This weekend I had the pleasure of taking a three-day course to learn more about teaching multilingual (most of us call them English as a Second Language) writers, and it really reminded me of why I love teaching – because you can really help students (at least sometimes). I was privileged to study with some of the most wonderful teachers and thinkers in the field – Paul Kei Matsuda, Dana Ferris, and Christine Tardy. If you ever have a chance to work with them, I highly recommend that you do.
Meanwhile, Bryan over at Just a Reading Fool tagged me for the Best/Worst Classics Meme, and since I’m tired and not very creative today, I’m going to take it on as a tool for kicking my mind into gear again after a long weekend. The questions are:
1. What is the best classic you were â€œforcedâ€ to read in school (and why)?
2. What was the worst classic you were forced to endure (and why)?
3. Which classic should every student be required to read (and why)?
4. Which classic should be put to rest immediately (and why)?
5. **Bonus** Why do you think certain books become classics?
The best classic I was “forced” to read was probably Middlemarch. I had to read this book in graduate school, and honestly, I was dreading it. It’s so thick and subtle – as most Victorian novels are – and I kept putting it off. But then, when I read it, I loved it. It took me a while to get into the story – that subtlety, you know – but when I did. . . . . one of my favorite books.
The worst classic I was forced to read was probably The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. I really hate Joyce – at least when it comes to simply reading a text. I find him too heady for me, and I get turned around in his novels (although I did like Dubliners, his short story collection, a great deal.) That said, I do appreciate Joyce and did like talking about his work in classes.
I think every student should have to read at least one play by Shakespeare, and not Romeo and Juliet or Julius Caesar. If I had my way, they’d read Twelfth Night or The Tempest, maybe even Macbeth. I feel ike things with magic – Midsummer’s Night Dream would be another possibility – or with humor help them understand the language more. Plus, I think there’s great benefit in learning to understand, even partly, another dialect and to overcoming your frustration with it.
The classic that I think should be put to rest, at least in terms of schooling, is Beowulf, not because it’s not a great story or piece of literature but because of that hideous movie with Angelina Jolie. Never again will a teacher be able to talk about that piece in a dignified way . . . I find that sad. . .
As for why books become classics, I could wax on and on about power structures and patriarchy – and I certainly think those things play a big role in what gets defined as “enduring”. But mostly I think it’s the stuff that is good – plain and simple. Unfortunately, we often don’t think of things written by women or people from non-Western countries as “good” – but I think we’re coming around on that. . .
Thanks, Bryan, for sending me to this. I now pass on the favor to:
1. C.B. at Ready When You Are, C.B.
2. Bradley at The Ethical Exhibitionist
3. Horace at To Delight and To Instruct
4. Stuart over at Stu’s Place.
5. Caribou’s Mom
6. Anyone else would like to give this a go.
Participate if you’d like, but feel no pressure. And if you take this on, please post a comment and let us know.
As for my big sigh, I’m off to another two days of meetings – this time for accreditation. . . I only wish I had more time to write and read.