Skip to comments.What Killed American Lit.
Posted on 08/28/2011 10:38:21 AM PDT by ken21
severed from tradition and reali life, literature as it is taught in universities is strictly an intramural game.
(Excerpt) Read more at online.wsj.com ...
almost 8% of college undergrads once majored in literature,
Tv probably has had a lot to do with lack of literature.
And if they want to whine that it's not 'literature', deys can embrace my hindquarters.
We're better off in a country that doesn't have schools to encourage that kind of crap.
But he did write a page-turner.
This is what I experienced as a student of literature as well.
As a writer most of us fundamentally know one thing. Phooey the content or subject matter. A great story is just that--a great story. The story itself is always what will drive people to read. If you have a good or great story just tell it and they will come :). (Be sure to edit though. Good writers rewrite. Stories are often shaped through the revision process.)
is this reali trew?
Smarter students recognized the indoctrination. The rest dreamed of
being the next "journalist" to "make a difference and change the world."
I think that is Jeff Head...
Cory Doctorow's book 'Makers' was good.
See also Olson Scott Card's 'Enders Game'.
Then come chat about 'lit' rature.
Hell, if he's dead, he could be famous, he wrote so good.
Excellent essay, and all too true, I’m afraid.
The point isn’t that there is no good LITERATURE being written today, because there are some good books. Mostly in niche fields like SF, fantasy, or detective stories, since the “novel” as such as largely dead—with an occasional welcome exception.
The point is that the academic teaching of American literature is so horrible that it is driving all the students away, except for those who come for the political brainwashing rather than the books.
And of course this also applies to English lit, French lit, classical lit, and almost every other kind of lit. Academia is totally bent. If you want to know about great books, you need to find them on your own, because you sure as hell won’t learn anything in the average English department. Always a few exceptions, but fewer and fewer all the time.
Didn’t know it was dead. *shrug*
I remember my mother who was a librarian would talk about how knowledge was wealth. Education, reading and learning enriches a person returning intangible benefits throughout a lifetime. I do believe that storytelling is innate in human nature. Short of hooking up everybody into some collective mind it will never die. As far as being Socialists many great American writers, seemed to of embraced it in it’s historic context of their times. Many writers didn’t like seeing the little guy gets kicked around and Socialism seemed at the time to be an alternative. It seems natural that the literature departments would be a last bastion of such thinking. I would not worry too much about the survival of literature, it may change technological form but people will tell stories even the Communists couldn’t stop people from writing literature.
In a nutshell: English departments are less concerned with the consideration of literature per se than with what novels, poems, plays and essaysafter being properly X-rayed, frisked, padded down, like so many suspicious-looking air travelersmight yield on the subjects of race, class and gender.
Once upon a time, many years ago, I was an English major myself. I have a BA to show for it. I then ended up going, career-wise, in a completely different direction when I decided I was not meant to be a scholar.
I have not, however, ever regretted it. At that time, a liberal arts education had some value. We read literature in the context of the lives and times of the writers. Our study of literature was not an exercise in navel-gazing.
Some years afterward, I was attempting to help a young relative with a paper for her English class. It was to be written about a Hemingway short story- one I had never read. I have never been a great Hemingway fan, but I did have to read some Hemingway and as a matter of course learn something about the man and his life. I read the story, made some notes, and sent the notes to my relative. She sent me back an email: no, no, this was not what her instructor wanted, not at all. She sent me a copy of her class notes concerning this story. I was astonished to read about the feminism in Hemingway's story and the other tommyrot the instructor had said in her lecture. None of it had anything to do with Hemingway that I could discern.
I made another set of notes, based on this nonsense, and sent it to my relative, explaining to her that it was total garbage, but that it was undoubtedly what her instructor was looking for. She used my notes as a starting point and wrote an "A" paper.
My American literature professor would have given it a C-minus at best.
I wouldn't major in English in most of today's schools, either. I couldn't sit through fifteen minutes of the garbage that is taught.
Nearing retirement, I thought I'd like to teach and the nearby state of Massachusetts offers temporary (5 years) certification for those who can pass a test called the MTEL (Mass. temporary Educators License)in both basic reading and writing as well as in a specific subject area.
I sat for both the basic and the English tests and, with no preparation, passed tests that regularly trip up 50% of those who take it including recent grads.
The English test did not require much knowledge of the Dead White Males I majored in so I had to wing it while discussing critical analysis of Maya Angelou and a host of lesser known (at least to me)Asian, African, Hispanic, intersexed and other sorts of writers who apparently now replace Wordsworth, Shelly, Keats and others I used to study.
I am now qualified for five years to teach English to High School kids in Massachusetts. I am no longer sure I want to even try. The subjects on the test and the brief passages of novels I had to read have taken some or most of the fire out of me. Literature in not what it used to be and it certainly is not any better.
Jeff Head is alive and well and still writing here on FR and on his blog:
American Lit. has always been an oxymoronic joke.
I used to like poetry and there ain't none of that either. died in the late 40’s, I don't like agendas.
the comments following the article are quite interesting.
I have always thought that kids aren’t reading, not because of the internet, but because teachers/professors make them read a certain politically correct inferior book in class and tell them ‘this is literature’.
and so they say, ‘Well, I guess i don’t like literature’. They’re burnt -— once burnt twice shy.
Graduate and undergrduate students asked to do term papers now have it easy -— just say the assigned book exhibits sexism, racism, heterosexualism, and you’ll get a good grade. Simple.
If course you have to memorize the buzzwords.
sprinkle them liberally.
But what really bothers me is the current take on English literature — its ‘wrongness’ and pushing inferior works of propaganda (such as those by Doctorow and author of The poisonwood Bible -— can’t think of her name) driving young people away from reading, which is its final effect.
incidentally writers have long known that if you get your book on college and high school reading lists, youa re guaranteed good ales. The students have to buy it.
I am wondering if, in fact, some writers are writing directly for that market. It would make sense.
They may not make the best-seler lists, but with a politically correct, multicultural tome, they will have guaranteed sales when the book is assigned. But you have to stick to ‘America is evil’ and ‘all minorities are helpless victims’.
Not too hard, really.
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