Beowulf on the Beach: What to Love and What to Skip in Literature's 50 Greatest Hits

Beowulf on the Beach: What to Love and What to Skip in Literature's 50 Greatest Hits - Jack Murnighan I must begin with a confession. I skipped most of the chapter on Chaucer. I tried to read it, I did, but even talking about Chaucer puts me to sleep. On the other hand, Murnighan gave me the courage to read Moby Dick, a book I thoroughly enjoyed despite all the dire warnings of my peers. As always in a volume such as this, the adjective "greatest" is highly subjective, and I'm grateful that Murnighan added an afternote on his method of selection -- focussing on those books that interviewees felt most guilty about having neglected, then rounding out the collection with several books not generally deemed classics, but which are among his favourites. He does however, cop out of responsibility for his predominately-white-male author list with this passage. "But that doesn't resolve the practical question of what gets taught. Here a does of reality helps clarify things. In college wasn't it ultimately less important what books your professor had you read and more important whether he or she made them meaningful to you? I have no doubt the right teacher could make a course on comic books as significant as a course on Shakespeare, but I also have no doubt that the right teacher could make student like Macbeth as much as they like The Watchmen[sic]. Instead of worrying so much about what we teach, let's worry about how." Yes, a great teacher can get student excited, but if that teacher only presents (or is only allowed to present) one type of literature, the "reality" is skewed. The fact remains that the books taught at all levels of education are deemed superior to those that are not. As a woman, a writer and a lover of comic books, I'm glad to see new viewpoints, genres and formats slowly working their way into university-level courses, but white males still predominate the literary canon unfairly, as is subtly demonstrated by the fact that the subtitle of this book is not "What to Read and What to Skip in 50 Great Literary Hits". Murnighan and his fellow white males make up the majority of the "greatest", therefore they are taught, therefore they are deemed the greatest, etc, etc, etc. In dismiss this continuing prejudice, complaining that we should instead be "worry[ing] about how" these books by white male authors are taught, Murnighan only avoids the issue he purports to be examining. Cate