Friday, April 14, 2006

Days Like These

I gave my freshmen the "What is literature for?" lecture this morning.

They don't have a clue, of course. They think literature is something invented by English professors to bore them into submission.

So I started with the question of what literature is, and went from there.

Well, actually, I started with calling off the quiz, which always cheers them up. Then I asked them what literature was, and broke the news to them that literature included movies and MTV and Buffy. This upset about half the class. They don't want V for Vendetta to be literature. Only Jane Austen and Shakespeare should be literature. When I ask them why, they cannot tell me, but they are sure they are right.

When I tell them they are civilization, they are equally upset.

I tell them literature is trying to change their souls, and that to do this it has to make them listen. I tell them only MTV and V for Vendetta is getting them to listen anymore, so obviously it is the only real literature these days. I tell them that's why I'm studying it.

They are wholly appalled now.

I talk to them about how literature works, have them tell me what they like in a movie or a book, what engages them, what doesn't, show them how the character and the dialogue and the plot is used to make them hear ideas, talk about worldview and pushing the borders. I don't actually say unacknowledged legislators of the world, but....

They stare at me like I'm a cobra.

Most fun I've had in a week.

6 comments:

Mouse said...

you have the fun job; you get to enlighten! I wanna

Reel Fanatic said...

Keep fighting the good fight ... Buffy has more in common with Jane Austen than most deluded snobs want to believe

jo(e) said...

I love it.

Bardiac said...

Oh, yeah, good one! I love the cobra image. /nod

zelda1 said...

The truth shocks, even if the truth is, well their reality. My favorite shocker, you say you don't like to read and you hate poetry, but what about song lyrics and magazines and websites. That's different. Oh, how different? It's something I like. So, because you like it, it must not be poetry because we know that being a freshman or sophmore or basketball player defintely eliminates the love of poetry from your soul. Hmmm, like a cobra?

J. Otto Pohl said...

Its probably too late for suggestions for the world literature class. But, I recommend anything from the late South African/Botswanan writer Bessie Head.