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That’s Boring: Why Classic Literature Is No Longer Relevant to Tech-Savvy Teens (or Not)
English teachers and librarians often lament the distaste their students feel for classical literature—specifically, anything written before the twentieth century. Not only do they believe that today’s young adults need the short-sharp-all prose (if you can call it that) of cell phone texts, but they will no longer read classic literature on their own, for pleasure, unless it is. assigned-and even then, teachers are forced to test against Cliffs Notes and scan the internet for evidence of plagiarized articles. With random predictions predicting the demise of paper and the fall of traditional libraries, is it a waste of time to subject teenagers to the likes of Homer and other historical authors during this Information Age when bite-sized information is the rule of the day?
For many students who do not hesitate to complain, the language of past writers is too difficult. Since people no longer speak or write as Shakespeare and Jane Austen did, it makes little sense for them to study these archaic ways of communication. After all, they could develop Power Point presentations that will surely be something more relevant to their futures. Of course, the “too hard” theory is something that English teachers should never give in to or accept when they rush to defend centuries of literature. The vast majority of students may not become scholars of Medieval Literature, but they can all benefit from the self-discipline of reading Othello, Beowulfor Crime and Punishment provides
Although certainly, self-discipline is a timeless trait that goes beyond the study of English Literature; it could be received from a myriad of other subjects such as Geometry, Computer Programming, Graphic Design, etc… So, coming to the question of relativity, are works of classical literature still relevant to high school students today when, as statistics show. , they are reading record modern texts like Harry Potter and the twilight series? And certainly people around the world (and we can also speak globally in this day and age) read the 175,000 books that publishers publish every year; they certainly wouldn’t publish books if no one bought them.
A portion of these 175,000 published books are paperback reprints of successful books, many of which happen to be classics (at least for now). But rather than enter the virtual world of statistics, it might be wise to revisit some classics to verify their value first hand, or at least through the lens of this article. The following classics are still relevant in terms of content and more to people today.
Moby Dickby Herman Melville symbolizes the fear of teenagers stuck in American literature classes everywhere. Why, when neither of them wants to go whaling, should they spend weeks reading and discussing this particular work that seems so far removed from their contemporary lives. There could be a discussion about why the novel is singularly important to the foundation of American Literature, but the simple importance that the novel has can be summarized as a study of good and evil, humanity’s relationship with nature, and the need to interact successfully with. fellow man Its themes are timeless and no one has yet to convey them as profoundly as Melville did with this particular work.
In 1995, Susan Smith, born in South Carolina, was convicted of murdering her three-year-old and fourteen-month-old sons by strapping them into the back seat of a car and driving to a ramp on a lake where she released the brake and watched as the car deliberately plunged. into the water with her children and sank. Theories about the gruesome murders abounded, but murderous discontent and a new man were part of her life at the time of the incident. In 431 BC the ancient Greek tragedian Euripides first produced the drama Medea. Medea’s character does the unthinkable – she kills her own children to rob her cheating husband of his offspring. Terror, in its inexplicable aspects, is still part of human civilization and how better to disintegrate its motivations than within the harmless pages of a book? And why not start at the beginning of Western Literature with a poet who cataloged human motivation like no other.
Teenage pregnancy is not a new concept; if you asked Thomas Hardy in the late nineteenth century, he could tell you all about Tess and how a youthful indiscretion resulted in a pregnancy that indirectly led to her own untimely death. Nor is Hardy’s text an indictment of promiscuity; indeed, he favored Tess among all his classical heroines. Instead, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, written at the end of the Victorian era, is an indictment of society, religion, and the people in Tess’s life who avoided her with their morality, an avoidance that resulted in her downfall. It is true that the Victorians, even the late Victorians like Hardy, tended to be verbose and use the English vocabulary extensively, but few can rival the power of Hardy’s heroine except, perhaps, Nathaniel Hawthorne who wrote a little American story of his own. fallen woman titled The Scarlet Letter. Should teenage girls think about the consequences of an unplanned pregnancy in the twenty-first century? Millions are spent to educate them; there is no reason that Hardy and Hawthorne could not help.
But before this examination becomes a discussion of fallen literary women, consider the relativity of a character like Homer’s Achilles, who appears in the The Iliad. Forget the fact that he is the son of a goddess (Thetis, Greek goddess of the Sea); today’s fantasy-fed, vampire-loving teenagers will swallow that anyway. Achilles is a warrior sent to Troy to fight in the ten-year conflict necessary to win back Helen, the Angelina Jolie of the ancient world. Achilles, in his grief over a fallen comrade, breaks the rules of warfare and damages his own sense of honor. With America currently at war in multiple places, a study of Achilles is not only important, but perhaps essential and perhaps always will be as long as peace remains an elusive state.
Fortunately ancient Greek texts of the The Iliad are adapted into English, but arrogant English teachers still demand that students read Shakespeare in its original form. Its true writers no longer write in iambic pentameter, except by accident and even then it passes unnoticed, but the characters of the Bard are as relative today as they ever were. For example, King Lear raises a pall of ungrateful daughters. Loyalty, betrayal, villainy, love – these are often at the heart of Shakespeare’s plays and they never go out of style despite the language barrier. Once students understand the language, more often than not, they are fascinated by the connection they have to history through this language, and how the characters remind them of themselves and others.
And maybe that’s what it’s all about – the reading of others, others that have so far stood the test of time. When teenagers read and discuss characters, they make judgments that could and likely will affect their own judgments as adults. There are many jokes and quotes that warn about the failure to understand history, how those who do not understand history are doomed to repeat it. Classic literature is relevant because it offers the opportunity for readers to empathize deeply, understand at length, and tune out of their own universe for a while. Tuning into technology can bring calm, discipline and refreshment to minds that seem born to multitask. Certainly one can shout the modern importance of a lot of classics from Pride and Prejudice to Moby Dick. Until children develop their own taste for literature, the situation could be compared to eating their vegetables – they have to do it because it’s good for them.
2011 Moira G Gallaga
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