It's been a LONG time since BJU revised American Literature. In 2003, they did a refresh, giving the text a new cover and playing with some of the inserts, but we haven't seen a change this dramatic before. The third edition, released in 2016, is a whole new book.
Its goal remains the same: as it introduces students to nearly eighty American authors, it helps them to connect authors' lives and beliefs as revealed in their writings with their corresponding literary periods. Lessons examine Colonial-Revolutionary, Romantic, Realistic/Naturalistic, Modern and Contemporary literature and issues such as Darwinism, religious liberalism, multicultural diversity, and postmodern thought.
How Does This Work?
Any American Lit textbook will, by definition, follow a flow of American literature, usually by chronological development. That's true here, but the table of contents looks drastically different (and feels less technical):
|Literature of Settlement
||Literature of Settlement
|Literature of Religious Experience
||Literature of Religious Experience
|Literature of Revolution
||Literature of Revolution
|New England School
||Voices of Conflict
||Realists & Naturalists
|Masters of Realism
|Modern American Poetry
|Modern American Prose
Of course, that's just the unit titles, but on closer examination, you'll find a number of lesser-known authors removed (like Samuel Sewall, William Bartram, Sidney Lanier and Frank Norris), but there are a lot more added. BJU gives a nod to Native America with content from the Iroquois Confederacy. Then it features several authors that were all conspicuously missing before: Thomas Jefferson, Kate Chopin, E.B. White, Zora Neale Thurston, F. Scott Fitzgerald and John Steinbeck. And these are all BEFORE the book reaches the contemporary sections: there you'll find Sylvia Plath, Flannery O'Connor, John Updike and Amy Tan, to mention a few.
Chapter introductions and short author biographies have been retained from the 2nd edition, but the 3rd edition's new lesson plans encourage more student engagement, and its new format allows for sidebars that contain vocabulary, timelines and new discussion questions. These are marked with "A," "R," or "E" symbols for "Analyze," "Read," or "Evaluate," and help teachers to highlight key concepts, draw out major emphases, and make important connections for their students.
Our Honest Opinion:
Overall, we're impressed with how much more broad this textbook feels. The addition of more contemporary literature increases its relevance and exposes kids to some excellent authors of today. The book itself is definitely more attractively formatted, though it can seem a tad cluttered at times with the additional pictures and sidebars. We like the new discussion questions, though we doubt many home school families will use them to their full potential, and though the chapter review questions were pretty good before, there are more that challenge now. This is a good revision.
Review by Eli Evans
Formerly home educated and now father of five, Eli loves discovering amazing books, new and old, and is an artistic curator at heart. The owner and manager of Exodus since 1998, his focus is on offering thoughtful and well-written books that inspire the imagination and promote creativity and diligence while living for God. Read more of his reviews here
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