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Old 10-10-2012, 05:16 PM   #121
BearMountainBooks
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You've casually mentioned something that I've been waiting to address. I truly believe (and maybe not in your particular case, or all others participating in the thread) that the above sentiment(?) is often times the driving force behind adults looking back and discussing—or writing articles about—"how badly the books sucked that they made us read in school"—how it "almost made me hate reading."

It's not so much a matter of "I'm concerned for the education of our young people, who struggle mightily with these antiquated texts" as it is "why aren't the books I like ever elevated to "Classic" or "Literature" status?"

Many people (again, I'm making no direct accusations here) have a weird obsession with wanting the academic world to acknowledge the literary value of their favorite books. They seem to need the world to recognize their personal favorites as "Classics." As if their love for the book(s) is somehow slightly tainted and can only be made shiny and justified by having young people the world over use them in an academic setting.

I count my blessings that I was never forced to study/analyze the kinds of books I would normally rush home and read for pleasure in my youth. I couldn't imagine a worse form of torture, actually.
Hmm. For myself I can say that I would never expect my favorites to be classics. But I think it's fairly clear that I like escapist reading for the most part. That doesn't mean I don't VALUE and even ENJOY some of the classics. I happen to think that Old Yeller is one that was very well done. In non fiction, the Diary of Anne Frank and Hellen Keller ( I read these because mom recommended them--they were not school requirements). I also liked Mark Twain works and some of those are classics. I liked Pride and Prejudice. Although with Pride and Prejudice, I still am not entirely sure it should be considered a classic. Many classics to me seem arbitrary --right time and place, certain notice given for whatever reason. Faulkner, for example, still leaves a giant, "Huh?" on my forehead. Poe--yeah, I get why he's classic, but I still don't like his work.

I can read these things analytically and completely understand why Dresden will never be a classic. Nor does it necessarily have a lot to teach when it comes to culture--yet, yet, Frankenstein, which was probably UF of the time and Dracula...those are classics. So...yanno. There's a rather blurry line.

As for my personal reading, I've never cared if anyone even knew WHAT I was reading. I certainly don't care overmuch about what they THINK of the book and I don't need it to be recognized on any academic level.

I love talking books. And that's why I come here. But it doesn't really matter whether anyone agrees with my reading choices. It's just a discussion and interesting to see the various viewpoints.
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Old 10-10-2012, 06:27 PM   #122
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One of the purposes - perhaps the main purpose - of studying English literature is to gain knowledge of the shared cultural heritage which literature provides. Eg, Dickens and Shakespeare have both contributed enormously to the English language, and it's useful to know where those quotes and characters actually come from.
It is, and a shared sense of culture is important.

However, "classic literature" often means "the literature of wealthy straight white men"... insisting that everyone have a good foundation in those books guarantees that the current status quo has strong hooks in every community.

Part of changing the culture of the past--which, for all its value, had a lot of sexism, racism, and other problems--is finding the works of art and literature that *don't* reflect those values, and teaching them as equally worthy. Which usually means, "find more recent works," because a hundred years ago or more, getting published was much harder for anyone not at the top of the status-heap.

Oscar Wilde can't have been the only brilliant gay man of his era... but he may have been the only one who got widely published.

Often, minority authors' works are sidelined into "minority studies" because they "don't reflect the mainstream experience"--which is shaped by those works that are pushed at everyone. It's an elegant vicious circle, and the only way out of it is to decide that it's okay to drop the need for shared cultural tropes in favor of diversity.
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Old 10-10-2012, 06:56 PM   #123
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It is, and a shared sense of culture is important.

However, "classic literature" often means "the literature of wealthy straight white men"... insisting that everyone have a good foundation in those books guarantees that the current status quo has strong hooks in every community.

Part of changing the culture of the past--which, for all its value, had a lot of sexism, racism, and other problems--is finding the works of art and literature that *don't* reflect those values, and teaching them as equally worthy. Which usually means, "find more recent works," because a hundred years ago or more, getting published was much harder for anyone not at the top of the status-heap.

Oscar Wilde can't have been the only brilliant gay man of his era... but he may have been the only one who got widely published.

Often, minority authors' works are sidelined into "minority studies" because they "don't reflect the mainstream experience"--which is shaped by those works that are pushed at everyone. It's an elegant vicious circle, and the only way out of it is to decide that it's okay to drop the need for shared cultural tropes in favor of diversity.

To me this is brilliant. Now take this, and think of what literature has really been so popular around the world that it has it's own culture? Several come to mind and it is telling about our society as a whole. A century into our future and they will comment on that our society was mostly reading books written for children or teens. Harry Potter, Twilight, and the Hunger Games were and still are defining a generation of young people.

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Old 10-10-2012, 07:04 PM   #124
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To me this is brilliant. Now take this, and think of what literature has really been so popular around the world that it has it's own culture? Several come to mind and it is telling about our society as a whole. A century into our future and they will comment on that our society was mostly reading books written for children or teens. Harry Potter, Twilight, and the Hunger Games were and still are defining a generation of young people.

Auntykatkat
We can't really know in advance what is going to have long-term cultural impact. Lord of the Rings seems to have passed the test of time, it is unlikely to fade away in the forseeable future. It was once derided, and now at some universities it is considered worthy of study.
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Old 10-10-2012, 07:50 PM   #125
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We can't really know in advance what is going to have long-term cultural impact. Lord of the Rings seems to have passed the test of time, it is unlikely to fade away in the forseeable future. It was once derided, and now at some universities it is considered worthy of study.
Mostly 'cos J.R.R. is no longer around to tell them over and over that LotR is *NOT* an allegory for WWII or a commentary on the Industrial Revolution or any of that sort of thing.
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Old 10-11-2012, 02:34 AM   #126
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Mostly 'cos J.R.R. is no longer around to tell them over and over that LotR is *NOT* an allegory for WWII or a commentary on the Industrial Revolution or any of that sort of thing.
Yes he is; he says precisely this in the introduction .
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Old 10-11-2012, 07:11 AM   #127
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One of the purposes - perhaps the main purpose - of studying English literature is to gain knowledge of the shared cultural heritage which literature provides. Eg, Dickens and Shakespeare have both contributed enormously to the English language, and it's useful to know where those quotes and characters actually come from.
If an awareness of Shakespeare is important, why not just watch and discuss a DVD of one of the many, many, many, many well-executed performances of the plays that have been staged over the years? He wrote his stuff to be performed and seen, not to be read. It's like studying The Simpsons by reading the scripts.

For Dickens etc. - unless you are explicitly interested in his WRITING I'm not sure there's much to be gained by reading Great Expectations or A Christmas Carol versus working through the films. The famous quotes and characters will all the there - because they are nowadays mostly famous from the films not the books.

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Many people (again, I'm making no direct accusations here) have a weird obsession with wanting the academic world to acknowledge the literary value of their favorite books. They seem to need the world to recognize their personal favorites as "Classics."
Hehehehe. At the weekend I popped into a an airport bookstore, and they had a big old display up of 50 Shades of Grey, whatever the sequel is called, and various other books which have been quickly repacked to appeal to that market - 'The Story of O' most prominent among them. Should make for an interesting semester of book studies, no?
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Old 10-11-2012, 08:45 AM   #128
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If an awareness of Shakespeare is important, why not just watch and discuss a DVD of one of the many, many, many, many well-executed performances of the plays that have been staged over the years? He wrote his stuff to be performed and seen, not to be read. It's like studying The Simpsons by reading the scripts.
Certainly, for a play it should be seen, and a DVD is a good way to do this. But there's still an awful lot to be learned from studying the use of language, and for that you need to read it.

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For Dickens etc. - unless you are explicitly interested in his WRITING I'm not sure there's much to be gained by reading Great Expectations or A Christmas Carol versus working through the films. The famous quotes and characters will all the there - because they are nowadays mostly famous from the films not the books.
I completely disagree. A film - no matter how good - is no substitute for a book. It's a different medium entirely.
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Old 10-11-2012, 09:51 AM   #129
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I completely disagree. A film - no matter how good - is no substitute for a book. It's a different medium entirely.
Yes, but he's saying that since most of the cultural influence (ie, the reason some here say we should be studying them) is coming from the movie versions rather than the books, it is just as good, in many cases, to watch a good adaptation as it is to suffer through the novels.
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