September 11, 2013
More Teachers Should Assign the Racy Popular Novels of America’s Past

As high school English classes start up again across the United States, teenagers will be taught today’s version of the “canon”—some Mark Twain here, some Nathaniel Hawthorne there, and perhaps some Harriet Beecher Stowe, Edith Wharton, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. The past 100 years may have seen John Steinbeck, Ray Bradbury, and even such recent works as Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games and Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight added to the curriculum, while even courses that aren’t American literature-specific have shifted away from specifically British classics—Milton, Tennyson, Scott—to more geographically diverse fare.
But the titles representing the first two centuries of American history are relatively unchanged. In fact, in a survey published by the Renaissance Learning company this year, Nathaniel Hawthorne was “one of the only constants” when high school reading lists were compared from 1907 to 2012. What students probably won’t read this fall are some of the most popular novels from the time of the nation’s birth: books like Hagar by Alice Carey, a Scarlet Letter-like tale with a Gothic spin; or Mary Gove Nichols’s Mary Lyndon, about a woman who wants an open marriage; or William Wells Brown’s Clotel; or, the President’s Daughter, which centers on Thomas Jefferson’s children by one of his slaves.
Read more. [Image: Neil Turner/Flickr]

More Teachers Should Assign the Racy Popular Novels of America’s Past

As high school English classes start up again across the United States, teenagers will be taught today’s version of the “canon”—some Mark Twain here, some Nathaniel Hawthorne there, and perhaps some Harriet Beecher Stowe, Edith Wharton, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. The past 100 years may have seen John Steinbeck, Ray Bradbury, and even such recent works as Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games and Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight added to the curriculum, while even courses that aren’t American literature-specific have shifted away from specifically British classics—Milton, Tennyson, Scott—to more geographically diverse fare.

But the titles representing the first two centuries of American history are relatively unchanged. In fact, in a survey published by the Renaissance Learning company this year, Nathaniel Hawthorne was “one of the only constants” when high school reading lists were compared from 1907 to 2012. What students probably won’t read this fall are some of the most popular novels from the time of the nation’s birth: books like Hagar by Alice Carey, a Scarlet Letter-like tale with a Gothic spin; or Mary Gove Nichols’s Mary Lyndon, about a woman who wants an open marriage; or William Wells Brown’s Clotel; or, the President’s Daughter, which centers on Thomas Jefferson’s children by one of his slaves.

Read more. [Image: Neil Turner/Flickr]

  1. anindiscriminatecollection reblogged this from theatlantic
  2. templeband reblogged this from theatlantic and added:
    Very interesting, now this is a reading list.
  3. libtastic reblogged this from readthisnotthat
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  15. stacylwhitman reblogged this from theatlantic and added:
    Fascinating. I need to find some of these books.
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    LOL. Unless there’s a bubble sheet this ain’t happnening