#ThrowbackThursday – Un-Studying Literature

Today’s Throwback Thursday post comes from the 2012 Blogging From A – Z Challenge, an annual blogging challenge that happens in April. If you haven’t heard of it before, it’s a great way to get out of your blogging comfort zone, and perhaps find some fantastic new bloggers. About now is a great time to think about topics and start to prepare. I don’t take part every year – I haven’t decided about 2017 yet.

About three days into my English Literature A Level, I realised I shouldn’t be on the course, because that was the time I realised literature shouldn’t be studied, it should be enjoyed.

I know… that’s a mind-bending statement, isn’t it? Well, no – not unless you’re an English teacher.

Think about the writers we study:

  • Shakespeare
  • The Brontes
  • Thomas Hardy
  • Charles Dickens
  • Wordsworth

What do all these writers have in common? They were all popular writers. They weren’t writing high literature – that’s the mantel we’ve placed them on. They were writing prose that the common man in the street, at the time they were writing, would find enjoyable. They probably didn’t place too much store on the symbolism and metaphors used. They just wrote, the same way you and I do, telling their story in the most effective way.

What I’d love to say to my English teacher is:

We shouldn’t be doing this. We should be enjoying the books the way they were intended. We should think about the themes, embrace the story, perhaps even consider the moment in history they are portraying. What better way to understand history than through the eyes of people who lived in it – these authors had important things to say about the world they were living in. They don’t deserve to have their prose broken down into blocks of text for 18 year olds to pour over in sticky school halls, extracting every last significance out of every last full stop and semi-colon. Sometimes, Mr English Teacher, Sir, I’m sure they chose to describe the sky as cloudy because it just was, not to foretell something terrible in a hundred pages time!

My English teacher is currently a member of the gym where I work. I could quite easily walk up to him while he’s a captive audience on the rowing machine tomorrow and say all of that to him.

You’ll probably be quite glad to hear I won’t. I’ll leave him to enjoy his workout.

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This is my last post before Christmas, so I’d like to wish you Merry Christmas.