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Literature pb (Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition) Paperback – 30 Jun 2012

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Need a literature intervention? Read this book. 9 July 2012
By Cary D. Plunkett - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
Unless you were an English major in college you probably took a lit class and wondered what the heck you were taking that class for. Way back around 1999 I was taking a World Lit class and I was wondering that. I was attending a college that had recently dropped the "Community College" at the end of their name and became an official university. My teacher was a man that was probably really interested in literature at first but then he turned into a cliche of himself. Coughing his way through each lecture only to join half the class in the smoking section later. I was 19 and seeing as I was an undeclared major I was really wondering what the heck I was doing in that class.

Fast forward a decade and I'm in love with reading and reading dorky books about literature. Let's face it, unless you are a student of literature you are probably not going to buy this book. But Louis Markos does a great job of wanting you to buy his book. In the introduction he says, "Aside from the Bible itself--which is, in any case, composed of over a dozen different literary genres, especially poetry--literature is one of our best tools and guides for achieving this grand and humanizing synthesis." I was almost turned off by this book when in the first chapter the author tricks you into thinking it's a book about literature when really he wants to teach you about poetry (which is something I am completely dense about). However, he redeems himself with chapter three.

Chapter three is the author's required reading, if you will. He breaks down every age, genre and author and tells you why they are important and why you, as a believer and student of God, should want to read these, otherwise, secular books. And just in case you need to dig into the depths of your brain a little more the author has also included questions at the end of the book for further discussion. Questions like, why do you think Shakespeare was the greatest living poet of all time? You won't know unless you actually read Shakespeare.

Who needs this book? Every college student stumbling through a lit class wondering why this stuff matters. Trust me, you know some.

Thanks to Crossway Publishing for the complementary copy of this book for reviewing purposes. If you are interested in purchasing this book please visit the publisher's website by clicking here.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Only a Beginning 28 Aug. 2012
By Ben House - Published on
Format: Paperback
This book is another installation in the Crossway Books series called "Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition." The books in this series are short and compact, but the content is heavy. They are designed for college level serious students. This is one of those books that tells you how much you don't know. Or at least that was how it impacted me. I have studied and taught literature for years, but this survey of literary history, study of poetic forms, and examination of literary criticism called me up short. It is a good syllabus for what a literature student needs to read or know. Anyone who wants to get into reading literature would be better served by reading the book LIT: A CHRISTIAN GUIDE TO READING BOOKS by Tony Reinke, another Crossway publication. And the person becoming a student of literature can delve into the wealth of materials by Leland Ryken. When the decision is made to major or minor in literature (or teach literature), then this book needs to be read quickly, then re-read slowly, and then used repeatedly for reminders and insights.

Louis Markos has written several fine studies of literature in recent years and has produced a wonderful series of audio lectures on the writings of C. S. Lewis. He is a professor of English at Houston Baptist College.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A solid book for students on poetry 16 July 2012
By Jude M St John - Published on
Format: Paperback
"I could never have dreamt that there were such goings-on/ in the world between the covers of books". These opening lines to Dylan Thomas' poem entitled Notes on the Art of Poetry point towards the power and beauty to be found in literature and specifically in poetry. In Literature: A Student's Guide, author Louis Markos endeavours to convince the reader of literature's aesthetic and practical qualities; he "beckons the reader to enter into the arena" (15) and wrestle with literature. This installment in the Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition series is, as the title suggests, focused on literature generally and, as we quickly find out, poetry in particular. Markos' two-pronged purpose is to "provide a foundation for understanding and appreciating poetry." (20) Markos is successful on both counts. He also wants to anchor this study in the Christian faith and this is where this book excels. One might find very effective works on literature, but to connect it to the Christian faith is what made the book compelling.

As I high school English teacher, and a Christian, this book was one I could not pass over when given the opportunity to read and review it. Markos' goals of helping students understand literature is obviously one that I share in my profession. Instilling Markos' second goal, an appreciation of literature, is an integral part of understanding literature. These two ideas go hand-in-hand. Though the author's emphasis on poetry was unexpected, it was welcomed as poetry is not my strength and I could do with a better knowledge and greater admiration of this genre.

Markos begins fostering the reader's understanding of poetry and literature with two chapters on poetic devices. The first focuses on scansion which is the metrical analysis of poems. It considers poetry's metre, structure, stanzas and lines, as well as its rhyming. This technical aspect of poetry is clearly explained in a manner that highlights its necessity. I found this section surprisingly inspiring; I found myself motivated to consider poetry in light of these conventions. The chapter is finished with an intriguing discussion on how and why this emphasis on form and structure, as opposed to the modern free verse phenomenon, points to our Creator and His creation.

The second chapter on understanding poetry looks at the poetic devices related to the words used and the images they convey. Terms such as allusion, connotation, denotation, simile, allegory, symbol, and metaphor are paraded before the reader. These terms are aptly explained and examples are provided. This section was very enjoyable to read and these devices are as important in novels, short fiction, and plays as they are in poetry. By explaining and elucidating these `nuts and bolts' of poetry, Markos brings a greater depth of knowledge which is made distinctive through his experiences and expertise. These chapters made for good reading and will make for good resources in the future.

Through a detailed survey of Europe's major movements in literature Markos delivers an informative discussion that encourages a greater appreciation for literature. I found his relating of each age's authors, genres, themes, and approaches fascinating. He relates the role literature played, again focusing on poetry, in the periods known as Classical Greece, Classical Rome, Medieval, Renaissance, Late Renaissance, Restoration and Eighteenth Century, Romantic, Victorian, and Early Modern and Modern. This historical preview reminded me of many authors and works I know, and introduced some I was unfamiliar with. Having this lengthy account of the great authors and the great works, and how and where they fit in history and their relation to society, increased my appreciation for literature's arguably unparalleled influence. My desire to read was invigorated, particularly my desire to read poetry. This section will be one that I return to regularly both in my occupation as a teacher as well as in my personal pursuit of reading.

The most compelling aspect of this book is how it takes literature in general and poetry specifically and firmly plants it the Christian faith. I found this was effective for two reasons. First, Markos uses examples from Christendom. In the section on poetic devices he demonstrates how the Bible itself uses certain devices and how famous works of literature allude to Christianity and the Bible. For example, Markos explains how Jesus' use of the phrase `our daily bread' in the Lord's Prayer is an instance of synecdoche. Or, he explains how Jesus' claim that he is the Good Shepherd is an allusion to the many shepherd-figures in the Old Testament.

The second means that Markos employs to entrench literature in the Christian faith is through the examining of great Christian authors. Whether referring to Bunyan and his classic The Pilgrim's Progress or explaining the impact of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien, Christianity's investment in the realms of literature is evident. I found both the use of Biblical examples and Christian authors to help me see the interconnectedness of our faith and novels, stories, non-fiction, and poetry. This is a great service to Christian students who will constantly struggle to be in the world without being of the world. This is a great encouragement for all Christians to see the necessity and benefits of engaging our culture.
Literature: a Student's Guide is a helpful and motivating book for Christians in academia or for those who are interested in books and reading. It is a clarion call for Jesus' disciples to engage in culture through literature and poetry. It is a book that I'm sure I will be referencing in the future as I pursue my vocation and in my recreation. I recommend it.

I received a copy of the book from the publisher for review.
Excellent resource! 31 July 2014
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
If you're having trouble with the "Christian" stuff, I would like to remind you that Western thought without Christianity is like a human without a circulatory system. It's there and ignoring it just means that you only understand an infinitesimal fraction of the rich and deep thought enshrined in the West.

And you could set aside the author's faith to use this book as an excellent reference on the pre-Marxism canon and the mechanical study of poetry. In other words, as a student of literature, in my second year of my Master's, this short work taught me more about my major than all of the courses in literature I have ever taken.

There is an entire chapter on poetic feet-- how they are counted, what they are called, how they are measured... You will learn all the major forms of poetry along with their variations in feet and rhyme scheme. I had never been taught this stuff at any stage of my education!

An incredible chapter on the major Western literary periods forms, for me, the most valuable section of the book. Each literary period is prefaced with an easy-to-reference guide clearly stating the period's time frames, major authors, major works, and genres. It then goes into a startling amount of detail fr each considering the constraint of space. This canon exploration moves from ancient Greece to postmodernism and does so with amazing precision.
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