Why teach literature?

-Samantha Fitch

After reading about the topic of motivation, and checking out the other blogs, I’d say that my motivation for teaching what I teach has stayed the same, with the exception that I’ve added new motivations and reasons for teaching. I simply fell in love with reading. I love to read literature that is much older than I- in high school I started reading texts by the Greeks and Romans, and was so surprised by how much I could relate to them, and felt that, were they around, they could probably relate to me. Their descriptions of types of people (we all have that one family member, or that one friend, who just never learns, right?), and their retellings of events, are what we live with and deal with to this day. And then I read Shakespeare, and I’ve always liked the approach of Historical Criticism; that is, you learn about (and from) the time period of the piece you are reading. My favorite period is the Victorian period, and again, so much of their world was the same, yet so much is different, and it makes me think about all of the changes that humanity has gone through. I loved literature for the escape, too, and for the way it made me put myself in other times, and in other lives. In college, one of my literature professors told me that literature saved his life. He was a depressed teenager, but through literature he felt hope, and more freedom than he ever had. Hearing this, I thought it would be so wonderful if I could do the same for another human being- if I could introduce them to literature, and make their hopes and dreams and possibilities seem to open up, how rewarding would that be?? And so I began my teaching career, but little did I realize, it commenced during the fall of the humanities and the rise of STEM subjects. This doesn’t deter me, but makes me even more motivated to teach languages and literature. The world needs science! It needs facts and technology and improvements. But it also needs morality and empathy, and the ability to communicate. In reading some of the articles about intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation, I know that many young people are motivated to study STEM subjects because these subjects are more lucrative in the field. I want to make students intrinsically love learning languages and learning about other lives through literature. Sometimes it feels like an uphill battle, but it certainly is worth it.


4 thoughts on “Why teach literature?

  1. I can totally relate! I teach Spanish and intrinsically motivated people are harder to find than I thought it would be. Cool story about your professor!

  2. What a worthy mission! I was disappointed when I learned the Common Core would de-emphasize fiction, which so often allows us to see the state of beings in the light of what is most true: that it’s all story. Isn’t it?

  3. I could so relate… my undergraduate was in ancient history. Love the Greeks and the Romans, and felt they were just as relevant as if they were contemporary writers! Our students need that exposure. Thanks for carrying the torch!!

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