Thursday, May 5, 2011

First Post: Literature for ESL!

This is a blog specifically for my "ESL" class at the International Center in New York.

In my class, we read literature to study English--on the assumption that we study English to read literature. :-)

DON'T BE AFRAID! If it seems hard at first, stay for a few classes; you will not be conscious of the process, but, much sooner than you expect, you'll have no trouble at all. [Perhaps some former or current students could chime in here?] The idea is not to be difficult, but to provide a richer English experience! You will learn along the way, and more quickly and more intensely than you expected. My hope is to make literature that you might not read on your own available and alive and pleasurable to you.

We mostly read poetry in the class, but in the past we have studied prose, as well. We have read entire books, such as J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit and the two Alice books by Lewis Carroll--Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There; large pieces of books (about 280 pages of James Joyce's Ulysses); essays by Stephen Jay Gould from his collection Ever Since Darwin; and other prose works. I started in 1985, so although we grind exceeding slow, there is a large pile of words behind us!

Right now, on Monday and Tuesday evenings, we are reading T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets. We are in Movement II of "East Coker", the second of the four "quartets" of Four Quartets. If you wish to read it online, here or here is the text of the Four Quartets. Feel free to save the International Center money on copies by printing out your own copy! The book can be purchased online or at any book store, and it is not expensive. It is not a hard-to-find book. Again, the author is T.S. Eliot. The title of the book is Four Quartets. Yes, I provide copies, but in years to come, you will treasure this book, and will be glad to have a copy of your own....

On Saturdays, we are reading Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows. This is a delightful children's book. It is inexpensive and can be found at almost any book store. Barnes & Noble have their own edition, which is quite nice and is inexpensive and easy to find at any Barnes & Noble store. In the past, a few editions deleted the original Chapter VII, "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn", for being pagan; in that chapter, the characters Mole and Rat meet a figure from Greek mythology, the demigod Pan. DON'T EVER select such a bowdlerized edition. Always check if you see an old, used copy for sale somewhere or find it at the library. That chapter is one of the most beautiful things you'll ever read. It has brought a tear to my eye many a time. The full text is available for free online at Project Gutenberg. You can read it online on your computer in HTML here (the illustrations are lovely), or select which version you want to download if you have an e-reader such as the Kindle, the Nook, a "smart phone" such as an iPhone, etc., here. A Project Gutenberg version as straight text--i.e., without the illustrations--is available here.

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