Why do teachers analyze the book more than the actual author does?
10 Answers | Add Yours
Because that's the point.
This may not fit with what many English teachers think, but there is something that many English teachers get in the habit of (partly because that is what they are trained to do) which involves deciding what interpretation of a book is the correct one and trying to help students see why that interpretation is the correct one. Most English teachers want their students to love books and to feel strongly about them and the natural tendency is to want them to think similarly or to approach books in the same way.
I don't believe it is out of a desire to make books less accessible or to "kill" them as some students say when they've been talked about too much, but there is that possibility.
Also, most authors are in the business of writing books rather than thinking too much about how someone should approach them, so in a simple way, of course teachers analyze them more than authors.
Teachers are trained to engage in scrutinizing and analyzing texts to their fullest degree. Many great pieces of symbolism and other literary devices that authors "accidentally" included are often exposed, not by the authors themselves, but by those who look more closely, beneath the "surface" of the text. By hyper-analyzing texts, teachers are allowing you to see beyond the black and white of printed page, and into a realm that is both deeper and more meaningful.
Well, consider that authors write (and publish) books because they have something to say. And all of their life experiences, loves/hates, passions, humor, and relatioships affect this. Whether the author thinks about it or not, every part of himself is leaking into his work. Sometimes it is done very purposefully, other times it is not. We are humans. This is how we work.
Part of belonging to a society of relational beings means interacting with consideration to the infinite experience we each bring to one other. It is what makes our lives dynamic and therefore purposeful. So while an author may or may not have the exact intentions and message we draw from his writing, by publishing it he is aware he invites such pursuit.
I frequently receive questions similar to this when I teach poetry. It is the age old "If that's what he meant why didn't he just SAY that?" I offer you Robin Williams' response as Mr. Keating in The Dead Poet's Society:
"We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for." (DPS)
Yes, a teacher analyze a text more than its author does. And, this is because the teacher must make it sure that his or her students get into the book properly.
When a teacher teaches a particular text, s/he has to deliver the input in such a way which would make the book adequately comprehensible and understandable to the students. Discussions, arguments, examinations - all are parts of the teaching procedure. Very often, what the author means is not that much comprehensive and obvious. Then, the students need the teacher to provide with a detail discussion along with a scrutiny of the book and the contextual (background) knowledge. The more the teacher would discuss, the better they would be able to get into the certain text. And, definitely, this involvement is essential for going beyond the authorial perspective. Being capable of criticizing the book for students on their own is also important. Otherwise, the knowledge would remain incomplete.
That is why a teacher scrutinize a text along with its context, while the author does not analyze the book that clearly. If the author is the artist, the teacher is almost like the eyes through which a student would view the art.
Authors communicate their messages through the vehicles they have chosen: a novel, poem, short story, play. It is up to the reader to understand and appreciate the message and the means by which it is communicated. We don't ask painters to analyze their own paintings; dancers to analyze their dance; musicians to analyze their music. Artists will often provide a context for their works or explain the inspiration behind their works, but they leave the analysis (appreciation) to others. As Anna Pavlova, the famous ballerina, responded to a fan who asked her what her dancing meant, "If I could have said it, I wouldn't have danced it."
In other words, we the readers must be discerning enough to recognize the writers' craft behind the words on the page. This type of analysis increases our understanding and appreciation of the art form. The more we know, the more we understand and appreciate. I hope to do the same for my students as a docent does in an art museum. Without an expert to point out the various features of a painting, I can only quickly glance at it and say something like, "I like that." I need someone else to help me see all that went into creating the impression that I have when I see the painting: the organization of the objects on the canvas, the colors chosen, the light and dark images, details in the background, etc. When I am directed to see these aspects, I can better appreciate the painting and understand it, and the memory of it stays with me. The same is true with books. With study, discussion, analysis, we learn to appreciate, understand, and retain literature and hopefully apply it to our own lives.
I'm more interested in the idea that teachers analyze the book more than the book's author. On what are you basing this assumption? Can you offer any evidence that this might be the case?
I know many students believe that some authors have absolutely no underlying meanings beyond the actual words on the page. However, this is not always true, so (as a previous post pointed out) it is up to the teacher to see that the student gets as much out of the book as possible. It's rudimentary English training and an intellectual stimulant that many students just don't want to tackle.
I think that teachers over analyze to get a stronger grip of the material. A teacher, in a sense, has to be an expert of the material. They may have 100 students reading a book so they need to be prepared to answer multiple questions and address many different opinions and interpretations.
It's common for students to think that teachers spend too much time analyzing a piece of literature. However, good readers think about what they are reading. What can we learn from it? What is similar to our own experience? What is new and different to us? And most importantly, how can this piece of literature bring us closer together?
Your teachers want you to analyze literature because it shows you can think critically. They also want you to become a more careful, informed reader. These are skills that translate into the real world.
Your point about how much "the actual author" analyzes the work is an interesting one. A writer like William Golding intentionally makes everything--and I mean EVERYTHING--in Lord of the Flies a symbol in an allegory. He admits as much in any of the several interviews you can read or listen to. Golding has very specific ideas about the meaning of his novel.
The author's intent, even in Golding's case, only means so much, though. Once the literature is published, it's now up to the reading community to decide what it means. The author, your English teacher, or someone in your reading group can offer some opinions, but no one can experience your particular experience with the novel but you.
Teachers want to give you the skills to analyze, evaluate, and discuss literature. If it seems like we go overboard at times, it's just because we've found a great example and think that you could benefit from the practice. No one reads exactly the same way and no two people can have the exact interaction with a piece of literature. You can, however, have a common vocabulary for discussing ideas and use similar strategies for finding meaning.
Join to answer this question
Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.Join eNotes