Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Dickensian Post on First Things

In response to the 2007 National Endowment for the Arts report that (shocking!!) teens and young adults don't read (much):

How then should Dickens be taught? As with all of literature, he must be taught with affection, with enthusiasm, with patience, and with a taste for eccentricity. A more fitting introduction for young minds might be found in the reckless youthful energy of Nicholas Nickleby, with its hero who descends to fisticuffs in defense of a downtrodden drudge or attacks strangers in defense of his sister’s virtue. It is perhaps easier to relate to the trials and tribulations of young Oliver Twist than to sympathize with Pip. The death of Nancy is far more dramatically accessible than that of Sydney Carton, and with the former there is the advantage of a cast of colorful, evocative characters—Fagin, Bill Sikes, Nancy, Jack Dawkins, Charlie Bates, and, above all, Bulls-Eye, unite to make the novel one of Dickens’ greatest achievements.

We need to recover the lost art of enjoyment—enjoyment that is not simply mind-numbing intoxication or drooling appreciation of a television hero. Through the classics, a proper appreciation for virtue (classical and moral) may be effectively cultivated.

Read the rest. I, for one, am glad that the story of Dickens being paid by the word is apocryphal.

ETA: Try this link to the First Things article. The other is just not working, for some reason...


Laura A said...

Oh, thanks! Dickens is one of my favorite discoveries of homeschooling. I'm reading David Copperfield right now, in fact. To myself, just for fun. And young teens often find him quite plot-driven enough to enjoy his books, as long as they have a fair tolerance for lengthy sentences. I must have been too busy and unengaged when I read him in high school, because I totally missed the fun. Or maybe there was just way too much emphasis on Miss Havisham. Sure, she's important to the book, but I much, much prefer Joe.

I can't get the link to work, but no matter, I can certainly find the article at First Things. Thanks for the mention!

MacBeth Derham said...

I tried fixing the link, but to no avail...so I added a new one. Thanks for letting me know there was a problem, Laura!

I don't get the problem students have with Dickens. My kids have always loved his writing. Maybe we are just uber-geeks or something.