Theme seems like a no-brainer–it’s the universal truths we find in a text that make it relevant to the human experience. Yet teaching theme can be quite challenging. Students have difficulty grasping the concept, and I am not sure if it’s because they don’t know how to phrase a theme statement or if they simply don’t have quite enough life experience to recognize grand human truths (we’ll set aside semantics for now and operate on the premise that there are “human truths” by which we live). Continue reading “Judging a Book by its Cover: Teaching Theme”
Getting students to read can sometimes be a monumental task. With so many other engaging multimedia entertainment options for children to choose, assigning chapters to be read for class often results in students arriving in class without having completed the required reading. I can’t say I blame them. In my own education, I’ve been assigned some texts that were real snooze-fests. And if we are being totally honest, I am much more unlikely to read a novel that is assigned–perhaps there’s a bit of passive-aggressive behavior in that. I don’t like being told to read something because it has “literary merit” and is part of the canon. Continue reading “Building a Culture of Reading through Choice”
Speaking from experience, I can honestly say there is no job, area of study, or political camp more bloody than an English department. If you want to instigate war and ensure a battle to the death Roman Gladiator-style, simply state loud enough for four or five people to hear, “There’s no point in teaching Shakespeare anymore.” Then sit back with your popcorn and your body armor, and let the games begin.
As a scholar and PhD candidate, I’ve seen my share of in-house feuds among professors and within areas of study. You have the Renaissance and Victorians on one side of the divide and the Post-Modernists and Literary Theorists on the other. Somewhere in there, the Folklorists and Rhetoric guys are wandering the desert like the Israelites, trying to find the Promised Land. The vitriol within a university English department is quite unlike anything you’ve ever seen, and the battle for research money is indeed a nasty one. Thus, it’s no wonder there are so many turf wars; but the major battle is in deciding (or rather lobbying for) which works should be included in the Canon, and thus, which works should always be taught. Dante? Chaucer? Shakespeare? Milton? Of course. Pope? Swift? Jonson? Johnson? Yeah, okay. Barrett-Browning? Austen? the Brontes? Eh, they’re women, but I guess they can join. Woolf? Auden? Plath? Wait a minute. Let’s fight about this. Continue reading “Shakespeare: To Teach or Not to Teach, That is the Question”