Discworld for English class

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Discworld for English class

Postby Number » Thu Jan 03, 2008 3:01 am UTC

I somehow convinced my English teacher to include a Terry Pratchett book in our curriculum. This means that I get to choose the book, but I haven't read all of them (getting there). So, I put it to xkcd to help me with this.
A few restrictions:
    The teacher doesn't like fantasy very much, so books like Hogfather are out.
    The satire should be good for discussions.
    If possible, the main topics should be relevant.
My thoughts so far are that Going Postal and The Truth are reasonable choices.
Thoughts or suggestions?
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Re: Discworld for English class

Postby Flying Betty » Thu Jan 03, 2008 3:15 am UTC

Not liking fantasy might be a tough thing to work around, since even the vaguely serious ones are still fantastical. If you don't mind doing a non-Discworld Terry Pratchett book, how about one of the Johnny Maxwell books? They have some relevant issues while still being silly and Pratchett.
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Re: Discworld for English class

Postby btilly » Thu Jan 03, 2008 4:30 am UTC

You should pick a book that doesn't draw too much from the rest of the series. Personally I'd be inclined to pick Small Gods. The fantasy element is present, but restrained. There aren't any dependencies. And the subject matter is a rich source of potential classroom discussions on everything from the nature of religious belief to Greek philosophy.

But the one qualm that I have is your insistence that the subject matter be relevant. Relevant to what? Society? English in general? Something covered in your class?

For instance if your class has done Macbeth, then I'd recommend Wyrd Sisters. Sure, it is fantasy, but to my mind that is outweighed by the ability to demonstrate how understanding the classics will help you appreciate current fiction. Plus a lot of the magic is just "headology".
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Re: Discworld for English class

Postby Wolf » Thu Jan 03, 2008 7:41 am UTC

btilly wrote:You should pick a book that doesn't draw too much from the rest of the series. Personally I'd be inclined to pick Small Gods.


I agree that this is probably one of your better choices, at least out of the ones I've read. But I haven't read a bunch outside of the Guards books, so there could be good one I'm missing. It sounds like your other ideas, Going Postal and The Truth, would be good too, but I haven't read them (yet!), so I'm not really sure.
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Re: Discworld for English class

Postby LoopQuantumGravity » Thu Jan 03, 2008 9:26 am UTC

btilly wrote:You should pick a book that doesn't draw too much from the rest of the series. Personally I'd be inclined to pick Small Gods. The fantasy element is present, but restrained. There aren't any dependencies. And the subject matter is a rich source of potential classroom discussions on everything from the nature of religious belief to Greek philosophy.

But the one qualm that I have is your insistence that the subject matter be relevant. Relevant to what? Society? English in general? Something covered in your class?

For instance if your class has done Macbeth, then I'd recommend Wyrd Sisters. Sure, it is fantasy, but to my mind that is outweighed by the ability to demonstrate how understanding the classics will help you appreciate current fiction. Plus a lot of the magic is just "headology".


I think Small Gods would be good, but if you want to avoid the potential religious controversy, you could try Mort.
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Re: Discworld for English class

Postby Zohar » Thu Jan 03, 2008 9:29 am UTC

The first thing I thought about was also Small Gods. Mort is also good, I suppose, since it's the first in its sub-series, but it's not as serious.

Edit: And tell your teacher not to be a hypocrite. If Shakespeare and Homer wrote fantasy, I think it's a respectable genre.
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Re: Discworld for English class

Postby mikek » Thu Jan 03, 2008 11:58 am UTC

Small Gods.
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Re: Discworld for English class

Postby Nexus_1101 » Thu Jan 03, 2008 12:32 pm UTC

small gods is a great book. and is proberbly the best.
i would pick guards guards, and say that the dragon is a dramatisation of a great evil or something.
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Re: Discworld for English class

Postby evilbeanfiend » Thu Jan 03, 2008 2:42 pm UTC

the witches stories and especially "wyrd sisters". all the shakespearian references should given your teacher plenty to work with.
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Re: Discworld for English class

Postby SecondTalon » Thu Jan 03, 2008 7:17 pm UTC

Good Omens, if it's also cool to throw Gaiman in there?
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Re: Discworld for English class

Postby Mighty Jalapeno » Thu Jan 03, 2008 7:28 pm UTC

Number wrote:
    The teacher doesn't like fantasy very much, so books like Hogfather are out.
    The satire should be good for discussions.
    If possible, the main topics should be relevant.
My thoughts so far are that Going Postal and The Truth are reasonable choices.
Thoughts or suggestions?

The Truth
Going Postal
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Jingo... the one where Vimes goes to Klatch...

I recommend Jingo. A-M has been secretly supplying a foreign desert-based country with weapons and armor for some time... intelligence reports a massive buildup of warships...

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Re: Discworld for English class

Postby Antimatter Spork » Fri Jan 04, 2008 3:41 am UTC

If you're trying to stay away from fantasy (though I can't understand why anyone would deliberately try to avoid fantasy. Your teacher is silly) you probably want to avoid Mort.
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I agree with the people who recommended Small Gods, Going Postal, and The Truth. All of those have (relatively) restrained fantasy elements, and are fairly obvious real-world allegories going on, so if your teacher really can't stand fantasy, discussion can mostly focus on the real issues being brought up.
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Re: Discworld for English class

Postby Number » Fri Jan 04, 2008 5:49 pm UTC

Thanks for all your input :)
Good Omens was awesome and would be fun, but I think its a bit much for this teacher (who, btw, wrote An X-Rated romance and Dating Games for ~12 year olds).
I was specifically trying to avoid the witch books, because those would make the teacher most unhappy.
Right now, I have Small Gods, The Truth, and Going Postal as my main suggestions. Mort might be pushing it.
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Re: Discworld for English class

Postby predisposed » Fri Jan 04, 2008 6:55 pm UTC

I'm a bit obsessed with his highness Terry Pratchett and i aslon studied english lit - Why did you choose him???? I think that the truth may be your best bet as it does involve some (albeit very loosley) historical basis and can be analysed as 'gross generalisations of racial stereotypes'! Also Thud because that is a very highly charged political propaganda -at this prcise moment in time though i cant remember whatwar it was¬!

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Re: Discworld for English class

Postby Pike » Fri Jan 04, 2008 7:03 pm UTC

Moving pictures is one of my favourites. It's not too fantastical, but it does have loads of silly wizarding action.
Plus it has a lot of parodies of real life, which might make for for interesting discussion.


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Re: Discworld for English class

Postby Jahoclave » Fri Jan 04, 2008 7:14 pm UTC

Personally I'd go with Small Gods over Going Postal. While I enjoyed Postal more, there's more than a few elements that I can see people who aren't as familiar with the subject matter he's satirising not understanding it as well. Whereas, with Small Gods it's very unlikely they won't have a basic understanding of everything that's going on. Plus, if you're trying to start a class discussion which is going to cause more people to want to get involved: an attack on their religious beliefs or a commentary about the post office and capitalism?

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Re: Discworld for English class

Postby bigglesworth » Fri Jan 04, 2008 7:36 pm UTC

I agree with Small Gods and The Truth, but I'd also suggest The Fifth Elephant, since it's also good.
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Re: Discworld for English class

Postby Cheese » Sat Jan 05, 2008 12:37 am UTC

bigglesworth wrote:I agree with Small Gods and The Truth, but I'd also suggest The Fifth Elephant, since it's also good.
Maybe a little much fantasy, depending on the strictness of the teacher in this respect...

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Re: Discworld for English class

Postby bigglesworth » Sat Jan 05, 2008 12:06 pm UTC

Yes, but I thought that (like too many people) she might be against Tolkeinesque fantasy, and not other sorts.
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Re: Discworld for English class

Postby Number » Tue Jan 08, 2008 3:32 am UTC

Thanks once again. I'll let everyone know how this worked in the end - the first suggestion is Small Gods.
Jahoclave wrote:an attack on their religious beliefs or a commentary about the post office and capitalism?
And what about the Randians for whom they are one and the same?
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Re: Discworld for English class

Postby Jahoclave » Tue Jan 08, 2008 4:27 am UTC

Number wrote:Thanks once again. I'll let everyone know how this worked in the end - the first suggestion is Small Gods.
Jahoclave wrote:an attack on their religious beliefs or a commentary about the post office and capitalism?
And what about the Randians for whom they are one and the same?

Well, I guess you would change "or" to "and." Then maybe point out their distinct lack of a social life and hope to berate them until they leave the room crying and shouting about their eventual painful revenge. Either way, the class gets entertained.

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Re: Discworld for English class

Postby blindaurora » Wed Jan 30, 2008 4:11 am UTC

FWIW, I suggest Equal Rights.

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Re: Discworld for English class

Postby red artifice » Thu Jan 31, 2008 1:08 pm UTC

Thud! is quite relevant at the moment

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Re: Discworld for English class

Postby b.i.o » Fri Feb 01, 2008 9:16 pm UTC

Yeah, Thud! does have fantasy elements but it also has plenty of good stuff that can be related to the modern world and it's also one of the best written, in my opinion.

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Re: Discworld for English class

Postby Charlie! » Sat Feb 02, 2008 6:53 am UTC

Or perhaps, if this is an English class rather than a Writing or Literature class, you could do one of the Cohen the Barbarian books without loosing a death grip on the subjects of references and conventions in fiction.
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Re: Discworld for English class

Postby Moo » Mon Feb 04, 2008 5:26 pm UTC

I was going to suggest Thud! as well, as it comments so beautifully on tolerance in multi-cultural society. It is enhanced by a prior knowledge of the Watch but is not dependant on it and all of the fantastical elements in it (as far I can remember) are farsical takes on real things. The magical recording devices the name of which I can't remember now, the Watch itself, the gadgets Vimes uses... plus I thought it was an excellent book.
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Re: Discworld for English class

Postby austin42 » Sat May 23, 2009 11:49 pm UTC

Lucky! I have to read books that I think I would like, but it turns out they are really bad. I wish I could read "Wyrd Sisters" instead of "Macbeth"
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Re: Discworld for English class

Postby btilly » Sun May 24, 2009 5:47 pm UTC

austin42 wrote:Lucky! I have to read books that I think I would like, but it turns out they are really bad. I wish I could read "Wyrd Sisters" instead of "Macbeth"

If you know Macbeth, then Wyrd Sisters is funnier.
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Re: Discworld for English class

Postby podbaydoor » Wed May 27, 2009 2:16 am UTC

"Nightwatch" was my introduction to Discworld and remains my favorite. It's basically Les Miserables, but with time travel and issues of personal identity and growth, plus the complexities of rebellion - the tug between the elite schemers and the common folk doing the actual fighting.
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Re: Discworld for English class

Postby Brother Maynard » Thu May 28, 2009 3:01 pm UTC

Jingo would be a good pick. It avoids fantasy (though your teacher is an idiot) with the exception of some of the odder Watch members, but acts as a relevant satire on nationalism in a similar vein as Thud!

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Re: Discworld for English class

Postby Angua » Thu May 28, 2009 3:14 pm UTC

There is a book called, "Terry Pratchett: Guilty of Literature". It has lots of essays written about the different books (at the time of its writing) analysing them from a literary standpoint. Maybe you could find it at your library and show your teacher to give some ideas on things?
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Re: Discworld for English class

Postby mikhail » Sat May 30, 2009 3:55 pm UTC

podbaydoor wrote:"Nightwatch" was my introduction to Discworld and remains my favorite. It's basically Les Miserables, but with time travel and issues of personal identity and growth, plus the complexities of rebellion - the tug between the elite schemers and the common folk doing the actual fighting.


Nightwatch may be a good choice. It deals with themes like the abuse of government power (personalised as Carcer - note the resemblance of his name to "cancer" and "carcinogen"), the debts we owe to our mentors (posed as the question, if you could go back in time and teach yourself something (excluding lucrative sports results), what would it be?) and something of the grim reality of what street fighting (be it revolution or war) means for ordinary people.

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Re: Discworld for English class

Postby podbaydoor » Tue Jun 02, 2009 12:46 am UTC

Oh, and also the "ethics" of torture - though I guess that would come under government abuse of power.

Quite apart from all the "serious" literary discussion possible, I just simply loved the look into Vimes' character - his frank relief at returning to his old watchman roots, his struggle with being forced to relive one of the most painful experiences of his life, his time-bending encounters with the monks. Vimes is a badass in every novel, but he undergoes badass character growth in this one.
tenet |ˈtenit|
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Re: Discworld for English class

Postby the_bandersnatch » Tue Jun 02, 2009 11:23 am UTC

I was going to suggest Night Watch too but since reading this thread I concur that Small Gods would be a better choice for a classroom environment, and requires no prior knowledge of the series. Unlike Night Watch, which is definitely enhanced by reading the previous books, to the point where I would say reading at least one of the other watch books first is almost necessary.
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Re: Discworld for English class

Postby podbaydoor » Tue Jun 02, 2009 6:00 pm UTC

Well, like I said, Nightwatch was the first Discworld book I ever read, and found the experience undiminished.
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Re: Discworld for English class

Postby Sadistic Humor » Tue Jun 02, 2009 6:14 pm UTC

He asked in January 2008. I hope he's still taking suggestions.
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Re: Discworld for English class

Postby the_bandersnatch » Tue Jun 02, 2009 9:47 pm UTC

Well spotted. I wonder if he's still alive?
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Re: Discworld for English class

Postby Sadistic Humor » Tue Jun 02, 2009 9:48 pm UTC

WHY DOES YOUR AVATAR MAKE ME GIGGLE EVERY TIME?!?!
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Re: Discworld for English class

Postby jayseven » Wed Jun 03, 2009 2:34 am UTC

Oh, he asked a fair old while ago!

I was going to suggest Nightwatch because it's one of the better Kidby-covered books. Small Gods is much loved by all, but I think the suggestion of any of the witch books is good if any shakespeare is also studied on the module/course.

It's a shame it's all too late to ask the OP what level they're studying, or if they know any of the module/course aims. Pratchett has always been diverse with his nuances, even if he heavily focuses on the progress of industrial technology these days.
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Re: Discworld for English class

Postby mikhail » Mon Jun 08, 2009 5:12 pm UTC

the_bandersnatch wrote:I was going to suggest Night Watch too but since reading this thread I concur that Small Gods would be a better choice for a classroom environment, and requires no prior knowledge of the series. Unlike Night Watch, which is definitely enhanced by reading the previous books, to the point where I would say reading at least one of the other watch books first is almost necessary.

Small Gods is sufficently anti-religious that it might not sit well with many schools, teachers and boards.


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