Friday, June 11, 2010

These Are the Greatest Stories Ever Written?

Like the obsessive compulsive that I am, I have already put together my reading list for the M.A. exam, despite the fact that I won’t actually be taking it for a good year and a half. Once the new reading list was released, I set to work highlighting the books I already owned, putting an asterisk by the optional books I will choose for myself, and also rolling my eyes over the classic required selections that are generally agreed upon to be the greatest works in history, but that no one seems to actually enjoy reading.

The following will be a least of all of those required texts, as well as the ones I have chosen from the optional list. I am working off of the latest version of the English M.A. Reading List which is effective January 2011 through December 2012. There are nine sections (A-I) that have works that are required. From those nine sections plus another one (J), students are to pick at least one optional item from each section, plus another five freely selected items from anywhere on the list. There are 26 required works, and 15 that students are to choose from themselves.

Confused? Yeah, me too. And I have been reading over these instructions from various reading list for the last five years. Even so, I have managed to pull together my reading list and it is as follows (required works are marked by an asterisk):

*1. The Beowulf Poet, Beowulf
*2. Geoffrey Chaucer, from The Canterbury Tales: “General Prologue,” “Knight’s Tale,” “Miller’s Prologue and Tale,” “Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale,” “Clerk’s Prologue and Tale,” “Pardoner’s Prologue and Tale,” “Nun’s Priest’s Prologue and Tale,” “Parson’s Prologue”
*3. The Gawain Poet, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl
4. Geoffrey Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde

B. 1500-1600
*1. Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene: “A Letter of the Authors,” Book I (all), Book III(Cantos 1, 5-6, 9-12)
*2. a) Sir Philip Sidney, The Defense of Poesy; Astrophil and Stella 1, 7, 9, 20, 29, 45, 106, Second Song, Fourth Song
b) Queen Elizabeth I, “Speech to the Troops at Tilbury” and the “Golden Speech”
*3. William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part I, The Tempest, Hamlet
4. Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus and The Jew of Malta
5. William Shakespeare, One history play, one tragedy, and one comedy (including romance) of student’s selection

C. 1600-1700
*1. John Donne, “The Flea,” “Song” (Go and catch a falling star”), “The Canonization,” “A Nocturnal upon St. Lucy’s Day,” “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning,” “A Lecture upon the Shadow,” “Twickenham Garden,” Elegy 19 (“To His Mistress Going to Bed”), Holy Sonnets 10(“Death Be Not Proud”), 14 (“Batter my heart”), and 17 (“Since she whom I loved”), “Good Friday, 1613. Riding Westward,” “Meditation 17” (from Devotions upon Emergent Occasions)
*2. John Milton, Paradise Lost
*3. a) Aphra Behn, Oroonoko, The Rover
b) Margaret Cavendish, Blazing World
4. John Milton, “On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity,” “L’Allegro” & “Il Penseroso,” A Masque[Comus], “Lycidas,” “How Soon Hath Time,” “When I Consider How My Light is Spent,” “Methought I Saw My Late Espoused Saint,” Samson Agonistes, Areopagitica

D. 1700-1800
*1. Henry Fielding, Tom Jones
*2. Alexander Pop, “The Rape of the Lock,” “An Essay on Criticism,” “An Essay on Man,” “Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot”
*3. Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African, Written by Himself
Phillis Wheatley, “On the Death of…George Whitefield,” “On Being Brought from Africa to America,” “To the University of Cambridge, in New England,” “To S.M., a Young African Painter,” Letter to Rev. Samson Occom (Feb. 11, 1774) Jupiter Hammon, “An Address to Miss Phillis Wheatley”
4. Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels

E. 1800-c1850
*1. Herman Melville, Moby-Dick; or The Whale
*2. a) Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave
b) Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
c) Sojourner Truth, “Ar’n’t I a Woman? Speech to the Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio, 1851”
d) Frances E. W. Harper, “Ethiopia,” “An Appeal to my Country Women,” “Woman’s Political Future
*3. William Wordsworth, The Prelude, Books I & XI, 1805, “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey,” “Michael,” “Resolution and Independence,” “The Ruined Cottage,” Preface to Lyrical Ballads (1802)
4. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus
5. Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

F. c1850-1915
*1. Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself,” “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking,” “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d,” “O Captain! My Captain!” “In Paths Untrodden,” “When I Heard at the Close of the Day” Emily Dickinson, “Why—do they shut Me out of Heaven?” (Poem 248), “Over the fence—“ (251), “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain”(280), “Some keep the Sabbath going to church—“ (324), “After great pain a formal feeling comes—“ (341), “Much Madness is divinest Sense” (435), “I was the slightest in the House—“ (486), “They shut me up in Prose—“ (613), “I dwell in Possibility—“ (657)
*2. Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
*3. George Eliot, Middlemarch
4. Charles Dickens, Bleak House

G. 1915-1945
*1. T.S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” Tradition and the Individual Talent,” The Waste Land
*2. Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse
*3. Americo Paredes, George Washington Gomez
4. Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence
5. William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury

H. 1945-1968
*1. Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot
*2. Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man
*3. a) Sylvia Plath, “Morning Son,” “Lady Lazarus,” “Daddy,” “Blackberrying,” “The Colossus,” “The Applicant,” “Cut,” and “The Arrival of the Bee Box”
b) Theodore Rothke, “The Waking,” “I Knew a Woman,” “In a Dark Time,” “Root Cellar,” “My Papa’s Waltz”
4. Truman Capote, In Cold Blood
5. Flannery O’Connor, “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” “Good Country People,” “Everything That Rises Must Converge,” “The Artificial Nigger”

I. 1969-present
*1. Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon
*2. a) Gloria Anzaldua, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, 2nd ed., Introduction and Chapters 1-7
b) Lorna Dee Cervantes, from Emplumada, “Uncle’s First Rabbit,” “Cannery Town in August,” “Beneath the Shadow of the Freeway,” “For Virginia Chavez,” “Poem for the Young Man…”
c) Cherrie Moraga, From The Last Generation “Queer Aztlan: the Re-formation of Chicano Tribe”; From: Loving in the War Years, Expanded 2nd ed., “Loving in the Way Years,” “La Guera,” “A Long Line of Vendidas,” “Looking for the Insatiable Woman,” and “Out of our Revolutionary Minds Toward a Pedagogy of Revolt”
3. V. Nabokov, Pale Fire
4. Edwidge Danticat, Breath, Eyes, Memory

J. Additional Lists
1. Lanehart, Sonja L. African American Women’s Language: Discourse, Education, and Identity. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009.

Even with this monster list before me, I take comfort in the fact that I have already read many of the larger novels and have had the advantage of having some of the more complicated and cryptic texts explained to me by my professors and other literature experts. Even so, I have a long, hard, and sometimes boring road ahead of me.

These are the works that this blog will be about. Again, if there is a work on the M.A. Reading List that I have not chosen but you would like to discuss, please feel free to let me know. I may have read it before and just haven’t chosen it. And if I have not read it, I am open to having guest bloggers. Maybe I’ll be convinced to change my selections…I’ve got a good year to change my mind before I have to finalize this thing.

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