Adam Andrews Jan 18, 2018

My high school students cannot tolerate ambiguity. This is why they have a hard time with the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf.

Listen to this famous pronouncement from the poems eponymous hero:

For every one of us, living in this world
Means waiting for our end. Let whoever can
Win glory before death. When a warrior is gone,
Win glory before death. When a warrior is gone,
That will be his best and only bulwark. (1384-89)

Adam Andrews Dec 20, 2017

We teach Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn every year in our American Lit class. Despite its unassailable status as an all-time classic of the genre, my reasons for the choice are as personal as they are professional. I assign it over and over because of how much I loved it as a boy.

Adam Andrews Dec 13, 2017

The marriage bed of Odysseus and Penelope gives us one of the most powerful images in Homer’s Odyssey. Carved from a living olive tree still rooted in the ground, it symbolizes the centrality of marriage to the health and preservation of a good society. Odysseus’s struggle to return to this bed and his slaughter of the usurpers who would take his place there form a satisfying climax to one of history’s greatest stories.

Adam Andrews Nov 30, 2017

A framed poster of the cover art from Patricia MacLachlan’s All the Places to Love hangs on a wall in my house, and there is a signed copy of the story on my desk. It is one of my favorites. We live on a hill in a rural area just like the family in the story, and I love my home place just like they do.

Adam Andrews Nov 12, 2017

Bible scholars and Sunday School teachers routinely divide Paul’s Epistle to the Romans into two distinct sections: the first 11 chapters, where the apostle explains the gospel in theological terms, and chapters 12 through 16, where he discusses their moral and ethical implications.

The dividing line between these two sections is verse 12:1, which reads, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” (KJV)

Adam Andrews Nov 3, 2017

When I get to the end of one of J.S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos, I want to jump out of my chair and cheer like I would for a Seattle Seahawks touchdown. I don’t usually do it, but the impulse is the same–the resolution at the end of these pieces is something like victory.

If you enjoy classical music, you probably already know what I am talking about. If you are not a fan of the genre, I will bet these masterpieces can make you cheer anyway.

Adam Andrews Apr 28, 2017

In 1939, Marjorie Rawlings helped a whole nation of readers imagine that they were young country boys just coming of age. Her Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Yearling told the story of Jody Baxter, whose family ekes out a living in the central Florida scrubland of the late 19th century. Jody’s loss of innocence and search for friendship gave America a glimpse of its own struggle to survive the Great Depression and find fellowship in the midst of suffering. It resonates today with the same power, regardless of our country’s changing circumstances.

Adam Andrews Feb 8, 2017

In his 1947 book Miracles, C.S. Lewis tells a story about two men who both think that a certain dog is dangerous. The first man holds this opinion because he has often seen it muzzled and has noticed that the mailman avoids that house. The second man fears the dog because it has a black coat, and he was once bitten by a black dog in childhood.

Adam Andrews Jan 25, 2017

The best literature teachers rely on classic books, but how can you tell a classic from a non-classic? One popular answer to this question is that you have to wait because it takes time to identify one. You must wait and see which books manage to transcend the concerns of their own time and place and speak to the hearts of people from other times and places; which books, in other words, address universal themes in universally compelling ways.

Missy Andrews Dec 16, 2016

In our online poetry class, we teach our students to read and understand poetry by asking questions. Although it sounds a bit formulaic, you would be surprised how a few well-placed questions demystify a poem: Who is the speaker? Whom does he address? What is the subject matter? What images or metaphors does the poet present to explain or enlarge his meaning? What form does the poem take?

Questions like these can illuminate John Donne’s classic Christmas meditation, “Annunciation.” 

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