Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sparking the Imagination

Book club hostess, Cindy, of Dominion Family Fame, rightly is focusing on literature which fuels the imagination and is giving us the opportunity to make suggestions, submit a list.

There are several books on my shelf which address this topic, like Gladys Hunt's Honey for a Child's Heart, Elizabeth Wilson's Books Children Love, or Elizabeth McCalllum's The Book Tree.

Last year's book club selection, Norm's and Nobility's final chapter outlined an high school curriculum that Cindy still wants to discuss.

But here I share some upper-level suggestions, because

1)  there are already many good choices listed for preschoolers and elementary-aged children; and

2)  where there is no vision, the people will perish.  That is to say what you hope for your children may not happen, if you have trouble with expectations.

So, I reveal Dr. Kirk's list from his book Decadence and Renewal (Chapter 3 entitled Perishing for Want of Imagery) since many may not have immediate access to this book, but may have highschoolers on the premises.

In this case, Kirk states that these students between the ages of thirteen and eighteen ought to be treated as young adults (notice the non-use of the term *teenagers*- link to lecture on that issue) and actually or potentially capable of serious thought.

These books are calculated to wake the imagination and challenge the reason.  None ought to be too difficult for most young people to apprehend well enough -- provided that they are functionally literate.

Nineth-Grade Level

Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progess
Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream
Hawthorne's The House of Seven Gables or The Marble Faun
Stevenson's Kidnapped
Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes or Dandelion Wine
Scott's Rob Roy or Old Mortality
Poems selected with an eye to the marvellous and the mysterious from Spenser, Burns, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Shelley, Tennyson, Whittier, Longfellow, Chesterton, Kipling, Masefield, Yeats, Frost

Tenth-Grade Level

Defoe's Robinson Crusoe
Shakespeare's Macbeth or Julius Caesar
Parkman's The Oregon Trail or The Conspiracy of Pontiac
Twain's Huckleberry Finn or Life on the Mississippi
Franklin's Autobiography
Thackeray's The Virginians or Henry Esmond
Melville's Typee or Omoo or Whitejacket
Selected poetry of a biographical or historical cast.

Eleventh-Grade Level

Milton's Paradise Lost
Swift's Gulliver's Travels
Dickens' Great Expectations or David Copperfield
Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral
Orwell's Animal Farm
Shakespeare's As You Like It or The Merchant of Venice
Selected poems of a speculative cast

Twelfth-Grade Level

KJV Epistles of Paul
Johnson's Rasselas
M Aurelius' Meditations (Long's Translation)
Burke's Speech on Conciliation with the American Colonies
Lewis's The Screwtape Letters or The Great Divorce
Marlowe's Doctor Faustus
Santayana's The Last Puritan
Joseph Conrad short stories
Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Selected poems of Frost, Robinson, Masters, Eliot, Santayana, Chesterton and other 20th century poets

Well, there is no doubt that I have my own work cut out for me, as I have not read many of these.

That may account for my lack of imagination.

Which is why I'm reading a book about it with a bunch of people I dont know in real life.

I'm throwing a spark on that pile of dry wood in my head, hoping to light a fire that will keep me warm until the end of my days.


  1. Nice list, but I do wish it named specific poems.

  2. Me, too, Kelly!

    My poetry repetoire is lacking, but ever since I started highlighting one per day during April, I feel like I'm building up my imagination ;-)

    As I read more of Decadence & Renewal and run across poems Kirk references, I will try to remember to come back here and mention them.

  3. Not only do I need to read more than half of your have convinced me I need to read Kirk!

    Not that I ever doubted it...