Friday, April 12, 2013

Classics of American Literature

Classics of American Literature surveys American literature, starting with Benjamin Franklin. He spends multiple lectures covering single works and authors. There were a half-dozen lectures covering Emerson and Thoreau. It didn't leave me with any desire to read them again. However, Benjamin Franklin and Washington Irving seem to be worth going over again. And Nathaniel Hawthorne and Poe rank high on the list.

There tend to be multiple lectures on each author, making the pace rather slow. Twentieth Century literature seems to be be much more in line with works I remember reading. (Thanks to a great high school English teacher. I took mostly Brit. lit in college, so that wasn't much help here.)

He also mentions the "canon" and how some of the "white men" like Eliot, Fitzgerald and Faulkner are out of favor. It is sad that political correctness has gone so overboard that it seeks out minor figures just because they were not represented. This is a great disservice, especially considering one discussion about the inter-relation of the past and present. History is impacted by how the present sees it. While studying lots of obscure writers from the past may make academics feel good, it doesn't help them to understand the people of that time. Then, people read and studied the big guys of the period. Even if there were high quality writers left by the wayside, studying them would not help us understand history any better. Instead, it leaves us just with literature in the isolation. And if we are focusing on isolated literature, we should pick the highest quality literature regardless of authorship or time period. (Though when people 100 years from now study today, they should pick some of the obscure 200 year old works to understand today better.)

I had recently read Invisible Man, so some of the commentary on it seemed to most relevant. Many of the other books discussed seemed to have good points, but not necessarily books that I would like to read. I guess that makes this long series of lectures a time saver.

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