Monday, December 15, 2008

We teach literature as if we were giving a tour of a grocery store to Martians

Nowadays we teach literature as if we were giving a tour of a grocery store to Martians who've just touched down on Earth. We professional storekeepers explain the vegetable section, the dairy section, the meat section, note similarities and differences among our wares, variations of texture and color, the fact that there's no milk where the applesauce is, and perhaps the fact (which we bemoan) that there are no papayas. We're teaching the store, not what's in it. We don't presuppose visitors know anything about where the things on display came from; if they do, it's because we told them — that can be our work too, speaking of the world before it ended up in the grocery store. But we're the ones who decide whether or not to include that world outside, and how much. We just want to rack up sales. All this fixation by the storekeepers on the store misses the point: People grow food in order to eat it. Similarly, books are meant to be read. Reading is the point of a book, not integrating it into a discipline.

-- Bruce Fleming (full article here; pictured: Piggly Wiggly)


Lemon Hound said...
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Anonymous said...

This perspective is what sounds alien to me. Bemoan? Why bemoan?

We live in an amazingly diverse literary moment. How can there be anything but excitement and wonder?

(I deleted this comment because it had all these links in it that seemed...well...just wrong.)