Can educators continue to teach troubling but worthwhile texts?
Our current “culture wars” have reshaped the politics of secondary literature instruction. Due to a variety of challenges from both the left and the right—to language or subject matter, to potentially triggering content, or to authors who have been canceled—school reading lists are rapidly shrinking. For many teachers, choosing which books to include in their curriculum has become an agonizing task with political, professional, and ethical dimensions.
In Literature and the New Culture Wars, Deborah Appleman calls for a reacknowledgment of the intellectual and affective work that literature can do, and offers ways to continue to teach troubling texts without doing harm. Rather than banishing challenged texts from our classrooms, she writes, we should be confronting and teaching the controversies they invoke. Her book is a timely and eloquent argument for a reasoned approach to determining what literature still deserves to be read and taught and discussed.
About the Author
Deborah Appleman is the Hollis L. Caswell professor of educational studies and director of the Summer Writing Program at Carleton College. Professor Appleman’s recent research has focused on teaching college-level language and literature courses at the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Stillwater for inmates who are interested in pursuing post-secondary education. She is also the author of Reading for Themselves: How to Transform Adolescents into Lifelong Readers Through Out-of-Class Book Clubs, Teaching Literature to Adolescents, Critical Encounters in High School English: Teaching Literary Theory to Adolescents, Braided Lives: An Anthology of Multicultural American Writing, Adolescent Literacy and the Teaching of Reading, and Reading Better, Reading Smarter: Designing Literature lessons for Adolescents, co-authored with Michael Graves.
This is an invigorating call for educators 'to continue to teach challenging texts.' — Publishers Weekly
Now more than ever, educators need to feel encouraged and empowered to teach literature that reflects what is happening in the world today, that acknowledges and reckons with the past, and that enlivens hope for an equitable and just future. Literature and the New Culture Wars is the book that honors and makes visible those educators doing this necessary work.
— Marcelle Haddix, Associate Provost for Strategic Initiatives, Syracuse University
If I could buy just one book for every English teacher in America at this time, it would be this one. — Jim Burke, Middle College High School, San Mateo, CA, author of The English Teacher’s Companion (Heinemann) and Uncharted Territory
You need this book and need it now. — Carol Jago, high school English teacher, past president of the National Council of Teachers of English, and author of The Book in Question: Why and How Reading Is in Crisis
Deborah Appleman is one of the legendary mentors of our profession. Her latest and perhaps most courageous book arrives at the right moment to rescue literary education in American schools from the anti-literate, parochial, and self-righteous censors from across the political spectrum, who don’t begin to understand that the function of literature is to awaken our sense of outrage and empathy, trouble our platitudes, and arouse us to moral action. — Sheridan Blau, PhD, Professor of Practice in the Teaching of English, Teachers College, Columbia University
Although this book is aimed at teachers, it is a thoughtful (and ambitious) attempt to tamp down the strong emotions that people bring to literature. It would make for interesting book club discussions. — TwinCities.com Pioneer Press