Which one should you think the most important in a literature course: fiction texts , poetry or drama texts?
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I didn't even have to read any of the above responses to know that the answers would all be similar. Sorry, you have to include ALL of the genres in order to be well-read and well-versed in literature. I do think, however, that you could limit the sub-genres if you had to choose. Perhaps studying "epic" poetry wouldn't be necessary as long as a sonnet or two are studied. Perhaps you could even teach a novel (only) instead of lots of short stories. You could teach one Shakespearean play instead of delving into more Existentialist examples. More importantly, I would love to know the context of your question. Are you asking because you are a college professor wanting to focus your classes? Are you asking because you are a student forced to take only ONE class of literature and have to choose between specifics? It would be interesting to find out so that our eNotes editors can comment even more.
Let's consider for a moment that drama enables readers to take a more interactive approach to the reading of quality literature. It shows the human experience as it is being enacted bythe characters and the readers. Not that other forms such as fiction and poetry are unimportant, but it draws the reader in more quickly.
It seems that these literary forms are not necessarily mutually exclusive either-for example, we see evidence of poetic language in novels, see the influence of prose writing in plays, see dramatic-style dialogue in poetry, etc.
I think that in order to provide a thorough discussion of a global term of "literature", all three are relevant and worthy of discussion. Neglecting the influence of one of these forms would negatively impact the study of any other.
I would choose fiction for this reason. The basic literary elements of drama and poetry are found in novels and short stories; it is the structure of poetry and the staging of drama that make them different genres. For instance, a study of The Great Gatsby and "Winter Dreams" by Scott Fitzgerald can easily incorporate a study of poetry, and many novels are structured in sections, some of them labeled, that suggest the chronology of acts in a drama. The conventional dramatic structure of a novel and a play are the same: introduction, rising action, dramatic climax with a resolution of conflict, falling action, and conclusion. Plays and poetry deserve to be studied and appreciated for their unique qualities, of course, but if I had to choose among fiction, plays, and poetry, I would go with novels and short stories to cover more literary bases.
I totally believe in the balance of the genre but if I had to teach one, it would be poetry. I agree that this is the least accessible genre and the one that therefore benefits from a bit of direction into how to peel back layers of meaning and have the confidence to assert one's own interpretation of the text. Students can often find a way through fiction with very little guidance. Drama too can be fathomed through group experience and performance. If I had to select the area I could offer the most direction to appreciation, I think it would be poetry.
I almost hate to choose, but if I had to, I would take works of fiction over poetry or drama. I think fiction is how we hook young readers into becoming lifelong readers, and from a public educator's point of view, it seems like that's the whole point of our efforts. Poetry is important and wonderful in its own right (I publish poetry), but I would probably choose to place poetry and drama electives after a fiction-based literature pre-requisite.
I would not like to see poetry neglected. So many students I teach are terrified of it and partly it is because they have been taught very little poetry and haven't had a chance to demystify it! I would want any course to focus equally on all three.
They are all equally and differently important. There are different reading skills attached to each one. If I had to pick one as most important I would probably say fiction because it is the most accessible for independent work by the typical high school student. Drama is best studied when it is read aloud in a group setting, but students sometimes struggle with the overall affect when they are reading it silently to themselves. Poetry has the reputation of being daunting -- most students say that with less to go on, they have a hard time making meaning. Add to that the misconception that poetry is "deeper" and "more abstract" and students can really flounder around without teacher direction.
I am going to assume that you ask the question to force the literary to give you a definitive answer on which is most important. Although I agree with every word mwestwood said, if forced to choose, I would take fiction. Fiction can often be turned into drama for classroom purposes. It can also contain poetic elements. Take a look at Fahrenheit 451 as an example. This piece has so much poetry in it written into prose paragraphs that my honors kids eat up the crossover of the two.
Since the three genres that are mentioned are all approaches to the literary examination of the human experience, they are all of equal importance, just as paintings, drawings, sculptures, and other art forms are all important expressions of the artist. But, the artist often has a certain forte in one medium and, thus, prefers to use it as his/her means of expression. Also, certain subjects lend themselves better to certain media. For instance, imagine Shakespeare's plays as novels. Would they be as effective in communicating their themes or in developing the tragedy? Certainly not. And, what is Emily Dickinson wrote short stories rather than her precisely intuitive poetry. Would not much of the richness of her art be lost? Definitely not. Therefore, students need to read and experience all forms of literature so that they can be exposed to the beauty of idea and spirit in each one, as well as the delight in sound in poetry and the in the power of dramatizations. Besides, often a certain genre is more appealing to one student over others, who may enjoy something else. By reading all forms of literature, there is a moveable feast for everyone.
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