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Literature in American High Schools

Posted by Kitty on April 04, 2003

In Reply to: Literature in American High Schools posted by Woodchuck on April 03, 2003

: : : Shakespeare is often celebrated as a conspicuous influence on present-day English, but how does Milton compare? His best rhetoric in Paradise Lost eclipses even Shakespeare's, I find. It has more power - it is the heavy metal of English literature. I am so in love with the Miltonic: 'We know no time when we were not as now, know none before us, self-begot, self-raised, by our own quick'ning power, etc.' Surely, he must have left an impact lasting to this day? How about 'Our own right hand shall teach us highest deeds'? Or, 'Awake, arise, or be forever fallen!'? Why are these sublime lines not idiomatic; or are they? I ask this question as a non-native speaker of English.
: : : Thanks
: : : Anders

: : My opinion: In the U.S. most people can quote a phrase or two from Shakespeare. High school students have to sit at their desks and suffer through the reading of a play or two. (It would make more sense to have them actually watch and enjoy a play.) On the other hand, the average person has little or no knowledge of Milton.

: In my opinion, the average U.S. high school has a dreadful literature curriculum. Milton is shied away from because secular humanist parents will have a fit if their child studies anything with that much theological content.

: Shakespeare is still taught but bowlderized. One must be careful none of the students begins to truly grasp Elizabethan English or they'll laugh at the vulgar jokes and the more conservative parents would have a fit.

I would guess that this depends greatly on the teachers, but in my eastern Canadian high-school readings of Shakespeare, our teacher took great delight in pointing out any vulgar jokes, and no-one seemed to take this much amiss! Mr. Sheppard Rules!