Kids, reading, and "good" lit...

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at
Fri Aug 13 14:01:58 EDT 1999

On Fri, 13 Aug 1999 11:25:48 -0400 (EDT), deborah wrote:

>|>I know people have this experience all the time, but I don't understand
>|>it--since dissecting a novel has always *added* to my enjoyment of it.  Oh
>|>well, everyone's different I suppose.  But you're right, it's easy to kill
>|>someone's taste for reading a book by making it required reading, huh?
>|I think it depends on the tools used in the dissection. Some of them are awkward or ill-suited to 
>|the anatomy under consideration.
>Yes indeedy.  It also depends on how the students have been
>taught.  The problem is that if you're not a reader, the language
>of criticism sounds very negative: critique the book; problematic
>text; pick apart.  And more people hear the "destruction" in
>"deconstruction" than here the "construction" which is also very
>much there.

I had my first class in literary criticism when I was twelve.  (It was a
very progressive school system.)  After the first class I almost didn't go
back.  I was very scared that I would stop liking books if I learned too
much about criticism.  Fortunately I stuck with it and it became a wonderful
experience--something that makes me enjoy reading more, as I said.

There are so many many ways to go wrong, though.  Expecting too much of a
student.  Using the wrong approach (as mentioned above).  Insisting on one's
own interpretation above all others.  Teachers disdaining certain kinds of
literature as unworthy or stupid (SF and fantasy, anyone?)  And, of course,
Taking It Seriously.  When you leave that class and step back into the real
world...well, the book will still be there in fifty years, but will Marxist
feminist Jungian criticism?  Probably not.

Melissa Proffitt
Escapee from the Academic Jungle
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