Children's Literature - Michele DeCampAmong the reasons Harold Bloom, the famous literary critique and Yale professor, created the "Bloom's Major Dramatists" series is his belief that students' relationship to literature has become "numbed" by the shallow interpretations they and their instructors make about classic works. This series tries to overcome that tendency by including exhaustive background and critical work about important authors, including Aeschylus, the famous Greek dramatist. However, Bloom and his co-editors take their interpretation of Aeschylus' Oresteia to a level that may surpass the comprehension of the series' intended young adult audience. This text, which includes an introduction to Aeschylus' work by Bloom, breaks down the Oresteia into its three plays, Agamemnon, Choephori, and the Eumenides. Each section includes a plot summary of the work, a list of characters with literary interpretations of each character's role, and seven or more vignettes from different scholarly essays on important themes in each play. If a student is trying to analyze any of these three plays for an honors English course, this collection could be a good starting point. However, the summaries and character lists include a lot of built-in interpretation that leaves little room for readers to come to their own opinions, and the critical essays are hard to follow because they are imbedded with so many ellipses that one wonders what information was lost in their abridgement. While Bloom may hope to revolutionize the modern English classroom with such guides, he may have surpassed even the brightest of high school student's capabilities. This collection would be more useful in an introductorycollege literature course where students will need to be introduced to the type of research Bloom provides and also be held to higher standards of interpretation and comprehension. For high school students, just reading Aeschylus' deeply imaginative work may be enough for starters.
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