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Soldier's Heart


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About the Author

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.


In a time when words like patriotism and sacrifice are tossed about with alarming casualness, Samet (Willing Obedience: Citizens, Soldiers, and the Progress of Consent in America, 1776-1898) offers an illuminating exploration of what these terms mean to the modern soldier. In the late 1990s, Samet left graduate school at Yale to become a literature instructor at West Point, where she has for the last decade taught the humanities to young men and women preparing to lead others into combat. Here, she illustrates how literature can transform raw cadets into reflective, conscientious leaders. She and her students struggle with the relationship between art and life as well as the true meaning of sacrifice and honor and their place in a world of peace and a world at war. Samet also reflects on the dramatic changes to the academy, its cadets, and herself over the past ten years. She focuses on the post-9/11 change in attitudes and the juxtaposition between leadership and obedience in the lives of military officers. The inevitable comparison to Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran is apt owing to both books' realistic description of the transformative power of literature. Recommended for all libraries.-Shedrick Pittman-Hassett, Phil Johnson Historic Archives & Research Lib., Dallas Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

Azar Nafisi meets David Lipsky in this memoir/meditation on crossing the border between the civilian world of literature and the world of the military during 10 years of teaching English at West Point. Samet's students sometimes respond to literature in ways that trouble her, but she lauds their intellectual courage as they "negotiate the multiple contradictions" of military life. Considering the link between literature and war, Samet insightfully explores how Vietnam fiction changed American literary discourse about the heroism of military service. Beyond books, Samet also examines how televised accounts of the Iraq War have turned American civilians "into war's insulated voyeurs," and discusses the gap separating her from the rest of the audience watching a documentary on Iraq. Lighter, gently humorous sections reveal Samet's feelings about army argot. She has been known to ask her mother to meet her "at 1800 instead of at 6:00 p.m.," but she forbids the use of the exclamation "Hooah!"("an affirmative expression of the warrior spirit") in her classroom. Samet is prone to digressions that break the flow of great stories, like an account of her West Point job interview. But this meditation on war, teaching and literature is sympathetic, shrewd and sometimes profound. (Oct.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

"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

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