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Monday, August 2, 2010

School Chat - Required Reading


So as you've all noticed I have slacked in updating my blog. Not to worry, I've been busy with all sorts of important things. Church stuff, family stuff, band camp, and of course....the ever enjoyable summer reading project.

I find myself asking all the time: how on earth do such horrible books end up becoming required reading?

I'm sure the majority of the reading population would disagree with me but writers such as Charles Dickens, Tim O'Brien, Alcott, Gail Giles, etc aren't very good . Dickens was good for his time, but let's face it...it's no longer the 18th century. O'Brien wrote the most ridiculous piece of garbage I've ever read, shamming all kinds of moral standards. And Gail Giles, while succeeding in writing a good story, is nowhere near the heights of what I would consider "good writing".

So here we go, I'm going to rant.

Why does the educational system require its students of the English language to read books that are counter productive to much of the modern world? Weird phrasing, I know, but let me simplify it.

What is the purpose of a Language Arts class? (Not a literature class)

Is it to teach students how to write? Is it to help them understand writing? Is it to help them understand the uses of language?

Classic works, such as Dickens and Alcott, are written in a way that would be puked up by nearly every publisher in today's world. The writing is boring, the description is unneeded, POVs are insanely out of whack, and the writing breaks nearly every rule a young writer needs to understand. If the purpose of Language Arts classes is to learn to write....why are we forced to read books with horrible writing?

Or maybe we don't want our students to learn to write, we just want them to understand how they wrote hundreds of years ago. Fine. But why do we read more classics than modern good writing?

Semi-Modern works, such as O'Brien, are written in better ways (though O'Brien is FAR from the best. His style is just as bad as Dickens in my view) but at times teach such drastically immoral things that I get sick. Not only that, but again we have the example of the horrid writing. Are we teaching our students to write or to read? And if it's to read...why are we reading books written as if from a thousand years ago? Are we inspiring our students? Because the message I get from O'Brien is that we might as well all die in a hole. Sure, he explores some good topics. But there are other books that do just the same and use better writing.

And the selection of modern works, Giles and Myers for example, couldn't be any worse. Why do we read books with: Horrible writing and awful messages?

It doesn't make sense to me.

If you want your students to write, first you need to teach them, then you need to show them good examples. In language arts classes, I see very little of any of this.

If you want your students to understand all forms of language use, introduce them to ALL forms. Instead of feeding them classic garbage nonstop, balance it out. And when you select modern works....find something good.

The projects that go along with these readings are always well thought out. They accomplish the goals of reading and writing. But I personally believe much more could be accomplished if better writing was chosen to analyze.

What are your thoughts? Have I missed the point? Am I totally wrong? Let's chat.

One day, I'm going to write a book that will be required reading. If terrible books end up on the list....why can't my books? :-) lol

EDIT Aug. 3rd 2010:
As this has come up in the comments, let it be known that I do very much enjoy many classics. I am arguing against their writing, not the stories.

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

Everything in this post is true. A lot of people might disagree with me, but Dickens is the worst. I could barely get through one of his works. Since then I have not picked up another Dickens. I haven't read O'Brien (and I don't want to from this post)so I wouldn't know about him. But everything else I totally agree with.

Rachel

Ian said...

"If terrible books end up on the list....why can't my books?"

Because enjoyable, well-written stories are automatically disqualified from selection. :P

I understand exactly where you're coming from...and I agree completely. Ever had to read Jane Eyre? I couldn't even tell if there was a story somewhere in there...-_-

:)Ian(:

Barie said...

But I LIKE Dickens . . . *sheepish smile* At least, some of his books.

I think a good reader can really gain from reading classics. Sure, some "classics" are really bad, and not worth reading, but still I think it's good to read some. I'm not saying ONLY read classics, because there's this thing called "balence" you see, so I think people should read both modern stuff, and old books too. But that's just me, and my favorite book was published in 1862, lol. Though my second favorite book was published in 2009 . . . Okay, I'm officially rambling, haha. xD

Pais Charos said...

I agree, though out of all my required reading there was only a few that I didn't like at all. Those being The Crucible and Cather in the Rye. I had to read things like, To Kill a Mockingbird, All Quiet on the Western Front, Of Mice and Men, Beowulf - true Classics that are well worth the read. I never had to read Dickens or O'Brien, so... *shrugs*

Anonymous said...

My first reaction after reading this was indignation for slamming all writing considered classic. I'm not so concerned with slamming Dickins, having only read one of his books (A Christmas Carol), but the fact that you seem to imply that if it's old it's not as good. I will give you that styles have changed and much old literature is boring. However, old is not necessarily irrelevant. For example, right now I'm reading a play written 2400 years ago called Clouds which is still hilarious and has an uncanny resemblance to today's legal, ethical, and moral dilemmas of today. You see, people haven't changed and they won't because we insist on making the mistakes others have made and figuring it out for ourselves. I would also charge you that your religious book would be better substituted with newer works that read better with the same message, by your argument. However, I do realize that our differences in appreciation probably stem from the classic books we each were required to read. The classic required reading I had was Shakespeare, Homer, Poe, and Emily Dickins and others who I appreciated. It was the newer books I found to be either complete garbage (Where the Heart Is) or a mess of moral abstractness and degradation (The Lover, Marguerite Duras; Friday, Michel Tournier) But as I said, the differences in attitudes towards the new and old probably comes from the sampling. As far as what to read in a Language Arts class, of course well-written things should be chosen, preferably those which are completely honest with themselves and then come to right conclusions. Also, a variety should be implemented so students are exposed to ideas and styles other than what they know. It stretches them and helps them think outside themselves.

Jake said...

I LIKE a lot of classics... :P Holmes, for one. Verne. :D

I suppose, if they chose classics for any reason, is possibly (?) that the plots may be original. Just a thought there. :P

I'm homeschooled right now, but when I went to public school (grades 3-4), they had us read terrible books. There were several books I liked, but there was all sorts of terrible books as well. I don't recall any more than a couple Newbery books in the entire school library.

Perhaps one reason they serve up terrible books in schools, however, is that the people who run the schools are just desperate to find something that students these days actually will READ. Most people would rather be playing a Wii constantly than reading a book. :P

But as the Anonymous person said above, (put into my own words, of course. :D) people are people, whether you were born 200 years ago or yesterday. They're still humans that have the same problems, even if they are different kinds of problems. I recently read the play 'Cyrano de Bergerac' (and it was of my own free will--no one told me to read it), and I found it a compelling story, even if it is mostly a romantic entanglement. It was a good story--even though it took place and was written hundreds of years ago.

I suppose it also has to do with the word classic--its lost some of its old meaning. What is a classic, after all? An old book that's been around for FOREVER? Or an old book that makes you hold your breath as you wait to see what happens, that makes your heart race, that makes you care about the characters? Whether it was written in 2010 or 1810, it may still be a classic. It's the story that makes it a classic, not its length or age.

But if I want to write a modern book, I can't be infatuated with classics--I caught myself saying the word 'sentient' the other day. My dad didn't know what it meant. Turns out that no one else reads Verne all the time and uses that word--it's been out of 'style' and general speaking for a long time. :D lol. So one has to limit the classics if he or she wants to write a modern book that people can understand.

So I'm off topic--I went on and on about classics, lol.

But other than my quibbles with classics, I totally agree with you. About the purpose of language arts class, etc. :D

Oh, and one more thing--love that last sentence, lol. XD

Gwendolyn said...

I agree with you somewhat, Nathan; but I could bite for what you said about Dickens and Alcott. I like both of them. ^^ Very much. And I will defend them vigorously to anyone.

Classics are classics for a reason. Ninety percent of highschoolers may think War and Peace the most boring book ever written. They may hate Aristotle and Plato. Jane Austen is outdated, and so Charles Dickens. And I admit that these classics are not always the best examples to study for modern writing. Historical writers used a level of formality in their works that would bore many modern readers to tears. There are writing styles and elements that are truly outdated. But there is also much to be gathered from these authors, even in English class.

All the same, today’s reader wants something much different than historical readers did. Instead of focus on art and philosophy, there is focus on story and adventure, and the relation between the readers and the characters. It has become more personal and honed down, instead of broad in subject. And it is an action-oriented high-energy story that will most likely achieve the greatest acclaim, not the deep and contemplative works. Still, that’s no reason to dump the past because of the future. Ditto to what Anonymous said - there should be a balanced variety in what students read. You could even throw a few truly awful books in there to show what a book shouldn’t be.

So yeah. I think you’re partially right, and definitely on to something important. But at the same time, you ditched a lot of good and may have ended up throwing the wheat out with the tares. Not a good idea, my friend. ^_^

And ditto, Jake. Love that last sentence. :P

Seth said...

Hmmm... Yep. Classics stink. I definitely think someone should read one or two, but after that it shouldn't be required. Enough to appreciate the literature (if possible) but not so much that they start to hate reading.
I read A Tale of Two Cities last year. I don't really have an opinion besides the plot being kinda odd and the writing, well, I refer you or whoever is reading to the post I'm commenting on lol.
I also have to read To Kill a Mockingbird... really soon lol.

Chris said...

I think that people who don't enjoy reading are usually predisposed to not liking literature. They may read Twilight, but that's not literature.

Modern books that DESERVE to be classics should become required reading. I will say now that pretty much no modern books being published will become classics. They may be "fun" or "trendy" but they're of no lasting quality.

Dickens, though sometimes boring, made a huge impact on his culture (as well as ours today). Poe weaved disturbing, poignant tales.
There have been times when reading "old, outdated" literature that I've burst into tears, because the subject is so relevant... I won't say that classics stink. That's a bit absurd. We should have balance.

The books being put out today, with a few rare exceptions, don't deserve to become classics.

Having read LOTR again recently, I can only say that the writing is terrible. Painfully lengthy descriptions and many unbelievably flat characters. However, though the writing style is outdated, I still call it a classic.

Look for the redeeming elements in literature. Find out why people are so passionate about the works. Odds are, there's a reason in there somewhere, and you can always find it--if you dig deep enough. You'll only get something out of a book if you put yourself into the book.

Daughter of the King said...

First of all, yes it's been a while since you've graced us with your blogging presence Nathan, so welcome back! :)

I do not think you are completely wrong about some Classics, but I don't agree with you completely on the fact that all Classics are horrible either!

Classics while boring at times (and I've had to read my fair share...never Dickens though...and I've been read them aloud too) are richer and more in depth than any current writing today in my eyes.

I happen to love Classic books like: "The Giant Killer" By: A.L.O.E. (1856), "The Hedge of Thorns" By: John Carrol (1611), "The Lamplighter" By: Maria S. Cummins (1854), and "Winter's Folly" BY: O.F. Walton (1889)...to name a few.

There are Classics which I find rather boring to read too...but for instance when I watch an Austen film brought to life I finally get it, whereas in the pages of that very same story I never made it through it but yet I love the story in the films. I love the story of The Lord of the Rings, however I did not enjoy the books as much as the movies. I thought the story was brilliant, but Tolkien being overly descriptive quite annoyed me!

Not every story you make your opinion on, Classic or Modern, should be solely defined by a story's proper logistics, word usage, and English grammar.

Sometimes in the Classics the story telling and the language might be confusing, but you have to look beyond that. You have to try to glimpse the heart of the characters, and the writer too. You've got to learn to detach yourself from your writing-brain solely and feel what is trying to be emoted within the story with your heart. Mot Classics are about Humanity, as Modern stories are now...just try to glimpse it as if you were in the Classic's time period yourself...maybe that will help you out! :)

As far a boring descriptions that are unneeded in the Classics go, remember this: many of the authors who wrote the Classics lived in a time without electronics and being overstimulated by media like the people in the world in which we now live are, so for one to truly gain an understanding of the imagery within the 'Classic' the author had to portray and describe every last minute detail down to the color of the speck of dust on the table. The common reader of the Classic back back then may have been a farm boy who had never seen a velvet blazer and a scabbard before for all we know so he needed the extra details whereas you and I know what a velvet blazer and a scabbard are and what they look like.

Sheesh...now I'm ranting! lol Well, that's enough for now!
-Sarah

Galadriel said...

First of all--I'M GLAD YOU'RE BACK!
Now I shall proceed to--er, "express my disagreement" would be the polite way of phrasing it. I join earlier commenters,such as Anonymous, Chris and Gwendolyn in pointing out that "classics" aren't necessarily bad--though I agree about Tim O'Brian. The Things They Carried was awful.
On the other hand, I have read Aristotle's Poetics, Dante's Divine Comedy, and Paradise Lost of my own free will.
And to quote Lord of the Rings "All that is gold does not glitter (...) the old that is strong does not wither."
Just because a book is old doesn't make it good--or bad either. It just means it's old.
I enjoy exploring different writing styles--for example, George MacDonald's At the Back of the North Wind is beautiful, and Cry the Beloved Country is a beautiful blend of poetry and prose that today's authors would do well to read.
Another point is simply that being forced to read a book can ruin your opinion of it. Especially if your peers hate it.
Well, that's my two cents--no, my $2 worth

Barie said...

"Classics are the books no one wants to read, but everyone wants to have read"

I think Mark Twain said that. Is it at all ironic that his books are considered "classics" now? lol.

What I really love about classics is how they represent the people who lived in the time they were written. Yah, Dickens is dark, but life was dark then. Austen was romantic, but romance was what women had to rely on back then. And it's incredible how in some ways the books are still relevant today.

Still rambling . . .

Nathan R. Petrie said...

@Rachel, Thank you! Honestly, I enjoyed A Christmas Carol, and I eventually enjoyed Great Expectations. He writes great stories. But the writing, by today's standards, is awful LOL

@Ian, made me laugh out loud :-) And no, I haven't read her. I was like that with Little Women though. Until the second half...there was zero story.

@Barie, I like him too! But the majority of his writing is atrocious. For him and others like him to be the only exposure students get is a crime.

And that was the point of this article. We need a better balance. Good classics, and good modern books.

@Pais Charos, Yeah, those books are pretty good ;) But again, writing wise by modern standards are lacking. Balance is the key ;)

@Anonymous, Thank you for your honest comment!

1. I didn't slam all writing considered classic. I slammed the writing quality, not the books themselves. There's a difference that's hard to word. For example, I thoroughly enjoy reading "A Christmas Carol" and almost all of Edgar Allen Poe. Great stories. But in the case of Dickens, and at times Poe, the actual craft of writing is lacking in their works--as held to modern standards. I'm sorry if I made the implication that old=bad. That wasn't my goal. My point was to examine the purpose of Language Arts and what these readings were meant to accomplish.

2. Old Literature to the modern ear is boring, yes. And I never once said it was irrelevant. The fact that it is boring is simply because the way they wrote then is very incompatible with modern standards. My argument is that the writing was lacking, not that the plot was irrelevant.

3. As for my "religious" book. I'd ask you to please not judge my book without reading it. My message is the same as a ton of classics and modern works alike. Religious issues aside. And who's to say I was referring to my current work? Please refrain from judgments. As for works that "read better" I don't think you've read any recent writing by myself, if you have I apologize for this remark, so I wouldn't like you judging my knowledge of the craft either.

4. I've read each of those. And I enjoyed most of them. Poetry never gets old so Dickenson is safe from me ;) The rules stay the same haha. My argument, again, was to decrease classics and increase modern works. For balance sake. Not because classic=bad.

5. "well-written things should be chosen, preferably those which are completely honest with themselves and then come to right conclusions. Also, a variety should be implemented so students are exposed to ideas and styles other than what they know."
That was my point :-)

Nathan R. Petrie said...

@Jake, I like a lot of classics too! lol Again, I totally agree that most of the plots still apply today. My point wasn't that. My issue was with writing. I was questioning the purposes of the classroom. Keep in mind, this isnt' a literature class. It's language arts.

Sentient is a good word :P Don't throw it out LOL Though it might be telly. Try showing it ;)

And that paragraph about wanting to write a modern book is also my point. Is LA classes' purpose to teach writing and to provide examples of good writing? then why are we feeding students writing that by today's standards is garbage

@Gwen, "There are writing styles and elements that are truly outdated. But there is also much to be gathered from these authors, even in English class."

I agree. Which is why I am arguing for a balance. Give me books I can enjoy and learn WRITING from and give me books to learn about LIFE from.

". And it is an action-oriented high-energy story that will most likely achieve the greatest acclaim, not the deep and contemplative works. "

Can't we have both? :-)

"there should be a balanced variety in what students read. You could even throw a few truly awful books in there to show what a book shouldn’t be."

I agree. Again though, we don't have this balance and that's my point. And we don't read Dickens and then sit down saying: Now class, this writing is not good for today's writing.

I do need to rephrase this post later if I wish to take it somewhere. Just to make it clear that I"m not arguing to get rid of classics or that they are bad books. My argument is for the purpose of the class and of these books.

@Chris, I agree. Classics are relevant, I've cried in them as well. And we need balance. That's my point. When I slammed them, I was slamming the writing as held to today's standards.

And don't get me wrong, I don't find them boring, irrelevant, etc. I'm simply saying, if the purpose of an English class is to teach writing. We shouldn't be using this as our ONLY example. Which, in my experience, they are. If we are teaching appreciation of literature, either a) make it literature class or b) balance it.

Some modern books deserve to be required reading. Not because of their impact on culture, but because of it's impact on individual readers and because of the writign quality. Required reading should evolve with time to teach writing as well as holding onto classics that teach other things. however, there are modern books with the same messages as classics that contain better writing. Honestly, what makes a classic more special? Books today have the same effect on people. But again, I love some of these books LOL

Nathan R. Petrie said...

@Jake, I like a lot of classics too! lol Again, I totally agree that most of the plots still apply today. My point wasn't that. My issue was with writing. I was questioning the purposes of the classroom. Keep in mind, this isnt' a literature class. It's language arts.

Sentient is a good word :P Don't throw it out LOL Though it might be telly. Try showing it ;)

And that paragraph about wanting to write a modern book is also my point. Is LA classes' purpose to teach writing and to provide examples of good writing? then why are we feeding students writing that by today's standards is garbage

Nathan R. Petrie said...

@Gwen, "There are writing styles and elements that are truly outdated. But there is also much to be gathered from these authors, even in English class."

I agree. Which is why I am arguing for a balance. Give me books I can enjoy and learn WRITING from and give me books to learn about LIFE from.

". And it is an action-oriented high-energy story that will most likely achieve the greatest acclaim, not the deep and contemplative works. "

Can't we have both? :-)

"there should be a balanced variety in what students read. You could even throw a few truly awful books in there to show what a book shouldn’t be."

I agree. Again though, we don't have this balance and that's my point. And we don't read Dickens and then sit down saying: Now class, this writing is not good for today's writing.

I do need to rephrase this post later if I wish to take it somewhere. Just to make it clear that I"m not arguing to get rid of classics or that they are bad books. My argument is for the purpose of the class and of these books.

@Chris, I agree. Classics are relevant, I've cried in them as well. And we need balance. That's my point. When I slammed them, I was slamming the writing as held to today's standards.

And don't get me wrong, I don't find them boring, irrelevant, etc. I'm simply saying, if the purpose of an English class is to teach writing. We shouldn't be using this as our ONLY example. Which, in my experience, they are. If we are teaching appreciation of literature, either a) make it literature class or b) balance it.

Some modern books deserve to be required reading. Not because of their impact on culture, but because of it's impact on individual readers and because of the writign quality. Required reading should evolve with time to teach writing as well as holding onto classics that teach other things. however, there are modern books with the same messages as classics that contain better writing. Honestly, what makes a classic more special? Books today have the same effect on people. But again, I love some of these books LOL

@DOK, I never said all were horrible :P

"Not every story you make your opinion on, Classic or Modern, should be solely defined by a story's proper logistics, word usage, and English grammar."

But see, I wasn't judging the story. I was judging the writing, logistics, word usage, and grammar. I wasn't judging the books. I was judging the writing. LA class is not the place to be teaching morals, or so the gov. would have us believe. Why then do we read books with the ONLY purpose of learning about culture or ourselves?

"You have to try to glimpse the heart of the characters, and the writer too" There are modern books with good characters and heartfelt writers. Why only classics?

Again, I enjoy most classics. I cried in Great Expectations several times LOL (the last classic I read).

Okay cool, so they needed that detail a hundred years ago. Well it's not 100 years ago anymore. Why do I need that detail? I'm judging it based on modern writing standards. They don't teach good writing in those books. I understand that it was great for the time, I understand that the story still touches hearts. But why is it the ONLY thing we read?

@Galad, The Things They Carried made me so stinking mad.... lol
And, to say again what I've said a thousand times in the comments now LOL, I like many classics. But I'm questioning the purpose, and trying to point out...that these don't help modern writers write. Sure, good characters. But there are other books with good characters. I'm asking: Why only classics and horrible modern books?

@Barie, I agree lol

Daughter of the King said...

Yeah, I am not such a fan over being overly detail oriented. I especially dislike it when writers are too descriptive. I like for things to be left up to the imagination a bit more!

I was very privileged to have been Home-Schooled. I was able to read as many Classics and Modern books that I could get my hands on. I was never forced to read from a list of books for school...thank the Lord! My momma never had to push me into reading Classics because I wanted so desperately to read them.

I think I get your point better now, Nathan. Why i the world do they have you reading for a LA class anyway? I think what you're looking for is a balance between the old and new; classic skillful writing with a more modern flair. You still want heartfelt stories, but something a little less overly descriptive and something that fits in with your world right now....?

There are plenty of books that I consider to be 'Modern Classics'out there like: "Eragon" By: Paolini, "Shadowmancer" By: G.P. Taylor and I could go on but I won't!

I guess I got a little confused by your post and thought that you disliked Classics with a passion, but really you are wondering why there is no happy medium to be found in the reading lists of American Public Schools. Sorry if you thought me to be jumpy....I just love my Classics, really old and Modern! :)
-Sarah

Anonymous said...

@Nathan

I apologize on point 3 for two accounts: it's misunderstanding, and its original intent. I was in no way bashing any of your work (as you correctly deduced, I have not read any of it), and was in fact referring to the book your (and my) religion uses. However, this was also inappropriate and reactionary on my part and I am sorry.

Anonymous said...

I agree with SOME of what you've said, Nathan. I've read some really terrible classics- Heart of Darkness, The Great Gatsby, etc. There wasn't any story in that! But I disagree with you about what you said about Alcott and Dickens. We just finished watching David Copperfield, and it was really good! What I'm trying to say is that there are really good stories in classics. You have to look past all of the bad writing and get into the story. If WTB and CH couldn't write as well as they can, would you have still gotten into Venom and Song? If it's Dickens and Alcott's style of writing you disagree with, watch a movie that's based on one of their books so you know about the characters, then read the books. It helped me to read Sense and Sensiblity. Also, I'll have you know that Little Men is WAY up there on my list of favorite books, as is The Scarlet Pimpernel, which most people call a classic. I challenge you to give classics another chance. Read The Scarlet Pimpernel. It's in my Top Five Books of All Time list. Read the way Mrs. Orkzy describes the chairs at the ball in the dining room- it's one of the best parts in the book!!! There's much more I would like to say, but can't.

Bottom line: Give classics another chance!!

Thanks for listening.
daughteroflight

Melissa Rose said...

I was going to compare my experiences with LA classes but my high school LA classes were run as Lit classes anyway. They didn't even bother trying to teach very many writing skills as the expectation was that everyone knew how to write (formulaic essays) "well enough" (which is an entirely different rant...). But I will say that most of the more modern books I had to read were worse garbage than the older ones.

Perhaps because, as you've said, the education system is failing to teach good writing skills and back them up with inspiring examples. Thinking over my required reading there were only two books that made me think "Wow, I'd like to be able to write more like that." Both were memoirs, one published in 1987, the other in 2003. But the selection of fiction was generally awful in a lot of ways, regardless of whether they were classics or not.

Andrew K. York said...

Interesting ideas...
I just came here to let you know that...

thejoraiemfiles.blogspot.com has changed to fourththrone.blogspot.com

K.M. Weiland said...

The beautiful thing (and the frustrating thing) about art is that it's entirely subjective. One person's masterpiece is another person's drivel. Case in point: I'm a big fan of Dickens, Alcott, and O'Brien. Every reader is entitled to his opinion, but it's also important to recognize (as you did in your opening) that not everyone will share that opinion. Variety is the spice of fiction, as well as life.

I've yet to be impressed with most writing/reading-related classes. I would agree that most fail in their basic premise of helping students grow as either readers or writers. If I had a nickle for every person who can recall being forced to read a school-assigned book that they will now loathe for the rest of eternity, I'd be a rich woman! But that doesn't mean that every book offered in a class setting is worthless. Quite the opposite. Dickens, Alcott, and O'Brien break the rules with impunity, true - but only if you assume that fiction *is* a set of rules. It's not. Guidelines regarding description and POV are just that: guidelines. The fact that millions of people continue to appreciate these books is evidence that the "rules" aren't the most important factor is creating lasting literature.

The only rule in fiction, as in all art, is that there are no rules.

Jake said...

So I think we are on the same page, then, Keeneye. :) I agree that the writing of classics shouldn't be applied to modern writing--you just used the word 'slamming writing' instead. :)

But one thing about the writing that may be applicable; When I read old books, like LOTR, I somehow think that we have lost the old finesse the classics have. The epicness of LOTR, for example. If you read a moderated amount of classics, perhaps some of that 'old feel' will transfer into your writing. Just a theory.

I think I'll hold on to 'sentient' then. After all, I don't know any other words that accurately describe 'a talking thinking being'--that is, a sentient being. :D No synonyms, as far as I know. :P

Jake said...

Oh, and you just won my giveaway. lol, I can't believe I forgot that. Twas my entire purpose of revisting your blog before I was entangled in the comments. XD

Jessica said...

Nathan, you always strike on such hotly debated topics of discussion...you are like match! Okay sorry my writing lesson this weeks requires me to think of metaphor and similes...please forgive me. I am also writing this on like 4 hours of sleep so. Yeah whatever.
When I first read this post I was about to go up in arms for Alcott, but decided to stew over what you said for awhile before I said something.
I think you have some very valid points as to what should be considered for a good example of English lit. In the end what it boils down to is personal opinion and preferences and for those there are a thousand reasons. :P
Thanks for makin' me think.
Jessica

Nathan R. Petrie said...

@DOK, or just have things described to you that need to be :P lol

There are many reasons to read in a LA class. But why is that ALL we do is what I want to know haha. Cause really....that's pretty much it. And no, I dont' want books that are balanced. I want a balanced selection of books. Catch my drift? So classical books AND modern books. And I want them to TEACH from them.

Eragon? Really? LOL Shadowmancer I"ve heard rocks, haven't had a chance to read it. Though I own it haha

What I"m wondering is why we don't study classics as what they are and why we don't study modern works to learn to write. The themes all both books are relevant. But the writing is not. You can't write a book like Dickens today and get published. It won't happen. So why are we teaching our students to write like him?

@Anonymous, I apologize as well for freaking out on you. And I'm not sure why you'd bring the Bible up. I agree, it should not be required reading in a 10th grade language arts class :P FOr religious reasons and for the reasons listed in my post. Perhaps a literature class, but not a required LA class.

Nathan R. Petrie said...

@DOL, Yup, I agree. Classics have some very good stories. Christmas Carol ROCKS! Little Women managed to hook me halfway through and Poe is just awesome. So yes, there are excellentn stories in classics. But when did I bash the plot lines in the comments or the post? My point was that in today's world you cannot use the writing styles that they did because it's an awful way to write by today's standards. My question was, if we are teaching our students to write (LA required class) why are we ONLY having them read classics? Why not well written modern works as well?

IF WTB and CH wrote like Dickens I highly doubht I would have gotten into the story. Actually, I never would have bought the book. Perhaps if I had been forced to read it I might appreciate the plot. But on a whole, no...I wouldn't. Writing quality is the epitome of writing. If you have a great idea but can't write it, it doesn't really matter.

I liked Dickens' books better than the movies lol

"the way she describes the chairs". That's my point. I know what a chair looks like. Describe it in a sentence and get on to the story :P

@Melissa, that's my point. Why are they run like Lit classes? It's ridiculous.

I agree. Shattering Glass is a modern book I am currently doing a project on. And it's awful, just awful in writing aspects. The plot was well paced, characters were good ,etc. But the actual writing aspects were bad and the theme just tore me down. So yes, schools just need to chose better, modern or classics.

Nathan R. Petrie said...

@KM Weiland, yup lots of opinions. And I knew this one would strike up controversy LOL

My overall point is that this is a LA class. IF this is our purpose in class: teach writing and reading appreciation. Then why are we assigning these books? because only people who enjoy reading already will get into classics. And no one will learn writing from them. Unless of course you have a really good teacher that can actually teach from classics, which they never ever do.

Is LA suupposed to teach rules and techniques of writing or teach that you can do whatever you want and get away with it? Or are they teaching us to write like classics?

@Jake, yup. That's right. And I agree, there are great things to learn from classics. But again, why are we ONLY reading classics? Because the technical aspects of the writing are lacking.
Thanks for the books!

@Jessica, yeah...I have a knack for controversy :P

Ah but I'm not talking about English Lit at all. I agree, Alcott wrote a good story. She wouldln't be my first pick but either way, it's a good plot line. Good characters, etc.

What I'm talking about is a Language Arts class. In which we are to be learning how to write :P

Jessica said...

Sorry Nathan I get those two confused. Being home-schooled they were wrapped up into one class.

Anonymous said...

Nathan,

Have you ever read The Scarlet Pimpernel? If you have, you would have understood what I was trying to explain to you. Mrs. Orkzy didn't discribe the chairs like, "Well, the chair that Percy sat in had a cushion on it, and he didn't like it because it was red, and not purple, his favorite color. His lovely wife sat in a two-person sofa that had just been recovered in neon pink linen." (I am exaggerating. : ) ) She discribed them as if they were living things- as if they were the actual people that had used them moments before the character entered the dining hall. If I had the book, I would write out the whole paragraph for you, but I guess I loaned it out to someone. : ( Anyway, she said something about two clustered into a corner like lovers sharing a secret, upright ones that described the bored, unsociable people who didn't talk to anyone and only ate, and chairs that had fallen sideways on the carpet that "spoke volumes of Lord Hasting's wine." You'll have to get a copy at your library and read it for yourself.

Also, writing styles have changed over the past few centuries. So has grammar and spelling.

BTW, are you ignoring my emails, or have you just not gotten them? I have sent you a lot over the past few months, and you haven't replied. If you're too busy, I totally understand, but if you haven't gotten them, there might be something wrong with my email. Just wondering...

Thanks again for a great post!
daughteroflight

"Stand tall now and proclaim what you have seen, speak in whispered roars..."