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Old 02-09-2013, 07:03 AM   #106
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I think that there are more than a few people who mention books for those lists that they have always heard of as being important, rather than finding them good or important themselves.
Very likely. Wasn't Ulysses the book everyone heard of, but hardly anyone read? There was a nice Guardian article some years ago, where 65% of people admitted to lying about having read certain books.
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Old 02-09-2013, 07:49 AM   #107
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My granddaughter's list was on Facebook and differs from the BBC link you posted. Here is the list she posted:
Hmm.. Only 28 for sure. Some of the others I've read bits of (e.g. The Bible). Odd to have both The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe in the list!
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Old 02-09-2013, 08:05 AM   #108
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The fact that we dedicate college classes to what is, basically, entertainment, is a sad testament to how dumb this society is getting, how little we expect of our children, and how much we are wasting money that should be used to teach REAL skills.
Hmmm. Reading can be entertaining. But at its best, it does more than that. Reading opens up our minds to new ideas, new places, and new ways of thinking about things. If done critically, reading books that are entertaining can grow us in ways almost nothing else could. However, if you just read to pass the time and don't examine the books you read, in effect making them entertainment, then you miss out on the greatness of reading. And not everyone just intuitively gets how to read for deeper understanding, so it must be taught.

Movies are our cultures new books. They are the shapers of peoples' thinking and ideologies far more than books are today. I think this is a loss because the visual medium does much better at reaching the emotions than the intellect, and we end up with people who feel deeply and think little.

There is little demand in the market for critical readers, but there is much demand for people who have considered the deeper thoughts and continue to grow in their understanding over time, a process greatly facilitated by reading and understanding good books. As part of a liberal arts education (one that strives to make the whole person better, not just train them in a useful skill) I think a class on modern books could be very helpful. However, as a major, it would be sorely lacking.
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Old 02-09-2013, 08:07 AM   #109
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The BBC posted a Big Read Top 100 books list challenge in 2003. They believed that most people had read only 6 of the 100 books.
This is a Meme. In fact, BBC's list was a list of the books most people would want to have if they were on a deserted island. In other words, they were the most popular books in their survey. The 6% number is a complete Facebook fabrication, designed to shock people and make us all feel superior because we've read far more than 6 of them.
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Old 02-09-2013, 08:30 AM   #110
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Odd to have both The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe in the list!
Thanks. You just proved I'm not becoming mentally retarded, thinking that The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe is the first Narnia novel. I actually started to doubt enough that I went to look it up.
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Old 02-09-2013, 09:40 AM   #111
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Cite?
Here's one with both Da Vinci Code and 50 Shades:

http://r-net.rollins.edu/holt/syllab...ENG234KH1X.pdf

Having said that, it was a hard googling effort to find a professor who was assigning 50 Shades. There actually may be more US college syllabi requiring reading of articles attacking the 50 Shades series, than of the book(s) itself.

As for the definition of college (asked about by Krykorya in #103), in US English is it undergraduate-level university. If the university doesn't offer graduate work, or doesn't offer much graduate work, it will call itself a college. Best-known examples include Swarthmore College and Amherst College. Bryn Mawr College is borderline; mostly undergrad but with smallish graduate program. Sometimes the undergraduate division of a university calls itself a college. So Harvard University includes Harvard College.

P.S. Typical US college students.

Last edited by SteveEisenberg; 02-09-2013 at 10:28 AM.
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Old 02-09-2013, 10:31 AM   #112
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But how do you define "literary value"? Isn't the fact that people still appreciate a work after a long time some indicator? Many of today's bestsellers will be forgotten in a few years, I think (and rightly so in many cases ..)
LOTR may not show the subtlest use of narrative language, but it has the most amazing treatment of different languages and cultures, it draws widely on a lot of European myths and medieval literature.
So I wouldn't deny it "literary value", though I would be hard put to choose it as the one book of the century. Or choose any book.

If influence on other works is a valid factor, then certainly LOTR is very high on the list. I think "novelty" is indeed also a factor of literary value, that's why Gullivers Travels are still interesting these days.

In the end, this how the "books of the century" lists are made - if people think a book is important and should be on the list, it gets there. Depending on the type of the list, these people are some sorts of experts or the general public (the BBC list for example show what people actually like reading, not what the "experts" think they should read).
Lord of the Rings has been around for a while, it's nearly 60 years old, there's no sign of it popularity fading. It seems that the word "entertainment" is spat like it is a curse. Is enjoying a book a sign that it is bad?

It is of course possible that Lord of the Rings will fade away, but if so, it won't do so for quite a long time. It has retained its popularity despite being sneered for decades, and is becoming more recognized as serious literature.
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Old 02-09-2013, 10:48 AM   #113
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It has retained its popularity despite being sneered for decades, and is becoming more recognized as serious literature.
I don't get why so many people "sneer" at Fantasy. Is it because it's all made up? Is it because it's "childish", with its Elves and Dwarves? I don't know. Yeah, there is enough bad, superficial, commercial Fantasy out there (about 90% of all Forgotten Realms novels for example), but there is also good stuff to be found.

Why must "literature", at least for some people, be stuff that's almost unreadable, using words that 9.5 out of 10 people will never encounter outside of that specific book, and so deep that you can't even see the end of it even if you reach the last page, and always be "socio-" this or "socio-" that?

(I actually remember a movie about a young writer who said almost the same to his Professor when in university, getting a 4 out of 10 for his latest work, but having it published in the hundreds of thousands a few weeks later, becoming an instant classic. What was the name of that movie....)

Some Fantasy stuff such as Lord of the Rings is well thought out, has a huge world to explore; not only through Lord of the Rings, but also The Silmariollion, his other works such as Lost Tales and Unfinished Tales, and even the "History of Middle Earth" if you want to.

For my part, LotR is as literary as Shakespeare, Chaucer or Nietzsche. And who is to judge that I am wrong?

Last edited by Katsunami; 02-09-2013 at 10:53 AM.
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Old 02-09-2013, 11:10 AM   #114
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Thanks. You just proved I'm not becoming mentally retarded, thinking that The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe is the first Narnia novel. I actually started to doubt enough that I went to look it up.
It was the first one published, although "The Magician's Nephew" is the first one chronologically.
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Old 02-09-2013, 02:39 PM   #115
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Cite?
I worked as a book buyer for a university book store in Canada. Harry Potter and the Twilight novels were on course syllabi, as was The Hunger Games. I even recall seeing Nora Roberts on an old syllabus. I believe that Twilight and The Hunger Games were being used in a third year english course on YA sci-fi and fantasy.

I do think that anything can legitimately find a place in onto a university or college course; after all, appraising the 'value' of a book is subjective. I do think, however, that classical learning has been much too marginalized lately in North America. Having completed university degrees in Canada and Europe I find that I much prefer the European approach to higher education. While I had much less freedom in my course choices in Europe, all of the students who had completed the same degree that I did (classical philology) at my university had, at least in theory, covered 90% of the same material I did in my classes, and all major authors were covered. I do feel like my North American degree (from the University of Toronto) left me with large gaps in my knowledge that I had to make up for in graduate school, and never could quite make up for.

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Old 02-09-2013, 05:07 PM   #116
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Cite?
This link lists Harry-Potter related courses:
http://blog.moviefone.com/2010/11/11...llege-courses/

MANY colleges have classes covering Dan Brown's work. Utah Valley State College has a course on the Da Vinci Code. So does the University of South Carolina (http://people.cas.sc.edu/rhodescm/RELG491DGeneric.pdf). But if you google it you get tons of hits.

Same for 50 Shades of Gray. One example is American University:
http://www.thedailybeast.com/article...niversity.html
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Old 02-09-2013, 05:09 PM   #117
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I re-read A Wrinkle In Time a few years ago, and the back cover said essentially "It's not science fiction, it's good!"
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Old 02-09-2013, 05:10 PM   #118
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Sorry, I live in Australia (where we apparently have distinctly different names for levels of education) and I'm not studying literature (so it's all text books for me) - when you say to 'college', to what level of education are you referring? If you're referring to tertiary education, to what major or units of study are you referring?
I teach at a university and I don't know how to define it...
Someone above me answered that question, however. But I am thinking at what, in the USA, is defined as 'undergraduate' - so studies for a bachelor or equivalent.

As far as 'majors' go, students in the US are asked to take general electives no matter what major they are in. So my students (finance) can take some generic 'English Literature' course as part of their general electives. So my comments were not major-specific.
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Old 02-09-2013, 05:17 PM   #119
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But how do you define "literary value"? Isn't the fact that people still appreciate a work after a long time some indicator? Many of today's bestsellers will be forgotten in a few years, I think (and rightly so in many cases ..)
LOTR may not show the subtlest use of narrative language, but it has the most amazing treatment of different languages and cultures, it draws widely on a lot of European myths and medieval literature.
So I wouldn't deny it "literary value", though I would be hard put to choose it as the one book of the century. Or choose any book.

If influence on other works is a valid factor, then certainly LOTR is very high on the list. I think "novelty" is indeed also a factor of literary value, that's why Gullivers Travels are still interesting these days.

In the end, this how the "books of the century" lists are made - if people think a book is important and should be on the list, it gets there. Depending on the type of the list, these people are some sorts of experts or the general public (the BBC list for example show what people actually like reading, not what the "experts" think they should read).
I am not sure how to define 'literary value'. I am sure there are plenty of valid definitions.... and we could sit here all day arguing about it. Perhaps I'll try a stab at a definition later on. But I remember reading 'I Promessi Sposi' by Alessandro Manzoni - an Italian historical novel - in high school. And, in the intro, the author stated that his goal was to entertain the audience and, through entertainment, 'bait' them into learning something about the history of the country. That, to me, is true literature. Something that teaches us - about ourselves, about history, about human nature - perhaps while keeping us reading because the story is engaging.

Now, you can tell me that LOTR teaches us something. And every book does. And we obviously can disagree with the definition of 'literary value'.

But look at the statement we are debating. My answer was to a poster that stated that, of all books of the 20th century, LOTR will be remembered. We can debate whether LOTR has literary value, but claiming that it has a higher value than any other 20th century book, is, frankly, preposterous.

Should it be on a list of important works? Sure, I won't argue otherwise.
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Old 02-09-2013, 05:27 PM   #120
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I never said that the Lord of the Rings had a "higher value than any other book of the 20th century". What I said was "If any book of the 20th century will survive the test of time, it's Lord of the Rings." A book withstands the test of time only if people still read it, and there's no sign that people are going to stop reading LotR any time in the foreseeable future. But what do those contemptible readers know?
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