Friday, May 15, 2009

Review: Solider's Heart: Reading Literature Through Peace & War at West Point

I suspect I had rather undefined expectations of this book, which the work did not live up to. While at times it is thought provoking, after the first 100 or so pages, it became repetitive and unfocused. Some serious editing would have tightened this up a lot. Prof Samet seems to jump around a lot, using current and former students as examples of points she is trying to make, but because these central characters are not developed, it is difficult at times to remember just which soldier she is referring to. The writing is dry, and often uninteresting--at least to me, and I served in the military. The author is a civilian English Lit professor at West Point, trying to explain why the study of literature and poetry is important to today's soldiers. However, it sometimes seemed as if she were writing a treatise on the army's mission, instead of trying to enlighten us about how cadets react to studying literature and poetry. She makes her point(s), over and over and over again. She also seems to spend a lot of time defending the Army itself (particularly the officer corps) to the detriment of talking about the impact and methodology of teaching English to that Army. Some of her best writing is explaining the difference in attitudes towards non-military studies among both students and staff at the Military Academy prior to and then after 9/11, but by the middle of the book, I found myself beginning to say, and so??? and So???? It just seemed to drone on. Not on my favorites list.


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