Communicator (communicator) wrote,
Communicator
communicator

Fantastic reading

The Mupsimus writes about teaching literature to (I think) 16 year olds. This year he set them American Gods by Neil Gaiman. I haven't read this book, though my son has. It is interesting how the book captured the interest of most of his students, after he forced them to read 30 pages of it.

One of the more dutiful students finished the assigned reading and then ran to a dormmate, book in hand, and said, "You've got to read this, you won't believe it!" That created a chain reaction, and not only were all of my students rushing to read the chapter, but plenty of students from other classes were borrowing copies of the book to read.

Though many of the students had never read a book that long (! it's a short novel), and many of them didn't understand the very concept of fantastic or non-realist writing. How sad is that?

The majority of students, kids who would have no trouble suspending their various disbeliefs for the most fantastic products of Hollywood, told me again and again that the book was nearly incomprehensible.

He is conflicted, because on the one hand he successfully used a transgressive genre to engage his students. But at the same time he may have been killing the text, by forcing them to read it, by bringing it into the mainstream.

A healthy culture of literacy needs literatures that aren't sanctioned by schools, literatures that are enjoyed simply for enjoyment, that have a mystique to them, an inability to conform to the central culture of the society... I fear that people who are otherwise capable of using their imaginations don't know how, because they are used to the imagining being done for them. In such a situation, teachers have a certain responsibility to buck the trends, to offer something other than pre-imagined material.

pre-imagined. that's a good term.
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