‘‘There are all too many children and young people only too happy to lose themselves in Stephanie Meyer [...]
There is a great tradition of English Literature - a canon of transcendent works - and Breaking Dawn is not part of it. [...]
The series author Stephenie Meyer ‘cannot hold a flaming pitch torch’ to George Eliot." Mr GoveI am impressed that the man has read 'The Twilight Saga' because obviously he wouldn't talk about something he didn't have any knowledge of, would he? He wouldn't denigrate an artist's work without bothering to read it in its entirety, would he? After all, that would be as ignorant as saying Shakespeare is boring without bothering to read him.
I am an experienced English teacher, judged as "Outstanding" by government inspectors. I graduated with a top class English Literature degree and I followed it with a Masters, which I passed with credit. I say this only because narrow minded individuals like Mr Gove need these 'validations' in order to judge an opinion worthy. In Gove's world such things seemingly matter - a lot! (In mine I've learned that these things mean very little and certainly don't make a person more superior.)
I love George Eliot. Both 'Middlemarch' and 'Mill on The Floss' are wonderful books that had a big impact on me. I have also loved reading hundreds of 'Canon' works but I also LOVE 'The Twilight Saga!' and the whole genre that it represents.
What Mr. Gove is forgetting, is that to be a truly Renaissance individual a broad experience and education is necessary. It involves having an open and curious mind. If we are stuck in a romanticised past construct of what is valid knowledge then it undermines the creative evolution of the present and future generation.
I will never forget sitting in an English Lit seminar with a lovely, incredibly intelligent, silver-haired English professor and noting (as he read Chaucer in fluent Middle English) that he wore a plastic 'The Simpsons' watch. The noting of this juxtaposition taught me one of the most important lessons of my entire academic career - truly intelligent people consume all aspects of culture; they see beyond the definitions of high and low, they transcend the self-conscious, pitiful attempts to appear more clever, and superior than their fellow man; they are humble, tolerant, open minded and most of all they are deliciously subversive.
There are hundreds of works from the sacred Canon of literature that were considered by misguided men of the era as nothing but 'pulp' or immoral fiction; Bronte's 'Wuthering Heights', Shelley's 'Frankenstein', Stoker's 'Dracula', Lawrence's 'Lady Chatterly's Lover' and so on and so on ... in fact you can probably sling all of the gothic horror classics into the 'trash' pile at once, and the mildly erotic romances written by women, and the works of The Romantic poets, and ... - I think the point is made.
The problem with judging and placing a value on contemporary works of literature is that it's a pitfall for snobbery. It is ignorant and arrogant to have the audacity to judge what popular works will stand the test of time and which will not. It is to have an unbelievable sense of inflated ego to petition the masses to 'educate themselves'. Education is not about a fixed curriculum, it's about engaging and understanding the world around us, about striving to understand the human condition.
When Mr Gove makes comments such as 'in the best primary schools children read the works of Shakespeare, Orwell, T.S Elliot' it exposes him as a fool. Yes, students may decode the text word by word but to 'read'? What does 'reading' truly mean? It means to feel, to understand, to empathise, to suspend disbelief, to comprehend, to experience, to associate ...
Do we really want our ten year old children (and younger if you believe his nonsense) to cogently decode and sanitise the incredibly erotic, psychological, violent and sometimes desolate works of Shakespeare, Orwell and Elliot? I certainly don't want those future delights spoiling for my daughter. I want her to discover Orwell, like I did, at the cusp of adult understanding, when he lifted the veil from my eyes about the very notions of authority. I want her to read Shakespeare's 'Romeo and Juliet' at the time she begins to experience her first flushes of romantic love. I want her to read Elliot when she is able to understand the true genius of his works; when she is able to piece together the cultural web that he weaves.
I also want her to read a whole load of 'pulp' (exactly the kind of stuff that I write) because there is an honesty and clarity of voice (often of the female voice - so blatantly ignored in the sacred English Canon that Gove so elevates). I want her to read for pleasure, for fun, for satisfaction, for thrills and entertainment, not just so she can validate her own intelligence through a misguided and antiquated (and patriarchal) notion of what is good and intelligent.
Mr Gove is attempting to construct a simulacrum of a golden age of education. Maybe it's about time he added the novel Don Quixote to his reading list - he might then become a truly educated man.