Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Pleasure Killers

Did learning literature at school kill the joy of reading, particularly when you had to deal with set texts for public exams? Jean Hannah Eidelstein raises the question on the Guardian blog.

I think I must have been exceptionally lucky (judging by the reader comments on the page). My teachers radiated an enthusiasm that was contagious, and some of the texts we had to study for exams have remained my favourites including Hardy's Tess of the D'Ubervilles, E.M. Forster's A Passage to India and King Lear.

The teacher I think makes all the difference, and I must confess that when I've taught lit, I have tried my best to make the subject enjoyable. But that can be tricky with an exam breathing down your neck.

Hmmm ... former students of mine ... did I squash your pleasure of the texts?

7 comments:

Naho said...

I hate it when I have to write properly about what the book was about. I am not use to following the rules of analyzing.
I hate it when I cannot describe well enough of what I felt about the literature.
If I need to write a correct answer in exams I already hate the subject.

midnite lily said...

no, i think taking English Lit in school taught me to appreciate reading a whole lot more. i was even looking forward to taking the subject before anyone else thought of which stream to go to. i wish there was more texts we could've done instead of just cramming for exams!! =( i want to go back to school...

i agree that the teacher does make the difference. my English & Lit teachers were wonderful!! save for the trainee teacher i told you about. hehe...

Siedne said...

literature was a joke in my time (some 3-4 yrs ago) because we read abridged versions! how is one to appreciate great literary works, like the phantom of the opera, when it is concised to less than 100 pages with simple english?? and yes, one always had to have the 'correct' answer, which meant memorisation. bah. good thing it didn't hinder me from reading, as i'm sure it did to many of my peers.

Daphne said...

I self-studied lit for O levels but I had the ost wonderful practical criticism tutor when I did A levels in Spore. His name was Donald Whitby and he was funny, enthusiastic, inspiring and encouraging. I loved him to bits and I still think about him, although it's been 20ish years since we last met, at the college ball post-A levels.

Erin said...

I never did well in school so didn't go through all that lol. I only loved assigned reading simply because I love reading though. Surprisingly we didn't get assigned many books - go figure. I don't think it hampers reading enthusiasm that way.

Now in this county too many kids don't read well enough when they hit sixth grade, so every school forces the first graders and up to read a book a day and be quizzed on it at the end of the week. They seem to see reading as a chore and I'm not sure if this may hurt them later with wanting to read or not.

Anonymous said...

Nooo.. where else would I have had exposure to O. Henry and John Steinbeck ? I sure wouldn't have read them on my own :)

Anonymous said...

It's sad that no one writes like O. Henry (or even John Steinbeck) any more. Stuff like "The Pearl" and "The Tortoise-shell comb".. one you can see the ending, and you keep hoping it won't happen, but it does anyway. The other one, you never see it coming :)

That's what I miss about books these days, they're not engaging.