CRF Blog

Straight Through the Heart

by Bill Hayes

In Straight Through the Heart, an essay for the New York Times Book Review, Dean Bakopolous, an English professor, reflects on how to teach literature.

Back when I was teaching first-year composition at a large state school, I’d often lament with my colleagues that so many of our incoming students hated to read (we were instructed not to use texts more than a few pages long). We bemoaned the fact that many had left high school without even knowing how to write a sentence.

But how can you teach someone to master language or read literature until he’s fallen in love with it? Maybe in place of first-year composition we should be teaching first-year fiction. In a creative writing workshop, students begin to think about literature as stories to love, the way many of them did as children. Instead of deconstructing a text (that terrible word, text), they begin to understand the well-crafted sentence and the way it energizes and adds power to a larger story. After reading masterworks and feeling the effects a writer can have on their own souls, they want to get out their laptops and try doing the same thing. [more]