I’ve been slowly picking my way through Mark Edmundson’s book, Why Read?, but the majority of my read-time for this book is linked to taking the dog outside. Since this is a re-read, I wanted the opportunity to really consider what Edmundson is saying about reading as a whole and the use of books in education.
What do I think so far?
Edmundson speaks about literature the way I always HOPED a professor would. He and I see eye to eye on using a book and loving it for its own self–rather than trying to strap external meanings to it. Every college prof I had approached a book from the standpoint of a critic and used their favored brand…New Criticism, Deconstructionism, Feminism, the psych angle (Freud, Jung), etc. [I abhor theory with its obtuse language and wordiness–if I can sum up a twenty page essay in three sentences without losing meaning, it’s a bit overinflated.] He doesn’t, however, abandon theory altogether–he just pushes it off until students understand the material as is–and then uses different theories to propose alternate suggestions. Which, for the most part, I can appreciate.
He uses literature as a jump-off point for discussions of bigger things in the world. He often talks about teaching students who are on the brink of major life decisions (career, family, where to settle down) and the discussions are geared toward them looking at life from different perspectives in order to find the path that they most identify with. It pushes them to find possibilities and their potential consequences.
How might I use this book to push my reading skills?
I’ve been wondering how I should approach the Classics Club reads. I don’t want to read the books from beginning to end without them making much of an impact on my life; I don’t value a book that doesn’t make me “feel” it. Whether that happens simply by the act of reading the book or if it has more to do with how I consider the book after I have read it doesn’t matter. I just want the effort of reading to be worth it in the end.
I think I might try to draw up a list of questions that help me think deeper about a book. Using this set of questions could act as a jump-off point for taking the content and applying the lessons to my life: What do these things have to do with me? How can I use the idea?
When do I expect to finish the book?
Whenever the dog has gone outside enough times for me to complete it! I’m on page 105 or something…so maybe another week?
If you are a reader, this book will make you take a different look at how you approach literature. If you are in a literature program (or have already been through one), it will make you consider how these books have been or are being taught to you. It’s definitely a good read…