Literature: Booking Through Thursday

Lit-Ra-Chur April 3, 2008

Filed under: WordPress — –Deb @ 1:21 am 

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  • When somebody mentions “literature,” what’s the first thing you think of? (Dickens? Tolstoy? Shakespeare?)
  • Do you read “literature” (however you define it) for pleasure? Or is it something that you read only when you must?
    The word LITERATURE sends shivers down my spine.  Mrs. Worsham and AP English Lit spring to mind.  I can almost see her pinched face and hear her trembly voice saying, “Class, read chapters 11-17 tonight, be ready to discuss the plot analysis flow map tomorrow and our quiz will be Friday.  Any questions?”  I think of dealing with clunky language and archaic turns of phrase, questioning every possible motivation for each character, discussing the merits and relevance of the work to modern times, and I shudder.  For me, this has nothing to do with reading for pleasure.  But it was also many years ago.  

    It occurs to me that I ought to give the dreaded LITERATURE another chance, reading it without deadlines and threat of a poor grade if I don’t quite understand the broader themes.  Our book club has talked about reading some classics, and that’s been met with some groans and a roll of the eyes from me, but maybe it’s time.  

    What about you?  Do you read LITERATURE, or fear it?


15 Responses

  1. I like literature, and I read it for pleasure.
    For me, everything that is high quality writing is literature, from Shakespeare to Neil Gaiman. I don’t see it as “stuff you are forced to read”, because I have been forced to read things as well that I wouldn’t classify as literature.
    I do see where you’re getting from. I feel that way about certain books I had to read and I just don’t want to read them ever again, just because I was forced to read them. Maybe I would like them if I read them now but I can’t bring myself to do so.

  2. I posted on this, too. I think I define literature more broadly than some, because I consider most of what I read to be “literature”! I do occasionally read classics, too–maybe because I didn’t have any teachers like Mrs. Worsham!!

  3. Oh…I ADORE literature. Its so much nicer when you don’t have to read “the classics” on a timetable or dissect the meanings, themes, plot, and analyze characters. Give it another go!

  4. This post had me instantly recalling my time the other day in Borders. They have a section called ‘Literature’ and I was wondering why they didn’t just call that section FICTION or something. I’m sure it’s certainly appropriate and logical, but, like you, the term literature seems to imply the stuff we had to read in school…

  5. Literature used to strike fear into my bones… I enjoyed english lit at school but didn’t like dissecting the novels – why can’t an author just write a good story because they feel like it? Why do there have to be themes and nuances??

    I just read To Kill a Mockingbird though – and found myself wishing for such an English class to help me explore it further ;0)

    I may have to start looking at literature in a new light

  6. I have a different take on this, I think it is because my view of lit includes much more fun stuff !! It is so sad so many readers are not excited about literature…but to me it is more a problem with the interpretation that lit means: boring, hard to read books! I don’t see it that way.
    Check out my answer! Let me know if you agree after you’ve read it.

  7. I like literature & I fear literature & I hate literature & I love literature. I think my emotions are full of contradictions like literature itself 🙂

  8. I like anything as long as it’s well-written. Literature can be good and dime store novels can be good too.

    Was your AP English teacher about 100 years old? Mine was, although she wasn’t AP because I was a terrible student. I wonder if there’s an English teacher mold that these (mainly) women are poured into. When they’re removed a few days later they’re all “pod people” — ancient, stony-faced and pedantic, and this demeanor never changes for the rest of their careers.

    Anyway, great BTT!

  9. I have a mixed relationship with literature. I often think that the term literature excluides a lot of contemparary writing which I now enjoy. Although, I do find it more enjoyable to read without a pending grade or paper. On the other hand, I agree that I miss the vigorous discussion of books that happen in a classroom.

  10. Well, as a former A.P. English teacher (yep…), I just love this topic!! I actually think the classics are much, much better when read as an adult. We just don’t have enough life experience to appreciate the complexity of the themes in high school — even the really nerdy kids who get all of the symbols, etc., etc… just can’t “get” what it means to not want to be a mother (The Awakening) or to be trapped in a loveless marriage (Scarlet Letter), etc., etc… I actually took a year leave from teaching in order to create a website with book club kits on the classics because I’m so afraid they are ruined by English teachers everywhere and then discarded. Unfortunately, I haven’t found many book clubs who want to read the classics, so I gave in and started doing kits on the hot contemporary book club kits — and those kits are popular. Sigh… I’m sure I was/am part of the problem…

  11. As a teacher of (too) many years standing, I can only apologise. I know that far too many people have been put off reading literature for ever by appalling teaching. I promise, I have always done my best to leave my students wanting to read more not less.

  12. I usually like more current stuff, but when I saw Jane Austen Book Club it made me want to read some Austen.

  13. I suffered through AP literature too but I still read literature for fun, along with everything else that I read.

  14. I think the modern meaning of literature is different from what it used to mean. Most of the classics are harder to read because of when they were written. Today much of what is called literature is authors trying to show what incredible writers they are at the expense of story. I sat on a panel with orson Scott Card where he said that in most of today’s literature the author is the hero of his or her own story. If we are defining literature as the classics and well written fiction of any kind, I’m all in favor of it. But the genre collectively called literature bores me to tears for the most part.

    As as using classics in the classroom, I think teachers should spend more time teaching kids to love reading what they enjoy, and slowly introduce them to the classics once they are ready for them.

  15. I agree with Chartroose–I think there must be an AP teacher mold. It is the only explanation. I would totally love to be an AP English teacher, although I am neither spinster nor is my hair in a bun.

    I love Literature in whatever form it takes. I think it is too much to try and lump a genre together, although some of the very best books ever written will probably never make that category and some of the most boring dribble for whatever reason is world renowned Literature. Some classics are my very favorite books and are reserved for my “favorite books” shelf, and others I couldn’t get through the first chapter. I agree with J Scott Savage above; I think teachers should focus less on getting kids to read the “right” kind of books and worry more about getting them to read at all. I’m sorry, but no one will ever love to read if they haven’t read anything voluntarily since Elementary School and then you hand them Crime and Punishment. It ain’t happenin’.

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