Literary Blog Hop: Disliking Literature

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

Image via Wikipedia

I didn’t see this literary blog hop prompt until the window for posting had already closed, but I thought it was a great question, so I’m answering it here anyway, and will definitely join in for the future.

Discuss a work of literary merit that you hated when you were made to read it in school or university. Why did you dislike it?

Sadly, my first experience reading Shakespeare happened when required to read Romeo and Juliet in ninth grade with an apathetic long-term substitute who played two film version (the one with Leslie Howard and the Zefferelli one) and refused to answer any questions. I liked the movies, but didn’t gain the skills I needed to be able to attack the language. I may be mistaken, but I believe that was the only Shakespeare I was required to read in high school, though I saw several productions, including Midsummer Night’s Dream and Much Ado About Nothing, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Shakespeare was somewhat redeemed for me when taking a seminar in college, where I fell in love with Othello and wrote an essay about Desdemona’s handkerchief. But so far, the best way I have found for me to really engage with a Shakespeare play is to teach it; this has been the case so far with King Lear, Macbeth and Hamlet.I suspect my experiences are rather common–the language can be so difficult to master that I think it would be very easy to teach Shakespeare poorly, especially if you don’t have access to wonderful resources like the the Folger Shakespeare Set Free books, which have been invaluable to me.

I’m tackling Julius Caesar on my own for one of my challenges and plan to read it that way, as if I would be teaching it, to help me find that same level of engagement.

How about you? Any books ruined initially through bad teaching, or simply the nature of being the dreaded “required reading”?

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1 Comment

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One response to “Literary Blog Hop: Disliking Literature

  1. Marnie Colton

    My mother would be delighted to know that you’re reading Julius Caesar! She taught it for several years when she was a high school teacher and knew it inside and out; in fact, she often used phrases from it in everyday conversation, and I think that growing up with Shakespeare as part of daily life helped me to embrace his work, along with having two wonderful English professors in college. When I was a senior in high school, we read Tess of the D’Urbervilles along with The French Lieutenant’s Woman. I loved Tess and hated TFLW, which was supposed to be the more accessible of the two. I generally dislike retellings of classics, though, unless they’re a completely different take on the original, like Wide Sargasso Sea’s reframing of Jane Eyre.

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