Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Are "1984" and "Animal Farm" read anymore?

Many moons ago, when I felt like I was at ideological crossroads, knowing not whether I should hang a left, it was George Orwell who guided me along through Animal Farm and 1984 ... granted, it has been years since I read them, and would flunk a test on those two books because I have lost track of the nitty gritty details.  (Editor: you are a faculty with lots of "free" time!  What prevents you from reading them now?)

Then, later on, as a faculty I have every once in a while quoted from Orwell's essay on Politics and the English Language, whenever I felt the urge to really "lecture" about writing.  But, any time I bring up Orwell in a classroom environment, that name does not seem familiar to students.  And when I ask about 1984 and Animal Farm, well, no luck there either.

In fact, it is the same story with Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, Crime and Punishment, ....

I am beginning to think that there is something odd going on.  I mean, if the purpose behind requiring students to read works in literature is to help them understand many aspects of society, so that they can then be responsible and productive citizens, shouldn't Animal Farm and Fahrenheit 451, for instance, be books that college students ought to be familiar with?  In fact, shouldn't these be required readings at the high school level?  So, what do students then read in literature classes anymore, if books like the ones I am ranting about are no longer in the canon?  Spiderman? :P)

Or, are my expectations inconsistent with ground-level reality, whatever that might be?  But then as a university faculty, well, am I not supposedly living in that ground-level reality?  There is something seriously wrong here ....

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