Fight on!

Hee. I managed to spark a bunch of fantastic responses in my previous post about teaching literature — all while I was AFK and copy-editing. I’m responding over there, but piecemeal. Many thanks to everybody who has already offered up their thoughts.

0 Responses to “Fight on!”

  1. wadam

    Huh. I totally missed that post. Which is sad, because I’ve been thinking a lot about ‘significant texts’ lately.

    Right now, I’m teaching freshman composition which is, for all intents and purposes, an English class minus the significant texts and canonical authors. And it’s something that I find very frustrating. But the value of those texts for me in teacher mode — the utility of significant texts — is not that they have any inordinate amount of intellectual depth, or that they are key for cultural literacy. Rather, it is that they are particularly useful in demonstrating certain techniques of critical reading that I would very much like my students to learn.

    For instance: if my students are reading collections of newspaper articles, which they are, it is very hard to get them to think about language. The language of the articles is significant, but it doesn’t really jump out at them. On the other hand, if they were reading, say, Yeats’ poetry, the question of paying attention to language would become much simpler. I could point to metaphors and parallelism and all those stodgy literary devices, we could talk about why they are significant, and then we could extrapolate from that to do close readings of other kinds of texts.

    It isn’t that the dead white male canon is better, per se. It is that they are a set of texts that match up well with pedagogical tools for teaching critical reading, making them a good stepping stone to working with other texts too.

    (I’m not sure how coherent that was. If it wasn’t please feel free to ignore this.)

    • Marie Brennan

      It isn’t that the dead white male canon is better, per se. It is that they are a set of texts that match up well with pedagogical tools for teaching critical reading, making them a good stepping stone to working with other texts too.

      I’m not sure how much I buy this. I don’t recall learning jack about critical reading from the DWM canon that couldn’t have been taught — possibly more effectively — from other texts. If the kids are having problems looking at the language in newspaper articles, it’s because of the veneer journalism has of being “just the facts” and “free from bias,” not because they’re less pedagogically useful than Yeats.

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