Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Brit Lit Recommendations

After reading all of your excellent suggestions for good reads (my already sagging shelf may now overflow, thanks), I've decided to ask you all for a bit of advice on school reads as well. The general question is: what book (or books) would you recommend for a British Literature course? This, or course, means that the book has to be written by a British author (or at a stretch, Scottish, Irish, or Welsh). No limitations other than that.

If you're really feeling ambitious, how would you group them? For example, a semester course on Dystopian literature, I could teach Brave New World, 1984, and.... what else? A semester course on Shakesepeare could include Macbeth, Othello, King Lear.... recommendations? Contemporary British Lit could include High Fidelity (by Nick Hornby).... others? A class on British mythology could feature Irish lore, King Arthur, Robin Hood (recommendations on books in those areas?). But where does Virginia Woolf fit? Or Thomas Hardy? Or Sherlock Holmes? Or Harry Potter? (yes, I know I've mixed authors and characters there, but you get the idea)

I'd love any suggestions on topics and books that go with them. Or just give me suggestions on Brit books you like, and I'll figure out what to do with them. :)
(In case you're wondering, I'm all fired up because Alicia and I continued plotting the restructuring of the junior and senior years of English, and I'm excited about planning some interesting new classes--key word = "interesting.)

And yes, lurkers, this is another plea to come out of the woodwork. :)


Cathy said...

I actually took British Lit in high school, which is why I never read all the American "classics", but a few of my favorites from the class was Silas Marner, I forget who wrote it, George Eliot (thanks being able to open other internet windows). Great Expectations is another great one. MacBeth. Gotta Love those crazies. Edith Hamilton's Mythology was good, I as notoriously reading ahead. (Scary that I remembered who wrote that.) A friend of mine taught an entire semester course on Harry Potter. That could never be bad. I LOVED English Lit. Then again I was weird. The only one I remember I didn't like was Beowulf.

Ragfield said...

I read A Clockwork Orange in Brit Lit.

SlyGly said...

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. (I'd stay away from teaching on Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, even though I love that one too. It's polarizing, like Hillary Clinton. It is loved or loathed.)

Anonymous said...

Oh I loved Brave New World. I think we Canterbury Tales (was that Brit lit? clearly I'm NOT an English teacher). We did Brit Lit and a number of other books in the rest of the world the 2nd half of the year - stuff like Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart. clearly i've retained a lot of books!

And yes, please. Let's call soon.

Moonwatcher said...

I vote Jane Eyre! I loved and love it!

Melissa said...

A Tale of Two Cities. I read it for my term paper senior year, and I still remember sobbing hysterically at the ending. So it must have been good, in a sad sort of way!

Joe said...

Although A Brave New World is one of my all time faves...I think a contemporary British class would be something a little different. And there is so much to choose from!
Of course, most of the books I can think of have rather adult material, but I'm not a good judge of such things. Here are some of my ideas...

*Hornby is always good.
*Mark Haddon's The Curioius Instance of the Dog in the Night Time would be a fun read for them.
*McEwan's Atonement (Haven't seen the movie...but some of the students may have)
*David Mitchell's Black Swan Green (Cloud Atlas is better, but this is more accessible. Good coming of age story told in short story format.)
*Sarah Hall's The Electric Michaelangelo (About a British kid that goes to Coney Island to become a tatoo artist. Very cool.)
*Alan Hollinghurst's The Line of Beauty (Great story of class in '80s England. The gay sex may be a bit much for high school, though.)
*Zadie Smith's White Teeth (Great, funny story that highlights ethnic tensions in London.)
*And since he has been knighted,whick makes him part of the Empire, Sir Salman Rushdie. Anything. The short stories in East-West are a good intro. to him, I think.

I'm sure there are others, (John Banville, John Barnes, etc.) but this is off the top of my head. Sorry, if I got carried away!
Good luck!

christine renee said...

I usually lurk but had to comment on this one, English majory person to English majory person...:)

For Shakespeare I suggest at least a comedy or two (my favorites: Much Ado about Nothing and Midsummer Night's Dream) and at least one history (not my favorite, but Richard III is good). Of course, a decent selection of his sonnets would also be a good addition.

Brit Lit is one of my favorite things, but my tastes are not typical of Brit Lit-ters. I am a huge fangirl of Laurence Stern's Tristram Shandy, though that might be a bit long for High schoolers, and did not really enjoy Jane Austen (too didactic for me, really). Alice in Wonderland/Through The Looking Glass is a good option too, because it isn't quite like the movie these kids might remember...

I also liked WW1 poetry and things from that era, as well as stuff from the 1830s-1900s. I'm also a huge James Joyce fangirl (Dubliners is a good choice for High schoolers, I think...not as heady as Finnegan's Wake or Ulysses).

If I had all my books here in Chicago I'd be able to tell you more. The Longman Anthology of British Literature is pretty good for some ideas.