by Brett Vaden
A friend once said to me, “I don’t know how you literature teachers do it—finding stuff to talk about in class.” He, like many people, was mystified by the subject matter of literature. What does a literature teacher teach students?
In the upcoming issue of The Classical Teacher (Winter 2015), master Highlands Latin School teacher Kyle Janke answers this question, and he does so specifically in regard to teaching one of the greatest American literary works, Moby-Dick. Check out this passage from Kyle’s article:
As a literature teacher, my primary goal is to cultivate in students an appreciation for the human imagination and its unparalleled power to convey truth. This requires looking deeply into a text, past its sheer size and even its most tangible subject matter, to the greater significance beneath the surface. Melville’s novel proves invaluable as a means of training students to read in this way. He addresses his work directly to the reader’s imagination and, in doing so, defends the very practice of telling stories. His novel works as an apology for the human imagination, developing in the student a literary mind able to perceive and appreciate the truths apparent only through fiction. Moby-Dick derives its meaning and its greatness not from its sheer volume, but rather from its robust study of the human imagination and the titanic monster that is its subject.
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