Wednesday, 11 May 2011

UCL, St John of the Cross and Flannery O'Connor

I was somewhat surprised, but rather pleased, to discover that UCL has The Dark Night of the Soul by St John of the Cross on its recommended reading list for 16 year olds thinking of reading English at university.

I can't believe that The Dark Night of the Soul features on many school reading lists but what should? Flannery O'Connor has a characteristically forthright answer in her essay, 'Fiction is a Subject with a History - It Should Be Taught That Way' in which she argues, among other things, that "In our fractured culture, we cannot even agree that moral matters should come before literary ones when there is a conflict between them. All this is another reason why the high-schools would do well to return to their proper business of preparing foundations." She goes on to argue that "The high school English teacher will be fulfilling his responsibility if he furnishes the student a guided opportunity, through the best writing of the past, to come, in time, to an understanding of the best writing of the present."

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