CliffsNotes of CliffsNotes

As a literature professor, I just hate CliffsNotes and their ilk.  Reading isolated facts about a book is not the same thing as reading a book.   I consider using CliffsNotes instead of reading the assignment as cheating.  But now CliffsNotes are evidently considered too long for today’s students to handle.

According to various news reports, that company is now producing brief internet videos of its famous crib notes which will be shown initially on AOL, since “everything in today’s world seems to be headed towards speedier and shorter ways to get information.”

Twain and Dickens are information you see; not art. . . .

Anyway, these new “study aides” won’t be dry, talking-head videos either; no sir. They will be “humorous shorts.” And not just humorous, but “irreverent,” too. Yet CliffsNotes says these humorous, irreverent shorts will “still manage to present the plot, characters, and themes” of the assignments — I mean books. . . .

The best news is, as it should be, saved for last. Mark Burnett, a “reality-show producer” (Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?), is charged with making the videos, which will run a full five minutes. But five minutes is an eternity in our go-go, busy-busy, click-swipe world! Thus, for each video of such interminable length, a “shorter one-minute version will also be made available on mobile telephones, as an emergency refresher before a test.”

via Pajamas Media » CliffsNotes for CliffsNotes? Yeah, Pretty Much..

So there will also be a Cliffs Notes version of the Cliff Notes version of Cliff Notes.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Dan Kempin

    Ok, I don’t mean to step out on to thin ice, but maybe this has to do with the whole model of higher education and “literature” as coursework.

    My ideal of a classical education is to have a well rounded knowledge of general subjects, but most of all to have the ability to think for one’s self and appreciate the expression of others. This is distinguished from “technical” (or perhaps I should say “vocational”) education: One studies law to be a lawyer, medicine to be a doctor, plumbing to be a plumber, etc. A plumber can very much be a renaissance man (or woman!), seeing the beauty of the world and using their gifts creatively, just as lawyer, professor, doctor (or any other highly educated professional) can be little more than a drone.

    All of this is to say that I think the education of literature is largely backwards. We take high school and college students and have them read the great works of literature at a time in their life when they, frankly, are working just to comprehend the text. They don’t have any real life experience from which to draw. The result? An “educated” adult whose response to the classics is, “Oh, yeah, I read that. Wasn’t that about some guy and a mouse?”

    That is to say that telling someone “this is a great book” and telling them WHY it is a great book, and having them write a test about the great book is a great way to innoculate someone from ever EXPERIENCING the great book.

    Where is this coming from? Some time ago I started re-reading some of the classic works that I had already “mastered”‘ during my education. I don’t know why. I discovered, though, that reading these books for pleasure and not a grade, and with some miles on my personal odometer, meant that I appreciated them on a whole new level. I almost cried at the end of “A Tale of Two Cities.”

    So . . . I guess I’m not too troubled by the Cliff notes videos. The vocation of a student is to pass, after all. (Is this going to be on the test?) Or rather let me say that it troubles me no more than the whole idea of testing on literature in the first place.

    The best graduate seminar I ever had on Lutheran theology was by a professor Kolb who said, “Hey . . . read Luther!” That was it.

  • Dan Kempin

    Ok, I don’t mean to step out on to thin ice, but maybe this has to do with the whole model of higher education and “literature” as coursework.

    My ideal of a classical education is to have a well rounded knowledge of general subjects, but most of all to have the ability to think for one’s self and appreciate the expression of others. This is distinguished from “technical” (or perhaps I should say “vocational”) education: One studies law to be a lawyer, medicine to be a doctor, plumbing to be a plumber, etc. A plumber can very much be a renaissance man (or woman!), seeing the beauty of the world and using their gifts creatively, just as lawyer, professor, doctor (or any other highly educated professional) can be little more than a drone.

    All of this is to say that I think the education of literature is largely backwards. We take high school and college students and have them read the great works of literature at a time in their life when they, frankly, are working just to comprehend the text. They don’t have any real life experience from which to draw. The result? An “educated” adult whose response to the classics is, “Oh, yeah, I read that. Wasn’t that about some guy and a mouse?”

    That is to say that telling someone “this is a great book” and telling them WHY it is a great book, and having them write a test about the great book is a great way to innoculate someone from ever EXPERIENCING the great book.

    Where is this coming from? Some time ago I started re-reading some of the classic works that I had already “mastered”‘ during my education. I don’t know why. I discovered, though, that reading these books for pleasure and not a grade, and with some miles on my personal odometer, meant that I appreciated them on a whole new level. I almost cried at the end of “A Tale of Two Cities.”

    So . . . I guess I’m not too troubled by the Cliff notes videos. The vocation of a student is to pass, after all. (Is this going to be on the test?) Or rather let me say that it troubles me no more than the whole idea of testing on literature in the first place.

    The best graduate seminar I ever had on Lutheran theology was by a professor Kolb who said, “Hey . . . read Luther!” That was it.

  • Dennis Peskey

    So when do we get around to instructing students in the art of reflection, contemplation and meditation (think Luther, not yoga.) Any tool, unused, can grow rusty – including brains.
    Peace,
    Dennis

  • Dennis Peskey

    So when do we get around to instructing students in the art of reflection, contemplation and meditation (think Luther, not yoga.) Any tool, unused, can grow rusty – including brains.
    Peace,
    Dennis

  • Tom Hering

    I was born with a rusty brain. Concentration isn’t a strength of mine. Which is why I find it helpful to read Cliff Notes, or another synopsis, before I read a classic – so I can grasp the “big picture” as I read.

    But I still read the book. :-)

  • Tom Hering

    I was born with a rusty brain. Concentration isn’t a strength of mine. Which is why I find it helpful to read Cliff Notes, or another synopsis, before I read a classic – so I can grasp the “big picture” as I read.

    But I still read the book. :-)

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Doesn’t this just coincide with the rise of credentialism? Some students are interested in getting credentialed not learning. Also, they may have very limited ability in some areas, so they are frustrated in those classes.

    Does it seem reasonable that everyone will understand and appreciate literature if just given the chance? That is about as likely as everyone understanding and appreciating auto mechanics or computer programing. Not going to happen. Folks just don’t all fit in the same mold.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Doesn’t this just coincide with the rise of credentialism? Some students are interested in getting credentialed not learning. Also, they may have very limited ability in some areas, so they are frustrated in those classes.

    Does it seem reasonable that everyone will understand and appreciate literature if just given the chance? That is about as likely as everyone understanding and appreciating auto mechanics or computer programing. Not going to happen. Folks just don’t all fit in the same mold.

  • Random Lutheran

    Don’t miss the handy, free notes on Goodnight, Moon.

  • Random Lutheran

    Don’t miss the handy, free notes on Goodnight, Moon.

  • Porcell

    Just now, I am reading Michael Horton’s thousand page Systematic Theology: A Guide for Pilgrims on the Way, a very rich and dense, though quite readable, work. Every page is a pleasure to read; it is one of those books that accumulates knowledge and wisdom the further one gets into the book.

    Those who use Cliff Notes deny themselves the pleasure of serious reading; further, my guess is that a teacher or professor who takes the time to seriously read written tests and papers would soon enough discover at the least that the student suffers from shallow knowledge and understanding.

  • Porcell

    Just now, I am reading Michael Horton’s thousand page Systematic Theology: A Guide for Pilgrims on the Way, a very rich and dense, though quite readable, work. Every page is a pleasure to read; it is one of those books that accumulates knowledge and wisdom the further one gets into the book.

    Those who use Cliff Notes deny themselves the pleasure of serious reading; further, my guess is that a teacher or professor who takes the time to seriously read written tests and papers would soon enough discover at the least that the student suffers from shallow knowledge and understanding.

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  • Kirk

    As a former PHC student, I can honestly say that we were assigned more reading than we could possibly hope to complete. I used cliff notes at times during my first semester, felt bad about it and decided to try reading everything that was assigned. That lasted for about two weeks. I spent the entirety of my time, including weekends, holed up in my room and found that there simply weren’t enough hours in the day to facilitate things like sleeping and showering (not to mention having friends) on top of reading. While I was extremely well prepared for some classes, there were others that I didn’t get to the reading on and started to lag behind. So, I switched back to my old formula, which was to read important or interesting assignments and sparknote when I had to. So, they do have some value in maintaining a balanced life during strenuous undergrad (and I’m assuming what will strenuous grad) work.

    Still, cliff notes for cliff notes is ridiculous. No one’s attention span is that short.

  • Kirk

    As a former PHC student, I can honestly say that we were assigned more reading than we could possibly hope to complete. I used cliff notes at times during my first semester, felt bad about it and decided to try reading everything that was assigned. That lasted for about two weeks. I spent the entirety of my time, including weekends, holed up in my room and found that there simply weren’t enough hours in the day to facilitate things like sleeping and showering (not to mention having friends) on top of reading. While I was extremely well prepared for some classes, there were others that I didn’t get to the reading on and started to lag behind. So, I switched back to my old formula, which was to read important or interesting assignments and sparknote when I had to. So, they do have some value in maintaining a balanced life during strenuous undergrad (and I’m assuming what will strenuous grad) work.

    Still, cliff notes for cliff notes is ridiculous. No one’s attention span is that short.

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    As a student, I thought cliff notes were cheating. As one who loves to read, I thought they were missing out on a new adventure.

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    As a student, I thought cliff notes were cheating. As one who loves to read, I thought they were missing out on a new adventure.

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Funny and irreverent videos for didaction, hmmm?
    For some reason, that made me think of Pastor Fisk’s YouTube channel…

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Funny and irreverent videos for didaction, hmmm?
    For some reason, that made me think of Pastor Fisk’s YouTube channel…

  • Dan Kempin

    RL, #5,

    Funny stuff! Kind of makes my point.

  • Dan Kempin

    RL, #5,

    Funny stuff! Kind of makes my point.

  • Helen F

    Not to denigrate being entertained while reading a worthwhile tome, but hasn’t it become in some ways a replacement for actually engaging the text and inwardly digesting it?
    When I hear of stuff like this, I can’t help but think of Neil Postman’s great book (and implied warning) about, “Amusing Ourselves to Death”!

  • Helen F

    Not to denigrate being entertained while reading a worthwhile tome, but hasn’t it become in some ways a replacement for actually engaging the text and inwardly digesting it?
    When I hear of stuff like this, I can’t help but think of Neil Postman’s great book (and implied warning) about, “Amusing Ourselves to Death”!

  • Pete

    Dan @1

    Excellent observation and an experience many of us have shared. Makes one wonder whether we, as a society, ought to have development of maturity as a goal rather than either accumulation of data points or the endless youth that we seem to value so highly.

  • Pete

    Dan @1

    Excellent observation and an experience many of us have shared. Makes one wonder whether we, as a society, ought to have development of maturity as a goal rather than either accumulation of data points or the endless youth that we seem to value so highly.

  • http://thezellman.xanga.com Michael Z.

    I might check these out just to see how they handle the philosophical themes in Brothers Karamazov or Faust, since those are what I got tested on in school, not the plot of the book.

  • http://thezellman.xanga.com Michael Z.

    I might check these out just to see how they handle the philosophical themes in Brothers Karamazov or Faust, since those are what I got tested on in school, not the plot of the book.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    This reminds me of a Woody Allen joke I heard, “I once a speed reading course and read War and Peace in twenty minutes. It involves Russia.”

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    This reminds me of a Woody Allen joke I heard, “I once a speed reading course and read War and Peace in twenty minutes. It involves Russia.”

  • DonS

    If you are an English or literature major, substituting Cliffs Notes or worse, Cliffs Notes of Cliffs Notes, for the actual literature, shame on you. If you are an engineering major forced to take a literature class to obtain your engineering degree, well, you do what you have to do to make sure you pass. You only have so many hours in a day, and sometimes you have to prioritize your assignments.

    Dan makes an excellent point @ 1.

  • DonS

    If you are an English or literature major, substituting Cliffs Notes or worse, Cliffs Notes of Cliffs Notes, for the actual literature, shame on you. If you are an engineering major forced to take a literature class to obtain your engineering degree, well, you do what you have to do to make sure you pass. You only have so many hours in a day, and sometimes you have to prioritize your assignments.

    Dan makes an excellent point @ 1.

  • http://philippians314.squarespace.com Kim

    I’m a little perplexed by the idea that a student’s vocation is “to pass.” Perhaps I’m still idealistic in my middle age, but I thought the idea was to learn to think. Cliffs Notes can be handy as a summary, but they will indeed foster the already sad attention spans of most teens and university students. When I home schooled, I made my kids read the books. My son has read C.S. Lewis’s space trilogy three times, once at 10, 14, and then at 16. While he didn’t understand everything at 10, he has gained a newer appreciation at 16. I hope he will repeat that experience when he is at various ages. Isn’t that the wonderful thing about literature? We re-visit.

    My daughter will graduate from University in English this year, and is moving on to graduate studies. She has never used a Cliff Notes in all of her life.

  • http://philippians314.squarespace.com Kim

    I’m a little perplexed by the idea that a student’s vocation is “to pass.” Perhaps I’m still idealistic in my middle age, but I thought the idea was to learn to think. Cliffs Notes can be handy as a summary, but they will indeed foster the already sad attention spans of most teens and university students. When I home schooled, I made my kids read the books. My son has read C.S. Lewis’s space trilogy three times, once at 10, 14, and then at 16. While he didn’t understand everything at 10, he has gained a newer appreciation at 16. I hope he will repeat that experience when he is at various ages. Isn’t that the wonderful thing about literature? We re-visit.

    My daughter will graduate from University in English this year, and is moving on to graduate studies. She has never used a Cliff Notes in all of her life.

  • Dan Kempin

    Kim, #16,

    If you are perplexed by my remark that “a student’s vocation is to pass,” then understand that the comment is said with tongue in cheek.

    However, the statement could be taken at face value. A student’s vocation IS to pass–to fulfill the obligations and the objectives set by the professor in order to demonstrate their learning. If those expectations are to spew out the generalities in a test format, then Cliff notes are a useful tool. They are. Students study for the test.

    It may be that deadline-test-grade model is not the best format for teaching an appreciation of literature. Perhaps it is not that Cliff notes have short circuited the system, but that the system created the market for Cliff notes.

  • Dan Kempin

    Kim, #16,

    If you are perplexed by my remark that “a student’s vocation is to pass,” then understand that the comment is said with tongue in cheek.

    However, the statement could be taken at face value. A student’s vocation IS to pass–to fulfill the obligations and the objectives set by the professor in order to demonstrate their learning. If those expectations are to spew out the generalities in a test format, then Cliff notes are a useful tool. They are. Students study for the test.

    It may be that deadline-test-grade model is not the best format for teaching an appreciation of literature. Perhaps it is not that Cliff notes have short circuited the system, but that the system created the market for Cliff notes.

  • SKPeterson

    I remember in my high school English class that we learned basics of analyzing poetry, understanding metaphor and analogy, and the construction of argument. I wrote two papers – one in my junior year, and the other in my senior that were very involved. One was on Ovid’s poetic structure and use of imagery in Metamorphoses, which I had to read, and the other on allegory and imagery in Through the Looking Glass. My choices were unique, but my classmates were also choosing comparable works. One did Chekhov for one of the theses and another did an examination of some of the poems of Archibals MacLeish (those I remember because I liked MacLeish and I liked the girl who was doing Chekhov).

    This is not to brag, which I’m doing I guess ;) , but to say that that was only 25 years ago. Have things changed that much? I cannot imagine that we were that unusual in our academic program – it was public school, and in Texas, no less.

  • SKPeterson

    I remember in my high school English class that we learned basics of analyzing poetry, understanding metaphor and analogy, and the construction of argument. I wrote two papers – one in my junior year, and the other in my senior that were very involved. One was on Ovid’s poetic structure and use of imagery in Metamorphoses, which I had to read, and the other on allegory and imagery in Through the Looking Glass. My choices were unique, but my classmates were also choosing comparable works. One did Chekhov for one of the theses and another did an examination of some of the poems of Archibals MacLeish (those I remember because I liked MacLeish and I liked the girl who was doing Chekhov).

    This is not to brag, which I’m doing I guess ;) , but to say that that was only 25 years ago. Have things changed that much? I cannot imagine that we were that unusual in our academic program – it was public school, and in Texas, no less.

  • SKPeterson

    I believe Archibals later changed his name to Archibald, if you care to look him up.

  • SKPeterson

    I believe Archibals later changed his name to Archibald, if you care to look him up.

  • Porcell

    Kirk, at 7, makes a troubling point. The cumulative burden of reading assignments from professors is often unreasonable. I remember a freshmen dean in college advising us to practice carefully selective negligence on assignments, making sure that what is read is done well.

  • Porcell

    Kirk, at 7, makes a troubling point. The cumulative burden of reading assignments from professors is often unreasonable. I remember a freshmen dean in college advising us to practice carefully selective negligence on assignments, making sure that what is read is done well.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I really think most of the discussion here is missing the mark. And, somewhat ironically, I think it’s because people aren’t bothering to read the actual stories involved. In fact, I bet most of you only bothered to read Veith’s “CliffsNotes” article quote before replying.

    Part of the problem stems from the remarkably poor journalism so typical of Pajamas Media articles. The author writes:

    According to various news reports, that company is now producing brief internet videos of its famous crib notes which will be shown initially on AOL, since “everything in today’s world seems to be headed towards speedier and shorter ways to get information.”

    So who do you think is being quoted there? Someone from CliffsNotes or AOL? Wrong! He’s actually quoting from Time‘s Techland blog post on the topic. And just happens to make it sound like that was the rationale from the video creators, not an aside in a blog. Whoops.

    In fact, even if you only bother to click through the links in the Pajamas Media article to get at the facts (such as they are) underlying the story, you quickly realize that this is not necessarily being done in an attempt to make an even-more-CliffsNotes-CliffsNotes. Rather, as the Techland post and others indicate, this is “a move that echoes AOL’s promise to provide more web video content.”

    That is, there’s no reason to see this as anything more than humorous video content — certainly not as an end-run around literature. I’m willing to bet that CliffsNotes, for its part, is more than happy to lend its branding to anything potentially popular or viral, especially if it involves summarizing literary content. After all, it’s engaged in an uphill battle against the free Web site SparkNotes. You likely wouldn’t know that if you’re of a certain age, but CliffsNotes books are kind of old school at this point.

    But hey, why investigate all that when you can spout off about how those darned kids today aren’t learning like we used to?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I really think most of the discussion here is missing the mark. And, somewhat ironically, I think it’s because people aren’t bothering to read the actual stories involved. In fact, I bet most of you only bothered to read Veith’s “CliffsNotes” article quote before replying.

    Part of the problem stems from the remarkably poor journalism so typical of Pajamas Media articles. The author writes:

    According to various news reports, that company is now producing brief internet videos of its famous crib notes which will be shown initially on AOL, since “everything in today’s world seems to be headed towards speedier and shorter ways to get information.”

    So who do you think is being quoted there? Someone from CliffsNotes or AOL? Wrong! He’s actually quoting from Time‘s Techland blog post on the topic. And just happens to make it sound like that was the rationale from the video creators, not an aside in a blog. Whoops.

    In fact, even if you only bother to click through the links in the Pajamas Media article to get at the facts (such as they are) underlying the story, you quickly realize that this is not necessarily being done in an attempt to make an even-more-CliffsNotes-CliffsNotes. Rather, as the Techland post and others indicate, this is “a move that echoes AOL’s promise to provide more web video content.”

    That is, there’s no reason to see this as anything more than humorous video content — certainly not as an end-run around literature. I’m willing to bet that CliffsNotes, for its part, is more than happy to lend its branding to anything potentially popular or viral, especially if it involves summarizing literary content. After all, it’s engaged in an uphill battle against the free Web site SparkNotes. You likely wouldn’t know that if you’re of a certain age, but CliffsNotes books are kind of old school at this point.

    But hey, why investigate all that when you can spout off about how those darned kids today aren’t learning like we used to?

  • Larry Wright

    +1 Dan.

    Because I boxed myself in on the timing of elective classes in my undergraduate degree I once obligated myself to taking a class in Shakespearean literature in a 3- 1/3 week class section. This amounted to a play a day and at the time I was an Engineering student amongst English majors.

    While I did see the old English language to be a challenge, I was certainly not versed in pulling from the text the nuance(s) which seemed all too apparent to my colleagues. Shakespeare => existentialism or proto-existentialism or ….HEH?

    Existentialism to me at the time was whether the live and dead loads of the roof forces had counteracting and equivalent forces substantial enough to keep the roof from collapsing and thereby keeping the tenant in existence. ;-)

    So I read Cliff, then William, then Cliff, then listened, and learned and I was tested and I passed. Back in the day, the class was an obstacle that needed to be completed and I used the tools available to help complete the task at hand. Now those same readings may be explored at my leisure and I certainly read them differently today than I did before.

    I do, in fact, enjoy those tomes much more these days as Dan might say, with substantial miles under my belt, and of course with the knowledge of a substantial roof overhead…

  • Larry Wright

    +1 Dan.

    Because I boxed myself in on the timing of elective classes in my undergraduate degree I once obligated myself to taking a class in Shakespearean literature in a 3- 1/3 week class section. This amounted to a play a day and at the time I was an Engineering student amongst English majors.

    While I did see the old English language to be a challenge, I was certainly not versed in pulling from the text the nuance(s) which seemed all too apparent to my colleagues. Shakespeare => existentialism or proto-existentialism or ….HEH?

    Existentialism to me at the time was whether the live and dead loads of the roof forces had counteracting and equivalent forces substantial enough to keep the roof from collapsing and thereby keeping the tenant in existence. ;-)

    So I read Cliff, then William, then Cliff, then listened, and learned and I was tested and I passed. Back in the day, the class was an obstacle that needed to be completed and I used the tools available to help complete the task at hand. Now those same readings may be explored at my leisure and I certainly read them differently today than I did before.

    I do, in fact, enjoy those tomes much more these days as Dan might say, with substantial miles under my belt, and of course with the knowledge of a substantial roof overhead…

  • The Jones

    I agree that Cliff Notes of Cliff Notes of Cliff Notes is a terrible manifestation of our culture of surface level entertainment. We merely peruse and do not get a sense of the deep beauty involved in an extended introspection of the… …wait, hold up…

    …haha…

    …oh that’s awesome!…

    …I’m sorry, I just watched a funny video of a dog playing piano and singing along in another window on my computer. It was hilarious, but I just lost my train of thought. Oh well, it couldn’t have been that important. Oh sweet! Another auto-tune the news short!

  • The Jones

    I agree that Cliff Notes of Cliff Notes of Cliff Notes is a terrible manifestation of our culture of surface level entertainment. We merely peruse and do not get a sense of the deep beauty involved in an extended introspection of the… …wait, hold up…

    …haha…

    …oh that’s awesome!…

    …I’m sorry, I just watched a funny video of a dog playing piano and singing along in another window on my computer. It was hilarious, but I just lost my train of thought. Oh well, it couldn’t have been that important. Oh sweet! Another auto-tune the news short!

  • Porcell

    Actually, this thread is doing well with the issue of shallow Cliff Notes. Pay scant attention to Todd’s usual obsession with minor technical issues at 21.

  • Porcell

    Actually, this thread is doing well with the issue of shallow Cliff Notes. Pay scant attention to Todd’s usual obsession with minor technical issues at 21.

  • cattail

    I majored in Romance language and English literature (double major). While I enjoyed it (otherwise I’d have majored in something else, like animal husbandry), I had to study a lot of very dull literature that I never would have read if I hadn’t had to. Perhaps the low points were two novels that were required reading in my Novel in English class–Richardson’s “Pamela” and Samuel Johnson’s “Rasselas.” I never got more than a third of the way through either–I still am not sure how I managed to get an “A” in the class! I evidently absorbed enough from the lectures to be able to answer the exam questions, and I got full credit for contrasting Johnson’s soporific work with Voltaire’s philosophical novels (even though it was rather off the subject of the question). Believe me, if Cliff Notes had existed back then, I most certainly would have used them for those two novels! We did have the “College Outline Series” back then, but the literature portions dealt with literary history rather than plots.

    On the other hand, it was this same Novel in English class that introduced me to the novels of Jane Austen, which I still read at least once a year. I’m not sure how I got to age 21 without encountering Jane, but she certainly has enriched my life since then!

    Thanks, Random Layman, for the link to the analysis of “Goodnight Moon”! :-)

  • cattail

    I majored in Romance language and English literature (double major). While I enjoyed it (otherwise I’d have majored in something else, like animal husbandry), I had to study a lot of very dull literature that I never would have read if I hadn’t had to. Perhaps the low points were two novels that were required reading in my Novel in English class–Richardson’s “Pamela” and Samuel Johnson’s “Rasselas.” I never got more than a third of the way through either–I still am not sure how I managed to get an “A” in the class! I evidently absorbed enough from the lectures to be able to answer the exam questions, and I got full credit for contrasting Johnson’s soporific work with Voltaire’s philosophical novels (even though it was rather off the subject of the question). Believe me, if Cliff Notes had existed back then, I most certainly would have used them for those two novels! We did have the “College Outline Series” back then, but the literature portions dealt with literary history rather than plots.

    On the other hand, it was this same Novel in English class that introduced me to the novels of Jane Austen, which I still read at least once a year. I’m not sure how I got to age 21 without encountering Jane, but she certainly has enriched my life since then!

    Thanks, Random Layman, for the link to the analysis of “Goodnight Moon”! :-)

  • Booklover

    This is not Cliff’s Notes but since we’re playing True Confessions. . .Every time Shakespeare in the Parks comes to town and I want to understand the play, I read it beforehand in *Tales From Shakespeare* by Charles and Mary Lamb, and in *Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare for Children* by E. Nesbit. Then I am better able to understand what is going on in the play in the park, and I am a trifle less stupid while attending with my classy and intelligent friend. :-)

    And now I have been reminded again of yet another book that was lost in the flood–a lovely bound copy of Shakespeare’s Complete Works. Oh well, I wasn’t exactly reading it daily.

  • Booklover

    This is not Cliff’s Notes but since we’re playing True Confessions. . .Every time Shakespeare in the Parks comes to town and I want to understand the play, I read it beforehand in *Tales From Shakespeare* by Charles and Mary Lamb, and in *Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare for Children* by E. Nesbit. Then I am better able to understand what is going on in the play in the park, and I am a trifle less stupid while attending with my classy and intelligent friend. :-)

    And now I have been reminded again of yet another book that was lost in the flood–a lovely bound copy of Shakespeare’s Complete Works. Oh well, I wasn’t exactly reading it daily.