The real first post – teaching Wuthering Heights

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…

3 thoughts on “The real first post – teaching Wuthering Heights

  1. Since this old-fashioned cultural practice, reading, is also what I do (and teach how to do) I will be reading you … and that’s not a threat, but a pleasure!

  2. We are not very original, are we. This –the blog and the main comments– reminds me of some post-it like stickers I have at home and which I cherish as if they were an intrinsic part of my own being (in fact, they are). The stickers are white, but at the bottom of them all there is a drawing of a little classroom. The teacher looks like an old glory with a Charlie Brown “good grief” face. The students are represented by little pigs, each of them in the craziest position and doing the craziest thing: i.e., sleeping, yawning, flying paper planes, eating… and the text underneath reads: “the liitle joys of teaching are countless…”, which I keep telling myself still holds true. Actually, the little joys of teaching is one of the few things that our arch-bureaucratised job has kept (God bless all pedagogues, sofware designers, vice-chancellors and ministers of education). So, are we living in a world of ignorants? Am I an ignorant? Does anybody really care about ignorance? Have you ever heard the joke ” Johnny, which do you hate most, ignorance or indifference” “I have no idea and I couln’t care less!”
    II like SciFi. Actually, I love SciFi of the fifties/sixties. I find particularly lovable all the B, C and D-rated movies whose title starts with “The Day…”
    So let me tell you a horror story (The horror, the horror!), or should I say “a Gothic story”? (please, forgive my ignorance). I have entitled the story “The Day I Decided to Stop Teaching Joyce’s “The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” Because it’s Boring to Death, it’s Probably Overrated, and my Students’ Will Never Be Able to Travel Back in Time”. As the story goes, one day I was discussing the main character’s tribulations with religion, sexuality and his own personality. Then the word “retreat” came out. Some students didn’t understand the term, so I translated it for them. Still, they had no idea what I was talking about. I swallowed hard, breathed deeply and began unveiling for them the filthy secrets of sin and guilt, the stench of the devil and temperature of Hell. After a while I decide it was useless. By pure chance, there was nobody in that group who had taken religion as an optional subject. What is worse, not a single one in the group had attended a religious school. But most frustrating of all, not a single one of them had been told about the nauseating stench of the devil or the choking heat of hell. Not one of them knew (poor little ignorants!) that failing to go to mass on Sundays may have catastrophic consequences, and much less that masturbation and blindness walk hand in hand (if you’ll pardon the expression). This confirmed that “the little joys of teaching may be countless”, and I promised myself to forget about Joyce, at least until I could come to terms with myself and the world around me. For various reasons, I have never had the opportunity to teach Joyce again, though I have discovered the pleasures of many other wonderful authors and their glorious works. I have learned to enjoy them, and I have desperately tried to convey my feelings to my students. So, do I miss Joyce? “I have no idea, but I couldn’t care less”

  3. Hi there! =] I’m the student who said “and the other one”. Quoting you, Sara, I’ll say that “those who know me will quickly realise” that I was just teasing you (Will it sound too cocky to say that I knew her name was Anne? Nevermind). It’s just that it was so funny seeing you so shocked by our lack of knowledge that I couldn’t help it. And, moreover, as you said in class, she IS “the other one”, as the most famous ones are Charlotte and Emily.

    In short, you don’t need to panic about our lack of knowledge. We WILL catch up. And we’ll try not to fall in love with Heathcliff. 😉

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