Approaches to Teaching the Works of Tim O’Brien

  • Editors: Alex Vernon, Catherine Calloway
  • Pages: vii & 294 pp.
  • Published: 2010
  • ISBN: 9781603290760 (Paperback)
  • ISBN: 9781603290753 (Cloth)
Approaches to Teaching the Works of Tim OBrien Cover

“This new Approaches collection is both for aficionados of Tim O’Brien (and Vietnam literature) and for those with somewhat broader literary interests. I have nothing but glowing praise for its substantial achievement.”

—David Jarraway, University of Ottawa

“The works of Tim O’Brien are among the most significant recent contributions to a lengthy canon of war literature,” write the editors of this volume; they serve “as an ideal point of entry for discussions of war and its human impact.” The author of the highly acclaimed The Things They Carried, O’Brien is a Pulitzer Prize finalist and the winner of a National Book Award for Going After Cacciato.

This volume in the Approaches to Teaching series considers the range and depth of O’Brien’s writing, with an emphasis on works that focus on the Vietnam War. Part 1, “Materials,” provides information on O’Brien’s life and an overview of his literary output. It also directs readers to critical and reference works on subjects encountered in his writing. The twenty-three essays in part 2, “Approaches,” provide historical background on the Vietnam War; explore narrative issues in O’Brien’s works, such as the melding of fiction, nonfiction, and memoir; and suggest ideas for teaching the author’s works in a variety of classroom and conceptual settings (e.g., composition, American literature, war fiction, narrative theory, postmodernism).

Milton J. Bates
Brenda M. Boyle
Russell Morton Brown
Doug Davis
Jen Dunnaway
Benjamin Goluboff
Reita Gorman
Jeremy Green
Janis E. Haswell
Mark Heberle
Tobey C. Herzog
Christopher Kocela
David Magill
Derek C. Maus
Zivah Perel
Jennifer Peterson
Elisabeth H. Piedmont-Marton
Kathleen M. Puhr
Edward J. Rielly
Eric G. Waggoner

Introduction (1)

PART ONE: MATERIALS (5)

Alex Vernon and Catherine Calloway

Biography (7)

Primary Works (9)

Secondary Sources (17)

PART TWO: APPROACHES (53)

Introduction (55)

Alex Vernon

Historical and Cultural Contexts

The Vietnam War: A Very Short History (64)

Benjamin Goluboff

The Things We Carry: Lessons from O’Brien in American National Mythology (72)

Jen Dunnaway

Teaching The Nuclear Age in the Second Nuclear Age (80)

Doug Davis

“Thinking Seriously about Canada”: Defamiliarizing O’Brien’s Work from a Canadian Perspective (85)

Christopher Kocela

Teaching The Things They Carried with Duong Thu Huong’s Novel without a Name (93)

Derek C. Maus

Literary Contexts

O’Brien in an American War Literature Class (103)

Alex Vernon

Teaching O’Brien in the Context of War Narratives (111)

Zivah Perel

Going After Cacciato in a Course on the Literature of the Vietnam War (119)

Edward J. Rielly

Teaching In the Lake of the Woods as a Historical Novel (125)

Jeremy Green

Teaching Going After Cacciato as an American Road Narrative (132)

Russell Morton Brown

From Short-Story Cycle to Ensemble Novel: Teaching July, July (141)

Catherine Calloway

Interpretive Contexts

Story and Discourse in The Things They Carried (149)

Milton J. Bates

Teaching Going After Cacciato and The Things They Carried in the Context of Trauma (156)

Mark Heberle

Doing Gender and Going Native in “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong” (163)

Elisabeth H. Piedmont-Marton

Critical Angles: Reading Soldier-Author Tim O’Brien and Going After Cacciato (171)

Tobey C. Herzog

Identity in 10,000 Miles of Nameless, Faceless Space: A Postmodern Approach to In the Lake of the Woods (179)

Jennifer Peterson

Diving into the Text beneath the Text: Gender and Revenge in Tomcat in Love (188)

Catherine Calloway

Classroom Contexts

What High School Students Carry to and from The Things They Carried (196)

Kathleen M. Puhr

Teaching Hemingway and O’Brien in an Inner-City High School (202)

Reita Gorman

The Things They Carried and the First-Year College Experience (209)

Eric G. Waggoner

Writing across the Disciplines with The Things They Carried (217)

Brenda M. Boyle

How to Write a True Essay: The Things They Carried in the Composition Classroom (223)

David Magill

Questioning Language: The Things They Carried in an Upper-Level Literature Class (231)

Janis E. Haswell

Notes on Contributors (239)

Survey Participants (241)

Works Cited (243)

Index of Names (285)