OVERRIDE

Soldier's Heart

Reading Literature Through Peace and War at West Point

Elizabeth D. Samet

Picador

A New York Times Notable Book of the Year
Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize
A Chicago Tribune Favorite Book of the Year
A Christian Science Monitor Best Book of the Year
 
Soldier’s Heart chronicles the various tensions inherent in teaching literature to young men and women who are training to fight a war as well as the ways in which war has transformed Samet’s relationship to literature. Fighting in Iraq, Samet’s former students share what books and movies mean to them—the poetry of Wallace Stevens, the fiction of Virginia Woolf and J. M. Coetzee, the epics of Homer, or the films of James Cagney. Their letters in turn prompt Samet to wonder exactly what she owes to cadets in the classroom.
 
Samet arrived at West Point before September 11, 2001, and has seen the academy change dramatically. In Soldier’s Heart, she reads this transformation through her own experiences and those of her students. Forcefully examining what it means to be a civilian teaching literature at a military academy, Samet also considers the role of women in the army, the dangerous tides of religious and political zeal roiling the country, the uses of the call to patriotism, and the cult of sacrifice she believes is currently paralyzing national debate. Ultimately, Samet offers an honest and original reflection on the relationship between art and life.

BOOK EXCERPTS

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Excerpt
SHAKESPEARE 3, THIS IS SHAKESPEARE 6—OVER
I had forgotten all about the radio in my hand. I was so startled when it crackled to life I nearly dropped it:
SHAKESPEARE 3, THIS IS SHAKESPEARE 6—OVERSHAKESPEARE 6, THIS IS SHAKESPEARE 3—OVERSHAKESPEARE 3, GIVE ME A SITREP WHEN YOU HAVE THE ENEMY IN SIGHT—OVERWILCO—OUT
I have said “out” when I should have said “over.” I have taken far too long to figure out that “SITREP” means situation report. Somewhere this might be fatal. Here the amused voice on the other end, that
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REVIEWS

Praise for Soldier's Heart

"A thoughtful, attentive, stereotype-breaking book about [Samet's] ten years as a civilian teacher of literature at the Military Academy."--Robert Pinsky, The New York Times

"Absolutely fascinating. Never has Tolstoy or Homer seemed more relevant."--Bob Minzesheimer, USA Today

"Like Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran, Elizabeth D. Samet's Soldier's Heart is an illuminating look at the use of literature by a group of young people in an uncommon predicament."--Geraldine Brooks, author of March and Year of Wonders

"Strong, deeply articulate . . . I hope her work finds its way to more than a few Capitol Hill nightstands."--Alexander C. Kafka, Chicago Tribune
 
"An exhilarating read. It seats you in the classroom of a feisty professor . . . elbow-to-elbow with an elite crop of students whose intelligence and imagination match their courage."--John Beckman, The Washington Post Book World
 
"[Samet] make[s] a compelling case that the values embodied in the liberal arts can do much to steer [soldier's] to more thoughtful deliberations. . . . It's reassuring just to think that the hearts and minds of young soldier's are in such hands."--Marjorie Kehe, The Christian Science Monitor

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Elizabeth D. Samet

  • Elizabeth D. Samet is the author of Willing Obedience: Citizens, Soldiers, and the Progress of Consent in America, 1776–1898. She has been an English professor at West Point for ten years.

  • Elizabeth D. Samet © Bachrach
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Soldier's Heart

Reading Literature Through Peace and War at West Point

Elizabeth D. Samet

L.A. Times Book Prize - Winner

BOOKS FOR COURSES AVAILABLE

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FROM THE PUBLISHER

Picador

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