What are the new classics in literature?

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A storm is raging across literary circles in the UK about Michael Gove’s changes to the the GCSE Literature texts.

“To Kill a Mockingbird and Of Mice and Men are among the US literary classics dropped by a GCSE exam board after education secretary Michael Gove called for more British works to be studied.” http://www.bbc.com

There is always a negative reaction to the suggestion that the canon of literature might be changed and that students might be challenged to read different texts.

While I agree that both of the above are great books that people should read, it’s not good if they are overused by teachers and that students see a very narrow type of literature. We need more diversity in the curriculum.

The same issues are present here in Ireland where a narrow number of poems, plays and novels are used yearly by teachers. The offenders are:
The Field, John B.Keane
Romeo and Juliet
Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck
Dulce et decorum, Wilfred Owen
Any early poem by Seamus Heaney

Nearly all students across Ireland are currently revising all of these for their Junior Cert exams. But overusing these is like looking at literature through a key hole and the sad fact is that for many students the are the only literature they will read.

Rather than fighting for retaining texts that been there for donkey’s years we need to find new classics. I think students should be exposed to a wider range of texts across all genres, not just “serious” literature with serious themes, they should read comedy, science fiction, chick lit, short stories, fantasy, memoir, biography, magic realism, graphic novels, anything and everything. Books that will make them laugh.

What are the new classics?

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4 thoughts on “What are the new classics in literature?

  1. I would agree for Hitch Hiker’s Guide to be taught in schools for sure! And what about some Neil Gaiman?

    • Yes, Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, and some Doctor Who stories, anything that lifts young imaginations up into the possible rather than drag them down to the real. Any other suggestions?

      • I think John Green’s books are great fun. Then maybe some Terry Pratchett, Isabel Allende, Angela Carter, Philip Pulman…

      • I like those suggestions, I’m in favour of anything that gets away from the idea of literature as a sacred relic, it should always feel vibrant and alive.

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