April 2018 Blog Posts

“The Things They Carried”: Tim O’Brien’s Vietnam War Novel Endures

Soldiers carry a wounded comrade through a swampy area
Fifty years ago, many young men like Tim O’Brien, author The Things They Carried—published in 1990—were drafted into the army and later served in what was increasingly becoming an unpopular war. Today, in times of a volunteer army, many aspects of the military have changed.Read More »

War Literature: Being There or Not

World War One soldier's identity document. Robert Knox
Literature about war—whether the lived experience of the author or not—has over the centuries taken the form of many genres: epic, tragedy, comedy, narrative poetry, history play, novel, short story, memoir, and lyric poetry. While reading works from Homer’s Iliad  to Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, students can benefit from identifying not only the wide variety of genres depicting battle and its consequences but also from recognizing the stark contrasts these genres can represent in  tone, style, point of view, and intent.Read More »

Lincoln’s Enduring Legacy

Hermann Faber, Deathbed scene with man holding Lincoln, 1865
Abraham Lincoln’s assassinationOn April 14 we commemorate the death of Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865). The years in which Lincoln served as president, 1861–1865, were among the most momentous in America’s history. A month after his election, South Carolina seceded from the Union, triggering a four-year conflict that would leave nearly a million Americans dead or wounded, four million slaves free, and a nation changed forever.Read More »
Categories Closer Readings

Gary Snyder Found His Voice as a Poet with Poems Set in the American West

Gary Snyder
Is there anything more distinctive in American poetry than hearing a recording of Robert Frost reading one of his own poems? Video clips and recordings from the sixties capture the distinctive voice at public readings, where Frost’s voice and the poem he’s reading aloud become one and the same. The lines, we feel while listening, were written for Frost, not just by him. Frost, much earlier, had discovered what he had to say as a poet—he had discovered his voice.Read More »

Debates over the State of Reading Seem Unsettled Today? Look to Late Nineteenth Century Newspapers to Find Out How Much, or How Little, Things Have Changed.

Woman reading in European cafe
In France and Germany in the latter half of the nineteenth century, newspapers—printed matter in general, in fact—underwent dramatic and dynamic changes. For newspapers, readership had increased greatly, and the feuilleton (pronounced, fuh-ya-tawn)—a section often starting at the bottom of the front page and continuing on the back, offering lively reportage, criticism, or serialized novels—attracted a diversity of readers who came to rely on these “little sheets of paper” as a mirror held up to society that reflected and refashioned its tastes, opinions, and quirks.Read More »
Categories Closer Readings