A meme from Andi over at Andilit with the following questions 1. What is the best classic you were “forced” to read in school (and why)?2. What was the worst classic you were forced to endure (and why)?3. Which classic should every student be required to read (and why)?4. Which classic should be put to rest immediately (and why)?5. **Bonus** Why do you think certain books become classics?
And now for some answers.
1. The Doll's House by Ibsen was probably the best of them, though at the time I remember being disappointed that we weren't covering Shaw. I used to read his work, among other things, in the school library for fun.
2. The worst? I have to say I found Emma hugely annoying, which may well be a bad thing to admit given that people around here seem to quite like Jane Austen. I just found the pacing all over the place and too much happened off stage for my liking.
3. Make them read Raoul de Cambrai in translation from the Old French. As well as being my favourite very old book, it does a nice line in the sort of violence and action that people keep assuring us is essential to getting boys in particular to read the classics.
4. Not so much put to death as toned down a bit. It seems that British kids (at least if my own recollections are anything to go by) get Poets of the First World War and Women Poets in school and very little else. Worse, they will usually focus on just one of the poets in the module (which will be Owen for the War Poets, and almost certainly Carol Ann Duffy for the Women Poets) with only occasional forays into the works of others. While this might make it nice and easy for the teachers to draw out themes for exams, there is so much more to poetry than this. I remember a fragment from Wastelands being passed around by a teacher before we were told that we wouldn't actually be covering it, and being hugely annoyed.
5. A quick look at the history of the works of Shakespeare and Donne suggests that the way to become a classic is to be moderately popular in your own time, deeply unpopular and almost forgotten for the next couple of centuries, and then get championed by a mildly eccentric aristocrat or two with enough money to re-publish your work and really push it.