In an essentially nonfiction work about the power and widened scope of literature, Soldier's Heart: Reading Literature Through Peace and War at West Point, Elizabeth D. Samet describes how, though she has been an English professor at West Point for ten years, she tries not to take her work home with her — but she has been known to ask her mother to meet her at 1800 instead of at 6:00 pm. At the same time, however, she knows how loose lingo sinks discipline and so she forbids the use of the exclamation “Hooah!” in her classroom.
Maybe it’s the first time she’s had to consider the importance of an affirmative expression of the warrior spirit. As a civilian professor who had arrived at West Point before September 11, 2001, Samet has spent ten years teaching Shakespeare and Emerson to future soldiers destined for uncertain prospects in Iraq. After all, West Point is a world away from graduate school at Yale, which didn’t adequately prepare Samet for teaching literature to young men and women who were training to fight a war.
Presenting an upfront and honest contemplation on the relationship between art and life in Soldier's Heart, Samet explores West Point’s transformation since 9/11 as she has seen it, and as perceived by her students. In addition, Samet also considers the role of women in the army, the tides of religious and political fervor in the United States, the uses of the call to patriotism, and, as she sees it, a pervasive and crippling cult of sacrifice.
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