantic.

Pub Date: May 19, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-385-52128-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2009

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THE SECOND BATTLE OF NEW ORLEANS

THE HUNDRED-YEAR STRUGGLE TO INTEGRATE THE SCHOOLS

A first-rate case study of the endless struggle for black equality. Baker (The Justice from Beacon Hill, 1991, etc.) portrays the experience of New Orleans as a microcosm of the war over desegregating public schools that should have ended in the Supreme Court's 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education but quite painfully did not. She delineates the city's complex racial dynamics from the antebellum period through the 1960s, showing how the window of promise that Reconstruction opened for blacks was slammed shut in 1896, when the Supreme Court held in Plessy v. Ferguson that Louisiana could pursue the creation of ``separate but equal'' public facilities. The heart of the story is the decades-long war in the courts and the streets that finally led to the end of legal segregation in the city's public schools, only to be followed by the de facto segregation created by ``white flight'' to private schools and the suburbs. Like most good popular history, this book is character-driven; it demonstrates that events are the product, not simply of impersonal forces, but of individuals facing specific challenges. These include J. Skelly Wright, the white federal judge who issued order after order to implement the Brown decision in his native New Orleans and consequently endured years of vicious attacks; black lawyer A.P. Tureau, who strove tirelessly for the equal justice promised by the Constitution; and Leander Perez, the racist mastermind of white Louisiana's resistance. Despite the ultimate legal victory of those who sought to enforce Brown, the ``Second Battle'' of New Orleans is a tragedy. The city's whites, like those throughout the South in the 1950s and '60s, clung tenaciously and often violently to their system of racial superiority, and the city's economic and social elites only exercised the leadership necessary to bring the battle to an end when it proved bad for business. A vigorous, thorough, but ultimately saddening work. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: May 22, 1996

ISBN: 0-06-016808-0

Page Count: 576

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1996

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