The High School Canon: The History of a Civic Tradition is the working-title of a book project by Andrew Newman. It investigates high school English as an essential, overlooked topic in American literary and cultural history. From the WW2-era, English class has been the forum for a national, intergenerational discussion, shaped by conceptions of the role of literature in a democracy, about a shared set of texts; an overarching theme has been “The American Way of Life” –  individualism, freedom, equality, the American Dream. The analysis of sources such as lesson plans, classroom editions, and student writing reveals how books such as Julius Caesar, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and The Great Gatsby have been part of the preparation for American citizenship, even as, along with teachers’ approaches and students’ frames of reference, their meaning has changed for different generations. Americans today are still participating in, as well as challenging, this cultural tradition. As an exploration of U.S. history through the prism of the high-school canon, this book will address a broad, general-interest audience.

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