It Used To Be Called Literature

At one point in time, there was a class called Literature. It was my favorite place to be, I loved literature class. It was wholly involved with books, stories, new ways to look at a subject- different textures and colors- shades of daylight fading into night, all of this painted by the written word. Each or genre was a bit different, and this universality of published works was the cornerstone of the concept.

All works were equally great. In literature, if you study it correctly, there is no right or wrong answers. Instead, there are only answers to questions, and then more questions concerning those answers. But- the key is to learn to think through the material. Each student, if they are honest, will have a different answer when asked any number of questions. This is why no right or wrong answers apply.

Each work is its own universe, following its own pathway of thought towards a particular truth. And they are truths- all of them. Each book or story, within itself, contains truths which can only exist in that realm.  These were placed there by the writer, and that is the process of creation. Just as God made the sky blue, and grass green in his great work; so to does the author decide what goes where, how it should appear on the page; he decides if it is a fixture within that world, or if the element is present for only a season, and then gone forever.

However, even though the designer created the work, and had great intentions for it. He also understands that once the final draft is penned, that the elements within the work will act on their own accord. The world, a book, the short story will begin to live independent from the author- just as the earth has lived and aged, progressing over eons of time, without a constant reminder from her Creator.

As a work takes on a life of its own, it is perceived differently, by each who bothers to notice it. The author had placed affect and effect, and set certain things in place with punctuation. Likewise, other potions might be left free to run in any number of direction, free from the constraints of correct, or even of proper punctuation. For each time I have read a book, it appears differently to me, at times in a subtle way; at others, the change is abrupt, and unexpected.

In the same way, a friend will have a completely different opinion than will I- even after reading the same volume. It may be that the experience could be pleasant for me, and difficult for him.  It all is dependent on the way the words are lighted on the paper, on the mood of the reader, on the mood of the day. But then, through these differences, we begin to understand the purpose of the class.

We discuss the work, and in doing so, we re-live the experience, so much so that it may become necessary to revisit the story, to read it again, to experience it again. Perhaps we missed some small detail, it could be that we skipped over a sentence. It might turn out that one or more pages need to be read again, and then re-read. The next time, the story could be different. The next time, perhaps you will see and understand your friends point of view. The next time, perhaps you will still see things differently.

Even still, both views are as they should be. The life lived through reading is absolutely subjective, and it is not even up to the author to decide if any number of different points of view are correct. Neither are correct, and neither are wrong. They simply exist- on the page, and within the mind’s eye.

With each page turned, and each volume finished, we live our lives through literature. There will always be a new story to and an old book to be discovered. We agree that the work exists, with or without our knowledge or approval of it. A grade for the class was usually given based in the sincerity and participation of the student(s). I fell in with books, even more than I already had been, during 7th grade literature class. In short, I lived vicariously through the material. I devoured anything and everything which was bound and shelved. I spent many a lunch hour in the library… It was my escape, my foundations for learning to write (though that would take shape years later), it was where I found my inner self, and in so doing- learned to begin to “like” myself. I belonged here, studying books, and learning about me. I got A’s and the occasional B in the subject but would have learned just as much if I had received an F.

This is the essence of studying literature.

But… If you’ve gotten this far, ask yourself, would I- would you have enjoyed or been encouraged to continue after receiving an F? If I had failed literature, at the fragile age of 12-13… I would have left it forever- discouraged and shamed by one more thing that a grading scale said I was not good at.

In Junior High and throughout High School, I received good grades in writing and literature courses- while failing nearly every other subject, bringing us to the point of this paper.

Now, the class is hopelessly graded- according to standards not envisioned by an author. The artistic impressions of the words on the page cannot be graded in a traditional sense except they are erased in the process, and the endeavor as a whole begins to disappear. These works were never meant to be under such scrutiny. The students, still finding themselves, are not equipped for such standards to be placed upon their developing minds. They need room to read, to digest, to question, to learn, and to be allowed to grow- ar their own pace!

Teachers- I understand that you are bound by your administrators, but please take whatever creative liberty is available, and DO NOT GRADE subjective courses, especially literature, based on standardized and horribly objective means. You are killing the creative process. I hate to make this analogy, but literature should be akin to Art and Gym… Show up, make an effort, and live to fight another day.

Read the article at this link, and then come back and agree with me.