As much as I adore literature I always have a hard time with Hemingway and Steinbeck. It is hard for me to teach some subjects that cause me sadness such as the chase or loss of the American Dream or the harshness of war. Plus, Hemingway's narrative is a bit dry, in my humblest and most ignoramus opinion.
What type of literature is the hardest for you to teach or enjoy?
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The most difficult literature to teach, in my opinion, is literature that must be "translated" into modern English, for example, Shakespeare. Once we have an understanding of the language, engagement is successful, but that extra layer of effort is a hurdle for many students. I finally purchased the Crystals' Shakespeare Glossary for my students and myself. I try to regard this as an opportunity to learn about the evolution of English, but sometimes, I feel overwhelmed by the task.
For whatever it's worth, I have always thought that Hemingway is quite over-rated.
I find it difficult to teach literature I don't personally like. There is a lot that I do like, and I try to find enthusiasm for everything, but some people just have different preferences. To get around this problem, I try to update my lessons and find something to be enthusiastic about. Or I change the book!
If I had to pick specific pieces of literature, I would say Beowulf and Our Town. Sometimes literature is taught simply fr the sake of tradition, and I think we don't review and refresh what we teach nearly enough. These two in particular bore the stuffing out of me and the kids, and I can only fake excitement for so many years. I would love to toss those two titles on the heap and bring in some modern, more relevant works for our students.
I think that the old expression "if momma ain't happy, then nobody's happy" applies here. If I don't truly love a piece of literature I am miserable. I always hope that I can convey something more positive with my students, but I am sure that they know the difference! Personally, I always hated having to teach the last two acts of Julius Caesar. I could muster some enthusiasm up through the actual assassination and funeral speeches, but after that I couldn't get through it fast enough. I was also never a fan of A Separate Peace. I am thankful to be teaching courses now where I had the only or final say in the curriculum pieces!
I luckily work in a district that allows me the freedom to choose my own curriculum. That being said: "Mamma is always happy" (poster #5 ; )). That being said, as much as I love the novels and texts I choose for my classes, I find Frankenstein the most difficult to teach. It seems that the students have such a hard time with the language.
I agree with lmetcalf on Julius Caesar, but I've been fortunate to only have had to teach it once. Something I do "have to" teach (even though I do get the final say) is Transcendentalism, and Walden in particular. I struggle to muster up much enthusiasm for either the philosophy or the work. I do spend almost as much time on the principles as the writing; I generally choose several interesting passages/selections from Walden and call it good.
I find it hardest to enjoy twentieth century literature (and now twenty-first). I'm stuck in the pre-nineteenth century classics (I count Jane Austen as eighteenth century since she began writing in the eighteenth and only first published in the nineteenth). Two authors I wish would get more attention are Ann Radcliff and Fanny Burney.
Well, in the past two years I must admit to finding my teaching abilities stretched by having to teach American classics that, as a British English teacher, I have rarely come across or, in some cases, even read. On the whole, however, this has been a great discovery, and I now count some of these authors amongst by personal favourites. One text that I just can't seem to get my head around and loathe teaching is The Great Gatsby. I don't know why, but I guess that maybe my lack of knowledge about American history makes me feel I lack confidence.
I used to find Victorian Literature difficult to enjoy as a young English teacher. For example, Great Expectations, anything by Jane Austen, Frankenstein, and the like scared me because of the language and complex sentence structures. As I have aged, I have grown to love the complexity of language and the challenge to build my own vocabulary. In fact, the process of learning for me has helped me inspire my students to read texts that challenge them. I have come to now love Victorian literature and my current challenge is Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. I would have to say that my students have learned to have an uncanny respect for learning because I continue to learn to love new works that I previously did not like.
What I find the hardest to teach and the hardest to enjoy are actually quite different.
Hawthorne's works are tough to teach, especially to the modern generation, because they are thoughtful works that must be "mulled" over to really understand, and the language is complex and must be digested slowly. My students generally bore quickly and resort to Cliff notes, which is frustrating to me, because I want them to experience the power of the original language which I love.
However, what I find difficult to read is non-fiction. I find biographies dry and, on the whole, long and boring. But, then again, I am a romantic at heart and find it very enjoyable to get lost in a beautiful story.
My kids always fall apart with Shakespeare. Even when I show them that the syntax is generally the biggest problem, they don't do well. I agree with #10, that Victorian Lit. is also difficult, but I find the vocabulary really is a problem for them. (And the concept of looking up a word, even when it's so easy on the computer, seems like asking them to give a pound of flesh.)
However, the bottom line, I think, is that many kids today complain about having to work. If it isn't instantaneous, many won't bother. There are titles that I can't teach unless I have an advanced class, like The Scarlett Letter and Hamlet. And even with the advanced students, there are quite a few that don't have that work ethic. So is the literature too hard or too distant in its setting for them to connect with, or are they just lazy?
The literature that I find most difficult to teach and/or enjoy include works relating to Greek mythology (Antigone) or ancient literature, such as Gilgamesh. Since I personally am not a 'fan' of either of these works, but they are part of the curriculum, I challenge myself to make my lesson plans a little different each year. I try to find aspects of the texts that are not so obvious and may be of interest to my students. I figure if I use a varied approach, I will have greater enthusiasm for the topic.
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