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How do we teach literature and not bore the crap out of our students?

Here’s a link to an interesting article (http://on.wsj.com/11QhrX) that pays homage to the disappearance of literary studies in the college classroom. The author heaves a sigh of relief that it is slowly disappearing.  The article is long but very interesting.  I’m noticing that this year in my IB literature classes that my students are tuning out more than ever, and I’m sure it has a lot to do with how the material is delivered and the kind of testing that is prescribed down to the very questions that I am to ask students to write about.

I mean, in a sense, the whole idea is absurd:  great literature is a liberating. The language of literature turns on switches to places in our minds few other human endeavors can reach, and yet, I am prescribed the exact questions my students are expected to answer, en masse with students all over the world, to basically write and think in very much the same way.  How liberating can that be?

Given the rapid change of media in our lives today, the titanic invasion of minute language via Twitter, Instagram, and six second videos via Vine (don’t even know if I’ve got these identifiers correct), etc., it is no wonder my students look at me with blank stares when I tell them that we are going to burrow into The Great Gatsby (once again for the millionth time) and engage in the analysis of language that will spawn creative thoughts.  Like, huh? Really?  Don’t think so, professor.

The question that will keep me up tonight: Am I contributing to the death knell of literature?  I’ve got to rethink my approach and IB be damned–I may have to teach to the tests, but maybe I need to take a road less traveled.

The article is long, so be forewarned, but the cartoon that accompanies the article is actually worth the price of admission. I see myself in it so ridiculously that I cringe.

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