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Archive for March, 2013

A professor once told me of his reaction to the idea of teaching Kurt Vonnegut’s work in college English classes. “What is there to teach?” he asked. He thought Vonnegut’s books were sufficiently easy to understand that readers shouldn’t need guidance to get through them.
Perhaps with the passage of time that has changed. Readers in the Vietnam War era of the 1960s and 1970s found parallels between their experiences and the World War II events Vonnegut depicted. Maybe young readers need to know a bit of history to grasp what Vonnegut was doing and why it resonated the way it did.
What they don’t need, I contend (and I think my old teacher would agree), is for anyone to rummage around in Vonnegut’s biography in order to make sense of his writing. Yet this is precisely what several misguided books do. I discuss the problems with their approach in an essay in Logos: A Journal of Modern Socity & Culture.

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