OVERRIDE

Soldier's Heart

Reading Literature Through Peace and War at West Point

Elizabeth D. Samet

Picador

Includes a New Afterword by the Author

A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice
A USA Today Best Book of 2007
A Christian Science Monitor Best Book of 2007

What does it mean to teach literature to a soldier? How does it prepare a young man or woman for combat? At West Point, Elizabeth Samet reads classic and modern works of literature with America's future military elite, and in this stirring memoir she chronicles the ways in which war has transformed her relationship to the books she and her students read together. While fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, Samet's former students share their thoughts on the poetry of Wallace Stevens, the fiction of Virginia Woolf and J. M. Coetzee, the epics of Homer, and the films of Bogart and Cagney. And their letters in turn prompt Samet to wonder exactly what she owes to cadets in the classroom. Soldier's Heart is 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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Picador

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