Literary Merit of Fantasy LitHow many of you teach Fantasy fiction in your classrooms? I use The Hobbit and The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul as part of my English 9 Enriched (Pre-AP) program,...
How many of you teach Fantasy fiction in your classrooms? I use The Hobbit and The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul as part of my English 9 Enriched (Pre-AP) program, but I am frequently questioned about the "literary merit" of the genre. Personally, I think that if a teacher is excited about the work, it has a tendency to rub off on the students.
What are your thoughts?
I really think it depends on the choice of literature. I love The Hobbit and I think it's a good book for an AP class. I suppose the literary merit is questioned simply because it is fantasy making it appear to an outsider who may not have read it, irrelevant for today's student. The questioners may not have read the books you're teaching so they miss the relevance of the lessons learned through these books.
I know that I get excited about everything I do in my classes because it's stuff I want to do and I wholeheartedly agree that excitement rubs off on the students. They want to know why you're so excited and they tend to mimic the response and pay closer attention because you, the teacher, become animated.
I love The Giver as well and agree that those types of books that step out of our norms of society can be considered fantastical. I don't do much fantasy in my classes because my students love non-fiction or very real life fictional accounts, but I have a summer school course in which I'll do the Lord of the Rings trilogy or several Harry Potters (level of students makes a huge difference).
I think as long as a book can be classified as literature, there is room for it in a classroom. I taught a literature course using Jack Finney's Time and Again (which is a time travel novel -- I realize this might be more Science Fiction than fantasy, but they share certain supernatural elements) and there was a plethora of literary devices, themes, even ethical questions that kept discussion rolling for a long time. During several classes students hung around after class was over to finish discussing this book. It was a huge hit. As we've noticed with recent best selling series like Harry Potter and "Twilight," fantasy fiction is one of the largest read genres among young people recently. And if it gets them reading quality writing, that's all I care about.
Ditto #5! I teach The Hobbit to 7th graders and they LOVE it and can hardly wait for Fellowship of the Ring in 10th grade (although I have had several come into 7th grade having already read everything by Tolkien they could get their little paws on!)! If it's getting kids excited about reading, I definitely believe fantasy, science fiction...just about anything has value.
I just added Eragon and Eldest to our school library, and I can't keep them on the shelves - It's so wonderful to have kids come down saying, "But when is it due back???? Can I get on a waiting list??" :)
Literary merit includes depth of thought, richness of language, and the ability to make connections through allusion, metaphor, simile, and other literary terms to other works. By depth of thought, there should be attention to detail, theme, symbol, etc.
It's no different here. I've done The Hobbit and Wrinkle in Time with 8th graders in the past, both are usually big hits. The recent LOTR movies helped with our study of The Hobbit, but what's really fun for me is having seniors now complain about what I'm "making" them read then sighing, "I want to read WIT again; I really like that one."
I've had students come back and ask to borrow copies of lit books they've read 3-4 years previous. One in particular that is popular (this has nothing to do with Fantasy Lit, but it just occurred to me) is Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. One of my 9th graders reads it about once a year - she just loves it!
I'm not a classroom teacher but I think the best of the fantasy genre are absolutely worth teaching. These books are deep, rich, full of amazing language and also a lot of fun to read! In today's world where people seem to read less and less, any classic book that can get a kid excited is a winner.