Literature Rant

There are many ways to define literature (Examples: "A stupid elective I have to take"; "The most meaningful thing you will ever study.") For the student or potential student in my class, the definition provided by me, the teacher may well be significant. In my view, literature is written for people who intend to enjoy it and to think about it. When you enjoy something you spend some time with it; you don't do as little of it as possible and throw it aside without another thought.

I am not suggesting that you must enjoy literature to be in my class, or that you won't do well in it unless you enjoy (or can simulate enjoying) literature. I am reminded of the children's fairy tale called "The Frog Prince." In that story, the princess promises to let the frog sit with her at dinner and eat from her plate, etc. When he gets there, though, she shrinks from him and tries to have as little contact with him as possible. The problems in the story can't be resolved until she takes him seriously. In some versions of the story, this means kissing him, while others say she throws him against the wall. Which response she actually has doesn't matter to understanding the story.

Sometimes I define literature as the opposite of speed reading: in some other contexts, reading something as quickly as possible is desirable, so its gist can be extracted and used, and the reading itself can be thrown aside. Literature is not in this category. Reading literature involves regular reading and rereading, and conversations with other readers. One student once wrote on an evaluation about me, "She really gets into this stuff." I'm not sure he meant it as a compliment, but I took it as such, and it's true.

So be ready to kiss that frog, please!