Looking at Atticus Finch through an Educator’s Eyes

The provocation of Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman demands that scholars, readers, and fans reconsider Atticus Finch.

Amherst College professor Austin Sarat, editor of Reimagining To Kill a Mockingbird: Family, Community, and the Possibility of Equal Justice under Law, said he welcomes the new Atticus as “a kind of wake-up call that the struggle for rights is two steps forward, one step back. And it’s a struggle that requires collective action, not just individual, idealized heroes.”

In the collection Reimagining To Kill a Mockingbird,  Sarat and co-editor Martha Umphrey, also an Amherst College professor, gather essays that explore Lee’s classic through the interdisciplinary prism of law and humanities scholarship. Using both the film and novel, they see Atticus’s defense of Tom Robinson as a linchpin moment in the nation’s narrative of racial progress. They see the story as profoundly pedagogical, one that strives to teach us ways of overcoming prejudice and to live with one another in a better and more just world.

Anticipating the contradictions and complications made evident in Go Set a Watchman, the essays in Reimagining To Kill a Mockingbird trouble the mythology of the story and its hero. They pose provocative contemporary theoretical and interpretive questions: How does one come to belong to, even to be recognized as “human,” within this community? How should we understand the sacrifices characters make and are asked to make in the name of justice and comprehend their failures in achieving it?

Please see our website for more information on the book: https://www.umass.edu/umpress/title/reimagining-kill-mockingbird




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