Annie On Writing

April 11, 2009

Guilty Pleasures in Literature

Filed under: Observations — Annie Evett @ 10:54 pm
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Last week I wrote about books and genres which could cause embarrassment or guilt if it were found out that one read or indulged in them – those guilty pleasures we all have in our literature.  I was shocked ( and pretty amazed) that a random blogger picked up on a throw away comment I had made at the end of my post regarding texts which are age appropriate and accessible to teenagers. Literary greats such as Shakespeare and Bronte are for the bulk of society, out of touch with modern nuances, difficult to read and understand and for most – uninteresting. In saying this – I adore these writers – but I am also a realist – and draw on years of experience as a teacher. Back to the blogger however – who resented me commenting that Jane Eyre was seen to be dreary – hummm sorry- it is dreary, dark, romantic and probably explains a lot with my fascination into gothic subculture.
Click here to go to the original post on Write Anything – where I am a weekly columnist.

As a (now retired) teacher of literature in the teenage arena within schools, I have had the undeniable pleasure of introducing beautiful texts to disinterested and often hostile youthful minds. Despite my personal beliefs in appropriate reading matter for teenagers, I was forced to thrust Shakespeare and other great authors works onto the desks and rush through them, covering only the briefest analysis whilst attempting to convey the deeper messages and themes to my class.

Animal Farm
Image via Wikipedia

Many books were ‘ruined’ for me at grade school (Animal Farm, 1984, the Great Gatsby) The education system in its wisdom chooses way out of touch unreachable texts ( for example Julius Ceaser) instead of introducing young minds to more accessible stories such as Romeo and Juliette – with its universal themes of teenage angst and gang rivalry. I was forced to read Jane Eyre as a 14 year old, missed the point completely and parroted the words our teacher gave us in the exams to get through. Like many others- have since re-read it and have a greater understanding and appreciation of it – especially as a ground breaking text of its time.
My musings surrounded the question of why we feel guilt for reading certain genres or texts – what truly makes one better or worse than the other. Despite Twilight being a runaway success, I am not the only person who believes that the writing style and delivery gets in the way of an excellent story. However, this does not get in the way of the fact that most teenagers will have read it and be able to discuss its themes, characters and be prepared to argue viewpoints with a certain amount of authority. These skills would be an English Teachers dream – to have their class engaged and excited about a novel in such a passionate way. Most teenagers I have spoken with have read this text within days of it landing in their hands. I remember Animal Farm ( of less than 30 000 words) taking our class nearly 6 weeks to read.
Compare this with the reaction you get when a Bronte or a Austen novel lands on a teenagers desk. There is no denying these women were fore runners to the freedom in literature I now enjoy writing. Women like them paved the way for formulaic romance and adventure stories with the heroine being the main character ( the scandal!!) But lets look at literature in its place and its ability to engage with its audience…. lets get back to the original question I was even asking in my original post….. what is your guilty pleasures in reading….. why is it so guilt ridden to read them??

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  1. Bullseye! I, too, wonder why schools do that – make kids read over their head literature. I can’t stand T.S. Elliot or Hemmingway because of it. Also, the crap about analysing the story. I talked to a very well known science fiction author years ago whose work is being used in schools and he was dismayed at how they were analysing his work. He said he never intended most of what they were saying was in it. He just wanted to tell a story.


    Comment by JoniB — April 12, 2009 @ 2:01 am | Reply

  2. […] which caused a bit of a ruckas ( very exciting!!) over at Write Anything I then actually posted my thoughts here after the […]


    Pingback by Guilty Pleasures « Annie On Writing — June 11, 2009 @ 8:56 am | Reply

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