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Thread: R-level literature for Unit 4 - all written pre-1970?

  1. #1

    I was surprised to see the Unit 4 Rhetoric literature list. All the books currently listed on the Bookshelf were written pre-1960. I, Robot was mostly written pre-1950; The Hobbit was first published in 1937. They belong by this measure in Units 2 and 3.

    I'm disappointed that we're not reading anything more current. Could you not find any current works that are acceptable for our high schoolers to read?

    Thanks for everything!

    TOG Year 1
    Doing TOG since 2005
    R (17), D (14), UG (9)
    Math: Singapore Primary Mathematics, Discovering Mathematics
    German, Spanish

  2. #2
    Hi Beth. :-) I understand your confusion! Let me explain our reasoning a bit in hopes that it will help you to know what we were thinking:

    As you probably know, in TOG literature we tend to follow the rise and fall of literary movements and major genres. In the last half of the twentieth century, the two new major genres are science fiction and fantasy, so we wanted to study those. But because these are relatively new developments, it's hard to know which works of science fiction and fantasy will eventually be regarded as "great literature"---critics just haven't had enough time to see which works will rise to the top. In fact, that is true across the board: one major problem with selecting "great books" for the last quarter-century is the fact that the world at large has simply not decided yet about which of thousands of fictional works published between 1975 and 2010 books will be considered "great books."

    So, we did the next best thing. We picked a couple of works that are currently considered "great books" in science fiction and fantasy, by some of the most respected authors (so far) in those two genres: Asimov and Heinlein for science fiction, and Tolkien for fantasy. We were helped to this decision in the case of fantasy especially by the following considerations:

    1. Many of our customers have requested to study a Tolkien book
    2. Though we knew we would not have room to do all of Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit is both an excellent introduction to LOTR, and also an objectively impressive work of fiction in itself. There is plenty of meat there for Rhetoric students to chew on for three weeks and get a lot out of it.
    3. Tolkien is considered the father of modern fantasy, just as Asimov and Heinlein are considered to be two of the three "founding fathers" of science fiction, so it was doubly appropriate to do Tolkien as we were studying the development of the fantasy genre.
    4. The Hobbit is "timeless"---it could have been written at any time during the twentieth century and is not tied to any one era of the century. So the fact that it was first published in 1937 does not "date" it, especially since it was significantly revised and republished in the 1960's. (The same is true, incidentally, of the science fiction works we chose.)

    Obviously we could have taken a lot of different paths with Unit 4 of Year 4... we could have selected recent works that we personally have enjoyed, or that we thought might be considered great in the future, etc. But since the Tapestry of Grace Rhetoric Literature track is a "Great Books" track, we wanted to try as much as possible to stick with books that are considered objectively great or classic. We also felt that, since science fiction and fantasy are the two new major genres that have emerged in the last thirty years or so, it would be worthwhile to study some of the early classics in those genres. Finally, even though these books were written in earlier decades, there is nothing in them that links them definitively to those eras.

    Finally, "cleanness" did also come into our thinking: because high artistic standards are less and less associated with high moral standards, it's very difficult to find twentieth century literature that is of high artistic caliber but also clean enough for students to read, and that only becomes increasingly true towards the end of the century. Our science fiction and fantasy selections were chosen in part for their cleanness.

    Anyway, that was our thinking. I hope I've clarified it for you! Please let me know if you have any other questions, and of course you are more than welcome to use our selections or replace them with others of your own if you prefer to do so. :-)

    Christy Somerville

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    So. CA
    Thanks, Christy!
    My sons will be thrilled to know that they get to study The Hobbit - they are major LOTR fans!

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