by William Stafford
We've identified these texts as great options for text pairings based on similar themes, literary devices, topic, or writing style. Supplement your lesson with one or more of these options and challenge students to compare and contrast the texts. To assign a paired text, click on the text to go to its page and click the "Assign Text" button there.
Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College
- Thomas Gray
Thomas Gray (1716-1771) was an English poet and scholar. His poem, “Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College,” is famous for coining the phrase “ignorance is bliss.” In it, the speaker considers his feelings about the prospect of going to Eton College, an independent boarding school.Pair “Burning a Book” with “Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College” and ask students to consider how the latter poem, perhaps best known for coining the phrase “ignorance is bliss,” is in tension with Stafford’s work. Have students compare not only the content of each poem, but the form. How does Gray’s use of a regular form and rhyme scheme contrast the effect of Stafford’s use of free verse?
Excerpts from We
- Yevgeny Zamyatin
We is a work of dystopian fiction set in a future police state by Russian writer Yevgeny Ivanovich Zamyatin (1884-1937). In 1921, We became the first work banned by the Soviet Union’s censorship board; Zamyatin managed to have his work smuggled to the West and later lived out the rest of his life in exile. This novel is thought to have inspired Brave New World and 1984.Pair “Burning a Book” with “Excerpts from ‘We’” and ask students to compare the themes of the two pieces. How do they build upon and inform one another in terms of the question of censorship? Do the authors seem to share similar perspectives, or do they differ in the issues that they seem to consider particularly important?
I Am Very Real
- Kurt Vonnegut
Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007) was an American author and humorist. One month after an English teacher at Drake High School in North Dakota decided to teach Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Slaughterhouse-Five in his classroom, Charles McCarthy, the head of the school board, decided that the novel’s “obscene language” was not appropriate. Every copy of Slaughterhouse-Five at Drake High School was burned in the school’s furnace. In response, Vonnegut wrote this letter to McCarthy.Pair “Burning a Book” with “I Am Very Real” and ask students to compare the perspectives of the poem’s speaker and of Kurt Vonnegut. What are the primary concerns that each text brings up? How might Kurt Vonnegut respond to the speaker in “Burning a Book”?
Daughter of Invention
- Julia Alvarez
In Julia Alvarez’s short story “Daughter of Invention,” a girl struggles to prepare and present a speech in front of her school.Pair “Burning a Book” with “Daughter of Invention” and ask students to discuss the benefits and risks of censuring others. Why is it important that the narrator in “Daughter of Invention” is able to express her thoughts and feelings freely? What does the narrator’s father believe he is protecting her from by destroying her speech? Do students think there is a right time to censure someone’s writing? If so, when?
Students Identify With 50-Year-Old Supreme Court Case
- Nina Totenberg
In the informational text “Students Identify With 50-Year-Old Supreme Court Case,” Nina Totenberg discusses a re-enactment of a court case that teaches students about their right to freedom of speech on school grounds.Pair “Burning a Book” with “Students Identify With 50-Year-Old Supreme Court Case” and ask students to discuss the nature of censorship. How does burning books as a form of censorship compare to suspending students for expressing a political view? What are the disadvantages of limiting people’s access to information or stifling opinions? Should educators engage students in developing opinions? Why or why not?
Banksy and the tradition of destroying art
- Preminda Jacob
In the informational text, “Banksy and the tradition of destroying art,” Preminda Jacob discusses artists who have destroyed their own work, specifically the graffiti artist Banksy.Pair “Burning a Book” with “Banksy and the tradition of destroying art” and ask students to discuss the act of burning a book or destroying a work of art. How do both texts emphasize the symbolic nature of destroying something? How is the motivation behind burning a book different than what drives an artist to destroy their own work?