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The Politically Incorrect Guide(tm) to English and American Literature (Politically Incorrect Guides) [Paperback]

By Elizabeth Kantor, George Postma (Editor), Kees van der Zwan (Editor), Peter Burgess (Editor), Peter Kukla (Editor), Gregory Volk, Open University (Corporate Author) & B. Teissier (Editor)
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Item Specifications...

Pages   278
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.96" Width: 7.3" Height: 0.63"
Weight:   1.1 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Nov 30, 2006
Publisher   Regnery Publishing, Inc.
ISBN  1596980117  
EAN  9781596980112  

Availability  0 units.

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Item Description...
Citing declining coverage of classic English and American literature in today's schools, a primer challenges popular misconceptions while introducing the works of core masters such as Shakespeare, Faulkner, and Austen.

Publishers Description
What PC English professors don't want you to learn from . . .
- Beowulf: If we don't admire heroes, there's something wrong with us
- Chaucer: Chivalry has contributed enormously to women's happiness
- Shakespeare: Some choices are inherently destructive (it's just built into the nature of things)
- Milton: Our intellectual freedoms are Christian, not anti-Christian, in origin
- Jane Austen: Most men would be improved if they were more patriarchal than they actually are
- Dickens: Reformers can do more harm than the injustices they set out to reform
- T. S. Eliot: Tradition is necessary to culture
- Flannery O'Connor: Even modern American liberals aren't immune to original sin

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More About Elizabeth Kantor, George Postma, Kees van der Zwan, Peter Burgess, Peter Kukla, Gregory Volk, Open University & B. Teissier

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Elizabeth Kantor is author of The Politically Incorrect Guide(TM) to English and American Literature and an editor for Regnery Publishing. She earned her Ph.D. in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an M.A. in philosophy from Catholic University of America. Kantor has taught English literature and written for publications ranging from National Review Online to the Boston Globe. An avid Jane Austen fan, she is happily married and lives with her husband and son in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Read before taking college English classes  Oct 23, 2008
In the summer of 2007, I purchased The Politically Incorrect Guide to English and American Literature. The book's thesis is that English departments at many universities are staffed by professors that suppress great English and American literature while promoting lesser works that conform to their personal beliefs. It specifically mentioned a book called The Handmaid's Tale:

"Among the many third-rate books that English professors waste their students' time on (when they could be teaching truly great English literature) is... The Handmaid's Tale. The Handmaid's Tale is the quintessential expression of our intellectuals' fears about what a truly Christian culture would look like."

Dr. Kantor's book was prescient. My daughter was beginning college in a few weeks and I soon discovered that The Handmaid's Tale was required reading for all incoming freshmen. I read The Handmaid's Tale: it was a waste of time. (A review of the book is posted.) I looked over the syllabi of the freshmen English classes and discovered that much of the reading appeared chosen more to advance the political agendas of the teachers than to expose the students to the great writers of literature in the English language. Dr. Kantor was right.

Here is a list of the books for one freshmen English class at my daughter's college:
Author: ATWOOD (feminism, oppressiveness of Christianity, published 1986)
Author: WHITEHEAD (racism, class differences, published 1999)
Author: CLIFTON (racism and feminism, published 2000)
Author: MCDONAGH (Playwright specializes in "in your face theatre," whose purpose is to "...present the audience with vulgar, shocking and confrontational material on stage..." published 2003)
Author: YOSHINO (written by homosexual Yale law professor who litigates for gay civil rights published 2006)
Author: WEAVER (cohabiting couple ostracized by Lutherans in small town, published 2006)
Author: SHAKESPEARE (The one classic work, published 1608)
Author: BENNETT (homosexual writer, story includes pederasty, published 2004)
Author: MILLER (a collection of poems regarding anatomical research on female corpses, published 2007)

Now, other than King Lear, does your heart leap at the thought of reading any of these? Do you sense an agenda? Would you pay to learn about them? Or would you prefer an introduction to the treasures of English literature instead?

This quote, from a 1988 New York Times Magazine article on "politically correct" professors, and cited in the book Degenerate Moderns: Modernity as Rationalized Sexual Misbehavior, by E. Michael Jones, hits the bullseye:

"(For these scholars)... whose sensibilities were shaped by the intellectual trends that originated in the '60's: Marxism, feminism, deconstruction, a skepticism about the primacy of the west... the effort to widen the canon is an effort to define themselves, to validate their own identities."

Their efforts to "widen the canon" have been a disaster and a disservice to students.

In the so-called "dark ages" many great literary works were lost, only to be slowly re-discovered by the monks who carefully copied them and kept them in the monasteries. Perhaps we're in a "dark age" now as the great works of English and American literature lie neglected on university library shelves, and knowledge of them slips from our collective memory, because those entrusted with transmitting them have betrayed their trust.

Instead, many English professors prefer abusing "academic freedom" and requiring students to read books that indict Western (Christian) civilization as oppressive to minorities, homosexuals, workers, women, other cultures, etc. They have morphed their departments into political re-education camps. Of course they don't see it that way. In their minds, they are models of "tolerance" who welcome "diversity." They say they're just presenting "challenging literature" that stimulates "critical thinking." But you get the impression that "challenging literature" that might stimulate "critical thinking" about the English professor's leftist beliefs or sexual proclivities doesn't make the cut. Apparently, that includes most of the literature written prior to the 1950's, or as the example above shows, the 1980's.

But just as the student of music composition deserves exposure to great composers such as Palestrina, Monteverdi, Des pres, Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Vivaldi, Chopin, etc., so too, the student of English literature deserves exposure to great writers. Since many English professors will not introduce students to these writers and the treasures of their literary heritage, students must, like the monks of old, rediscover these works, experience the work and joy of keeping learning alive, and pass on the literary inheritance.

Elizabeth Kantor lists a number of novels, poems, short stories, and plays, written in the English language, that have stood the test of time. The list is not complete, and her comments about many of the works mentioned are not extensive. This is as it should be, since her primary purpose is to name and briefly describe works from different time periods that have enriched her life and that she thinks the reader might enjoy too.

Dr. Kantor has done a great service in writing this book: to parents whose teenagers are going to college, so that they can avoid paying for the brainwashing of their sons or daughters; to college students, who with this book might be able to seek out the better English teachers in whatever school they're attending, and to those of us who want to learn what we should have, but didn't. Thank you, Elizabeth Kantor, for writing this book.

The book isgood; it needs improvement in certain areas.  Jun 12, 2008
Kantor's love of "Dead White Male Literature" is enthusiastic. She argues on behalf of the better-known authors and literary pieces in English literature. There were a number of flaws I found with how she presents the book.
She neglects to inform at an indepth level us why certain authors are on the list of (insert time period) literature you must not miss; examples of this include: Thomas Hardy, George Eliot, Newman et cetera. This is commonly found in the chapters on 19th and 20th century literature, and to a lesser extent in previous chapters. It would be nice if she could at least explain why she is recommending these texts.
Her chapter on American literature is awful. She neglects literature written before 1800, virtually all of the Transcendentalists. One quote that she has in the chapter "Henry James's novels aren't American enough to qualify-- he lived in Europe and England for most of his adult life" (Kantor 168). If he lived in Europe for most of his adult life, couldn't Kantor have placed him and the recommendation to read _The Portrait of a Lady_ in the chapter on either 19th or 20th century along side with fellow English writers?
The last issue I really have were clear omissions of authors. Along side the conspicuously absent chapter on American lit., I found several authors not mentioned. How could someone forget about: D.H. Lawrence, Thackeray, Robert Louis Stevenson, or Defoe; and other well-known authors get a passing reference,for example the Bronte's.
The quotes in the boxes entitled "What They Don't Want You to Learn from..." provide discussion questions for my class; for this, I thank you. These "discussion" questions led a few of my students playing Devil's Advocate, and as such caused all of my students to formulate different tactics to debating the sticky subject of Literature.
Hear the Collective Wail of The Associate Professor  Jan 28, 2008
I can't think of a better way to recommend the P.I.G. to English and American Literature than simply to refer the prospective reader to the negative reviews already posted. If Dr. Kantor has these sandaled "scholars" in a lather she has surely hit the mark.

I am of that age that witnessed first hand the transition wherein the study of the traditional Western canon went from being the foundation of a serious education to a marginalized (and demonized) travesty. My high school teacher brought "Beowulf" to life and my sputtering university teaching assistant excoriated "Romeo and Juliet" as a rape manual.

The P.I.G. to E & A Lit. is a sliver of sanity that the college freshman can slip into her book bag with which to deprogram herself after each session of her required Lit. class. She can pick up her easy "A" and yet hold on to a love of the great works of our language. This is an antidote to one of the bitterest poisons dispensed by the ineffectual prigs currently seeking to murder our culture.

A genuine appreciation and love for the literature of Western civilization obviously comes from reading the works themselves rather than anyone's analysis or recommendations. But one must start somewhere and Kantor's guide is a fine "menu" from which to order.
Reader beware  Jan 28, 2008
In concept, a literature handbook for middlebrow conservative-minded readers would seem a perfectly good idea, if only to get more people interested in texts they normally wouldn't encounter oustide a university course. In the hands of Ms Kantor, however, this book become merely another shot fired in the culture wars, one that uses literature as a means to politcal ends no less ruthlessly than the caricatured professors who apparenly keep Kantor awake at night.

This book is hardly even about literature. Every chapter begins and ends with splenetic invective against the folk-devil of the collective professoriat. When the author bothers to quote from academic critics themselves, hoewever, the targets are lucky to be represented by a fragment of a context-less sentence. More often she'll just cite the title of a paper or monograph. The actual business of interpreting literary works is done meanwhile with all the depth of an average newspaper movie review. Are we really to believe, since Kantor explicitly makes academic theory and criticism her antagonist in this book, that her critical explications are meant to be an example of university-level work? Her method consists of summarizing the plot of a text, then paraphrasing it so that it echoes some received bromide, and then atemporally letting it stand as a timeless imperative. (Unless of course, the literal message of a work does not favor Christian-American conservatism. Then it must be ironized, explained away or ignored, as in her chapter on Byron and Shelley, or dropped from the canon altogether, like poor Virginia Woolf).

The most valid complaint the author makes is that academic criticism can be so detached from the experience of reading that students can get turned off from the start. But dragging college literature classes back to high school is not a serious correction. There are valid and interesting theoretical implications inherent in her or any other critical method, but Kantor simply wishes to ignore them in favor of preserving political orthodoxy. If the author were serious about remedying her grievances she might have invited theorists back to the pleasures of literature or to empathy with the readers along the lines of Wayne Booth's ethics of reading. But that would mean a book too temperate and rigorous to deserve the PIG name.

Her point about how students should be learning technical poetics and original languages is also well-taken, but, speaking as a classics student, I can assure her that there are more factors involved in vast curriculum changes than just the fashionable whims of professors. There are many, many books on this topic written by people better-informed and more fair than Ms. Kantor.

If non-academic readers are looking for a much more serious and fair defense of the legacy of Western literature, than Harold Bloom's The Western Canon is a better choice without qualification. If angry conservative students want to see theorists taken to task, then please look up Frederick Crews' Pooh books instead. Just, above all, beware: The Politically Incorrect Guide to English and American Literature is mere trash. Its only accomplishment is proving Terry Eagleton's comment that hostility to theory usually means an opposition to other people's theories and an ignorance of one's own.
An angry, essentialist work devoid of any real meaning  Dec 20, 2007
Maybe I'm just blind, but I don't see this literary Illuminati that the author keeps referring to. Who is the "they"? I am currently enrolled in university for a degree in English, and I have no idea what she's talking about when she describes this shadowy "they" who is apparently trying to limit our education.

My biggest problem is her use of absolutes and essentialist judgments to support her themes. She only gives cursory examinations of a handful of texts, giving us glorious insights in the vein of "This is beautiful and you need to appreciate it!" If you need a book to tell you what to inherently like, then I guess you'd like this.

It's my opinion that she starts from a good point - literary academia is a pretentious and dense realm, and that needs to change. She's also right about several other things, like how critical theory is notoriously badly written. But bad writing shouldn't force us to discount the ideas that can be brought to us by studying it. The author calls for a return to the way we were studying literature a hundred years ago, when we all sat in a circle and talked about how poems made us feel. Good, we should all do that, but our gut reaction can only carry some of us for so long before we start wanting to get MORE out of a work. The author discounts this.

Overall, there are books that will introduce you to literature without simultaneously being indoctrinated into someone else's opinion of it. Read this one, but think about it. I regret spending money on it. I knew from one of the first testimonials I read, where a professor refers to deconstruction as 'deconstructionism" and reduces it to the form it took when it was first introduced, disregarding everything that has come since, that this book wouldn't satisfy anyone with any interest in literature above the high school level.

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