This from yesterday’s Sunday Times:
Joanna Trollope is calling for schools to return to teaching kids the classics to stop them reading fantasy novels which don’t teach morality.
I’m sorry Ms Trollope, but I’ve got a question or two to ask about that.
First of all how would you define the classics, and when do you think schools stopped teaching them? Yes, to be fair, my own children were taught Michael Frayn and Louis de Bernieres alongside Shakespeare, but would Joanna Trollope rather her books were taught? Having read one, I know that I wouldn’t.
Secondly, I wonder whether Ms Trollope considers Alice in Wonderland to be a classic or The Hobbit, or The Chronicles of Narnia, or perhaps, dare I say it, The Tempest? Nothing fantastical about any of those wonderful stories, obviously? I wonder if she thinks they lack a moral heart too?
Thirdly, Joanna Trollope cites The Hunger Games as having no internal morality. Now, I haven’t actually read the novels, or seen the movie for that matter, but, as I understand it, the central point of the stories is the examination of an extreme moral codification. I gather it’s a modern moral fable whereby the premise is writ large to make a point. I wonder that Ms Trollope seems to have missed it.
She might have talked about Buffy the Vampire Slayer or The Game of Thrones, both of which garnered vast audiences, and both of which demonstrate a keen understanding of morality in all its forms and use it to shape characters and plot and to drive home the story.
|A Candidate for a future classic?|
CS Lewis and Philip Pullman both wrote fantasy with the express purpose of examining religious belief.
Need I say more?
Joanna Trollope was a teacher, and she thinks that rewriting Austen or the Brontes has more value than allowing children to find their own heroes and heroines.
I think there is room for it all.
I think there is room in the classroom for good teachers to teach Austen and the Brontes and even Shakespeare and Chaucer in their original formats. Language need not be a barrier to that, and I can’t help feeling that modern versions would only make the stories seem even less relevant today than they already seem.
There must be room in his leisure time for a child to follow his own inclinations, to pick up the books that appeal to him. We shouldn’t allow anyone to put a child off reading for its own sake. Let a child read what she chooses to read, just so long as she reads something, for heaven’s sake.
Who knows what, in a century’s time, some latter day Joanna Trollope might not be championing as the classic novel of the future. It might just be a Philip Pullman novel or a George R.R. Martin. It’s just as likely to be His Dark Materials as The Rector’s Wife, and probably more so.