on December 5, 2003
I don't teach literature and am not am not an academic, but a reasonably well-read individual could a.) take issue with many of these lists, and b.) find errors in the book. So caveat emptor. For example:
1. The Trojan Horse is listed on pg. 17 as being covered in The Iliad and The Aeneid. So far as I recollect, there is zero mention of the Trojan Horse incident in the Iliad. That, fellow readers, comes briefly in the Odyssey, and yes... much, much later, in the Aeneid.
2. Incorrect info, probably typos, on the Androcles and the Lion fable.
3. Explaining Deconstructionism as 'reaction against the structuralism amd its anti-humanistic, ostentatious over-analysis of literature as a basis for judging its value". Thanks, now explain what the heck that means.
4. Page 44 list of Major Literary Critics excludes H.L. Mencken and Harold Bloom and Malcolm Cowley? Come on.
5. Page 93. Eliot's Four Quartets is classified as an 'epic'? So is Brecht's play, Mother Courage? Epic?
6. Page 123. Yet again, the literati can't figure out that Fitzgerald's second novel is just The Beautiful and Damned, not "and THE Damned." Typo? Come on. Know your stuff. On Page 130 a Jean Auel novel is mistitled too.
7. Speaking of Fitzgerald, he's listed as an American Novel Master (he published 4 novels) but not as an American Short Story Master (he published over 150 short stories). He was better known for his short stories. By the way, where is Don DeLillo? Not on American novel masters at all!
8. Western Masters: Zane Grey and Louis L'Amour and Larry McMurtry are in there, but not Cormac McCarthy?
9. And a crowning complaint... Major Poets from Other Lands is the category. Nowhere listed is GOETHE!!! The greatest or among the top 3 greatest European, if not Western or World poets ever!!! Arthur Rimbaud, the 19 year old Frenchman, author of a couple score poems is there. Holderlin and Heine are there for pete's sake. No Goethe? Its hard to the lists seriously after an oversight of that magnitude.
Other than all that. On balance, its a great way to spend time if you love literature. Cool lists. For teachers, its good I suppose. Just realize some errors and oversights...some small, some HUGE.
on October 25, 2003
Americans seem fascinated by a top ten list of any category, so it is no surprise that someone has put together a top ten list for literature. Jodie Strouf in her THE LITERATURE TEACHER'S BOOK OF LISTS has attempted to encapsulate the broad swath of human endeavour that we call literature. Though the title suggests that the target audience is limited to teachers of literature, clearly anyone with even a modicum of interest in things literary can benefit. Strouf's chapter headings tell a great deal about how she organizes the rather bulky spectrum that most well-educated readers already know. Typical headers include (1) Literature: An Introduction (2)Books For All Ages (3)Genres For All Tastes (4)Poetry (5)Drama (6)Themes (7) Literary Periods (8)Potpourri (9) Endings & References. The value of Strouf's text is considerable in that many general readers would like to have a handy one page reference that gives a plot summary of a dozen words or less for all of Shakespeare's plays. Or perhaps you might need to know which famous works have been banned as being overly salacious (The 1969 version of the AMERICAN HERITAGE DICTIONARY puts in a surprise appearance). Or even which novels have physical disabilities as an underlying theme.
As I read this list of lists, I could see that there is nearly an infinity of uses for it. A high school teacher might use it to plan a curriculum of guided reading. A college teacher could photocopy relevant categories of minutiae that correspond with an undergraduate course in Lit 101. The well-educated layman could even derive pleasure in finding a tidy order in the disorder of written ideas that stretches back to antiquity. There are not many reference books that one could read as opposed to look up some arcane point. THE LITERATURE TEACHER'S BOOK OF LISTS is one such treasured example.
on March 24, 2000
This book was not quite what I was looking for, which was a jumping off point to find books to become well-read for college because it was so overwhelming and there are so many books, but once I became used to it, it was much easier to use and has helped me in my reading search.