This week I have started teaching ‘Victorian Literature,’ a second-year subject within the new ‘Estudis Anglesos’ degree. Fun started when I mentioned ‘the three famous Brontë sisters.’ You should have seen my students’ blank faces!! Those who did know what I was talking about explained to me that the sisters were… Emily, Charlotte and the other one (Anne, yes).
I try never to be appalled by what my students don’t know, which is hard. Yet, thinking with my colleague Esther Pujolràs about students’ lack of acquantaince with the canonical Brontës, we both remembered that by the time we entered ‘Filologia Anglesa’ we were already familiar with plenty of English Literature.
As happens, we both had read Bruguera’s translation of Wuthering Heights (more or less aged 15), seen the 1978 TV adaptation and developed an interest in other authors in English, following a similar pattern: translation, adaptation, original version.
This may have been exceptional, as not everyone grows to be an English ‘filólogo,’ but my impression is that it wasn’t and that in a cultural environment with little to offer, one makes the best of available possibilities.
My students simply live in another world, with so much on offer that they are overwhelmed. To them the ‘famous’ Brontë sisters matter very little, they may be even feel like relics of a strange world we (re)construct in class and that may never catch on. I hope it does… but… And, yes, I’ll be using a colourful PowerPoint next week to try to interest them in reading Wuthering Heights, thinking how none bothered when I was a student to make reading more palatable for me: it was my problem whether I enjoyed it or not, never the teacher’s. But, yes, that was another world.
More next week…