Tuesday, March 18, 2014

It Can't Happen Here - Follow Up Reading

After reading It Can't Happen Here, I ordered the proceedings of Sinclair Lewis at 100: Papers Presented at a Centennial Conference.  The good thing about having access to the Minnesota library system is it includes being able to lay your hands on collections produced at SCSU.

I was only interested in the two papers on It Can't Happen Here.  The first, A Middle-Class Utopia, was passable.  James T. Jones focused on the dystopic aspects of the book, addressing the 1.) political utopia, 2.) the philosophical/anthropological utopia, 3.) the historical utopia, 4.) the prophetic utopia, and 5.) the satiric utopia.  He goes on to postulate that as far as dystopic fiction, it may fall short of the definition by not resulting in "the total defeat of the individual" (225), a criticism I've level at many books which aspire to be dystopic.  It's an interesting assertion, because It Can't Happen Here reads like a dystopia and shares a lot of the traits of a dystopia and, I'd call it one, right up until the end where hope takes root.

Reading It Can't Happen Here With College Freshman by Judy F. Parham is much less interesting.  It felt like a lot of excuse making for her students.  They're average readers.  The text reading level fluctuates wildly between pages.  There's too much contemporary history for a modern reader.  They don't have the reading skills to handle satire and dystopias in general.  There needs to be a lot more prep to appreciate the context, including writing satires of their own and dystopias of their own.  I don't disagree with the joys involved in that last statement, but in the end it seems to boil down to, "I didn't have the smartest, most-experienced, readers."

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