Saturday, July 04, 2015

Teaching Literature by Helping the Students Lose Themselves in It

Why do students -- college students especially, but high school students as well -- avoid literature classes? We are, after all, a storytelling species. We love stories. Why, then, would we avoid a class on stories?

Perhaps the reason is that literature teachers don't teach literature as stories or as beautiful words arranged beautifully. No, they are primarily teaching them in the worst kinds of reductionist manners imaginable, and are particularly fond of reducing everything to political positions (and it is their political positions which are the height of human virtue, meaning all literature must be thoroughly condemned for not coming to their realizations centuries before).

Students ought to be able to walk away from a literature class excited about literary stories and poems. They like stories and songs, after all.  If we can actually get human beings hating the best stories and songs (in the form of poetry) ever written, we have either failed or have succumbed to a truly evil world view, one designed to dehumanize us from within.

We should real literature because it is entertaining, beautiful, makes us more empathetic because we are reading about idealized human beings who are doing things that are either greater or worse than we have done but with whom we can empathize and therefore become better people.

That is why we ought to read literature. And that's how it ought to be taught. As great works that can make us great people, not by tearing down the works, but by becoming lost in them.
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