I think that teaching nearly any work of literature can inspire a discussion of its political implications. In order to do this, one has to make the argument to students that there are political implications and a residue of politics to any work that is created. Even works that seek to not be political are, infact, political, because they seek to be something else than what is around them. In teaching students about the political undertones in work, we ask the students to examine several elements in the construction of work. The author's background and biography play a role in this. The time period in which the work is created is another element in this study. What were the prevailing political attitudes of the time period in which the work was written? How does the work approach these notions? Another political element was the critical and popular reception of the work. Analyzing this might allow another examination of a work's political reality to emerge. It is here where I think that teachers and students can assess the political state of any work, and not simply works that deal with political reality.
There are many literary works with politial undertones often assigned in high school. Here are some:
- Animal Farm by George Orwell
- 1984 by George Orwell
- Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (one of my favorites)
- The Handmaid's Tale by Magaret Atwood
- Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
- Civil Disobedience by Henry Thoreau. (This is not fiction.)