Deciding the Post-War Fiction Canon

Monday, November 19, 2007

Reading and Tests (89106) Motoko Rich, cultural reporter for the New York Times,, looks at how low reading rates among students will bring test scores down.
Then, Maura Spiegel, associate professor at Columbia and Barnard and Ross Posnock, professor of American Literature at Columbia University and author of Philip Roth's Rude Truth: The Art of Immaturity discuss the choices they make when choosing books for their students.


Ross Posnock, Motoko Rich and Maura Spiegel

Comments [25]

Kate Temple-West from Lower East Side

Thank you for this excellent segment. I too am keeping my fingers crossed that Prof. Spiegal's list will be posted.

I am an avid reader who was read bedtime stories by my parents long after I was able to read myself, which I believe greatly encouraged a love of reading.

I always get nervous when I hear professors talking about the death of the humanities, until I remember that professors and intellectuals have been talking about this slow death for at least a hundred years. Viva el libro!

Nov. 21 2007 04:20 AM
Katy Eulette from NJ

Yes, please post Prof. Spiegal's list & the movies she included. Thanks, Katy

Nov. 20 2007 07:47 PM
deane norton from brooklyn

Will you be posting Prof. Spiegal's list?


Nov. 20 2007 05:36 PM

hi, really want to listen to this. can it be fixed?

Nov. 20 2007 11:39 AM
mgdu from hell's kitchen

stilll the wrong audio. cant anybody there read?

Nov. 19 2007 09:05 PM

hello, you have the wrong audio segment cued up here. this is for the strike discussion.

Nov. 19 2007 01:47 PM
World's Toughest Milkman from the_C_train

X10 regarding their book lists, a bit surprised there wasn't a link posted.

Nov. 19 2007 12:24 PM

Good to see "Gravity's Rainbow" mentioned, but I'd love to hear exactly why your guest finds it a difficult book to teach.

I can think of a number of reasons, and I can imagine why you'd need to devote an inordinate amout of time to it.

But to me, too, it towers.

Nov. 19 2007 11:54 AM
Judith from New York City

Yes, please post the lists.

As for 'cannon' - supposed to be canon, of course - I hope somebody's just trying to be witty, and means literature as a weapon in today's culture or something like that.

Nov. 19 2007 11:47 AM
Louis from new jersey

There are two (at least) reasons for assigning a book
- it teaches something that is imporant in and of itself
- it is something "everyone knows" and so is important to know

only the second is the "canon"

Nov. 19 2007 11:46 AM
Jon P. from Hewitt, NJ

What if you just don’t like to read? My parents are both avid readers and constantly tried to get me to read as a kid. But I’ve always been a 3-D person. I draw in 3-D, I build things in 3-D. I think in pictures, not words.

I’ve always found it interesting that avid book snob readers think you can only use your imagination when your reading. Yet I use my imagination all day long while drawing in 3-D, building in 3-D and working in 3-D. Does every body have to be an avid reader?

Nov. 19 2007 11:45 AM
Millie Niss from North Tonawanda, NY

The purpose of studying literature should be to study literature, not to gain psychological enlightenment, not to become a better citizen. Literature courses should teach about literary movements, writing techniques, literary history, an so forth. No one would choose a calculus curriculum by trying to make students identify with material or become better citizens. They would teach calculus.

--Millie Niss (Columbia class of 94)

Nov. 19 2007 11:40 AM
Ruby from Bklyn

One of the best points in "Closing of American
Mind" was that students would be reading the
same texts at the same time, and could have that as common texts to discuss rather than TV theme
songs. He specifically celebrates Columbia's
great books program.

Nov. 19 2007 11:38 AM

Ditto on providing the lists.

Nov. 19 2007 11:38 AM
Eric from Brooklyn, NY

Perhaps I missed it, but I don't see lists (or a link to lists) of the readings for these courses. For those of us who are avid readers, but not Columbia students, could you post those lists?

Nov. 19 2007 11:34 AM
Ruby from Bklyn

ALLAN Bloom's book in the '80's "The Closing of
the American Mind" dealt w/this subject.

Maybe Harold Bloom agrees? Just fyi.

Nov. 19 2007 11:32 AM
Robert from Manhattan

One of the things THAT'S happening????????? (approximately 11:24am)

Anyone who is slightly literate knows the construction should be "One of the things that ARE happening....."

Your guest should be LEARNING the language, not teaching it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Nov. 19 2007 11:28 AM
Anne from Times Square

I don't think students today are any more busy than I was as a kid. I was second in my class, in a million extra curricular activities, hung out with friends and still read for enjoyment all the time.

Nov. 19 2007 11:27 AM
AL from NYC

Are they linking the "post-war cannon" on this show site?

Nov. 19 2007 11:27 AM
Robert from NYC

I'm not sure why we should care about this! Are we that desperate for topics?

Nov. 19 2007 11:21 AM
RAI from Manhattan

Post-war "cannon"? Perhaps your Web site manager needs to do a little more reading, or he/she should be "cannonized" for bad diction.

Nov. 19 2007 11:21 AM
Sarah Nikolic from Rego Park

I have an undergraduate degree in literature and a masters degree in International Relations, but I don't recall reading for fun very much until I was at least 12. Of course, I later became an avid reader.

My children are in NYC elementary schools and are literally forced to read every day. With all their homework, they really do not have much time to read for fun and after having been assigned so much reading, I worry that doing so does not seem like any fun at all!

Looking at my 8-year-old son in particular, I wonder whether all this practice is making him a better reader. He finds no pleasure in the pursuit and reads merely to get in him 20 minutes and go on to the next assignment.

Nov. 19 2007 11:19 AM
JVM from westchester

brian, the answer is ridiculously simple: the reason pleasure reading levels drop in high school is because high school students (in a panic to be admitted to college) simply have no time for "pleasure". five AP classes, soccer practice afterschool, making sandwiches for the homeless at night -- there's just no time for these poor kids to read.

Nov. 19 2007 11:18 AM
Paulo from Paterson, New Jersey

I know the ebook readers aren't really the subject of this conversation, but I just wanted to say that I am the text manager at the Passaic County Community College bookstore in Paterson, and we now are being pressured by the publishers to offer ebooks for the students.

I think that if Sony and Amazon really want the ebook to take off, they should approach schools and universities first. I know A LOT of students would rather have one small 9oz. electronic device with all of their textbooks on it than five to ten books that might weigh between three and five pounds a piece.

Also, the ebooks would be less expensive than the current textbooks which are already obscenely overpriced as it is.

Nov. 19 2007 11:18 AM
Anne from Times Square

I read non-fiction books for fun all the time. I read a heck of a lot more than most of the people I know. But, if I answered your guest's question about "novel, short story and plays" -- I'd be categorized as a non-reader.

Nov. 19 2007 11:11 AM

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