S Literature Essays

Books continue to matter, of course, but not in the way that earlier generations took for granted.In 2004, “the most influential cultural figure now alive,” according to contains more references to Dylan than to Stephen Crane and Hart Crane combined.Acheson’s emphasis on inductive reasoning is wonderfully refreshing.

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is designed to strengthen argumentation skills and deepen understanding of the relationships between the reader, the author, the text, and critical interpretations.

Its lessons about clarity, precision, and the importance of providing evidence will have wide relevance for student writers.

Some canonical writers conveyed this with linguistic brio, others through a sensitive and nuanced portrayal of experience; and their books were part of an ongoing conversation, whose changing sum was nothing less than the history of ideas.

To mess with the canon was to mess with civilization itself.

This book gives students an answer to the question, “What does my professor want from this essay?

” In lively, direct language, it explains the process of creating “a clearly-written argument, based on evidence, about the meaning, power, or structure of a literary work.” Using a single poem by William Carlos Williams as the basis for the process of writing a paper about a piece of literature, it walks students through the processes of reading, brainstorming, researching secondary sources, gathering evidence, and composing and editing the paper.

The implication could not be plainer: If books simply reinforced the cultural values that helped shape them, then any old book or any new book was worthy of consideration.

Literature with a capital was nothing more than a bossy construct, and the canon, instead of being genuine and beneficial, was unreal and oppressive. The canon, they argued, represented the best that had been thought and said, and its contents were an expression of the human condition: the joy of love, the sorrow of death, the pain of duty, the horror of war, and the recognition of self and soul.

The canon — later the canon of Great Books — endured without real opposition for nearly two centuries before antinomian forces concluded that enough was enough.

I refer, of course, to that mixed bag of politicized professors and theory-happy revisionists of the 1970s and 1980s — feminists, ethnicists, Marxists, semioticians, deconstructionists, new historicists, and cultural materialists — all of whom took exception to the canon while not necessarily seeing eye to eye about much else.


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