What are we talking about today?

I'll get back to theme days once I find a groove of posting regularly. In the meantime, most of my posts are about some variation of books, bikes, buses, or Broadway. Plus bits about writing, nonprofits, and grief from time to time.

This blog is mostly lighthearted and pretty silly. It's not about the terrible things happening in the world, but please know that I'm not ignoring those things. I just generally don't write about them here.

22 October 2010


Terry Pratchett expresses so well how I feel about academia messing with things that I like to read:
"Susan hated Literature. She'd much prefer to read a good book... She listened with half an ear to what the rest of the class was doing. It was a poem about daffodils. Apparently the poet had liked them very much. Susan was quite stoical about this. People could like daffodils if they wanted to. They just should not, in Susan's very definite and precise opinion, be allowed to take up more than a page to say so."
I agree with Susan. (I'm fairly certain that Pratchett did not have me in mind, but if he did, I'd like some royalties.) Mostly agree, anyway; I'm happy for people to take up as much space as they'd like to write about daffodils or indeed any other subject, so long as I am not required to read it.

This is the real problem with literature classes: People who otherwise would enjoy a perfectly good book/poem/story/etc. are suddenly forced to pick said work to bits, looking for themes and hidden messages and that sort of thing. Snooze. At least in college, I've been allowed to read an assortment of stories and write a few pages about common themes, rather than having to figure out the one exact thing my instructor was looking for (being in college, as long as I can make a good argument about what I see, the instructors tend not to mind that I don't get the exact same answer as them).

Spanish literature, it turns out, is the same as English literature in terms of reading and poking the words around. My literature teacher's nickname is No Entiendo (I don't understand), because I can't understand a lot of what he says. He's a brilliant teacher and is very kind to his students (and extraordinarily helpful), but that doesn't help me understand his Spanish.

So, I get to be frustrated in two languages. Not only because of not understanding, but because we pummel the Classics almost to death to get whatever meaning we can possibly squeeze out of them, then wander off, leaving any enjoyment of the story bleeding on the sidewalk. Sigh.

Wanna win the first-ever giveaway on Cheekyness? That's right, to celebrate my upcoming 700th post, I'm having a giveaway! Comment, follow or link to my blog to enter the drawing. Contest ends at 9 PM (CDT) TOMORROW!


Aaron said...

Yeah, I never really enjoyed reading until I left school behind. Now, I read more than I ever had. I also didn't like to write... well, for school that is...

Thanks for pointing out the further failings of organised education. I still contend that I can learn much more on my own than sitting in a class were a teacher attempts to teach from their own perceptions.

Anonymous said...

I was blessed in middle school with a teacher that thought some of our reading selections were insane. I remember her specifically instructing us to "skip the six pages of fish description" in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I love her for that.

On the other hand, I kind of love dissecting and analyzing books I like, but I think that comes because of an already established love of reading. College is definitely better than most high schools for that sort of thing, but I still think most Comp & Rhetoric courses could use a reading overhaul.

Su said...

@sparquay: Are you going to put the kiddo in school? Or is that still too far away to worry about?

@chicklit: I do enjoy finding it out on my own. I just don't like being hit over the head with it, or having to figure out what on earth it is that the teacher is looking for. :/ You're right; that does come from loving reading already. And I'm totally impressed that you had a teacher who told you to skip over stuff!

Denise Covey said...

Hey 700 posts. That's impressive! You have a point about literature classes, but on the other hand (being a teacher of) it does help people to understand a text where before they might not have got it at all!

Fly high, fellow crusader..:)

Su said...

I'm sure it does. That doesn't really make me that much happier about it, though. I'm sure for some students, this is the only way to get them to so much as look at a book, which is a pity.

Denyce said...

I love learning. I don't enjoy school nearly as much - for reasons such as you are describing. I remember reading something in high school...maybe The Great Gatsby, though I can't be sure that was it. The teacher went crazy with symbolism that is supposedly there. I later read something from the author saying that all the symbolism that is supposedly there wasn't intended. Not a huge shock there.

Su said...

I do still love school, and learning, and reading. But I always laugh when symbolism turns out to be imagined-- kind of like when people read Lord of the Rings and "find" allegories.

Unknown said...

Oooh man, I want to ask you all about the professors you have (specifically English, obviously) and what English/Writing classes you're taking. I didn't exactly LOVE my creative writing classes at Texas, but for the most part, I adored the lit I read in them and in my English classes.

I had a fantastic professor who taught my Medieval Literature in Translation course, and while I was SO not a fan of the discussion portion of the class, he encouraged us to approach the material in our own frame of reference. He also engendered a passion for Viking literature within me, as you'll see occasionally if you pop over to my blog frequently enough. I can't stop my fangirly-ness from showing! *blushes*

Basically, if you have a chance to take a course with Dan Birkholz, do it.

Su said...

Will do! I'm in rhetoric, so I don't have a lot of English lit classes to take (or creative writing, either), but I do still have a couple of electives left.

Unknown said...

Oooooh! A fellow Terry Pratchett fan! Awesome! Saw him in your book list and googled your blog for posts mentioning him. I don't even bother bringing him up here because people are like, "who?". Vernon and I didn't think the movie Color of Magic did his books any justice.