Table of Contents
As G.K. Chesterton had once quoted – “Literature is a luxury; fiction is a necessity.” For the minds that demand imagination, creativity and enhanced empathy, literature works as the major source, especially when corroborated with fiction writing. Poetries have also had a strong influence on the imagination of young minds, which inspire and help to increase agility. Based on this idea, fiction literatures and poetries have been accepted widely as a key tenet in college education curriculums.
Thesis statement. While inclusion of fiction literatures and poetries in college education plays a significant role, the selection of these works depends on a series of factors, such as the aesthetic grounds, the criteria chosen for excellence, time span of the writing, the themes considered and the results expected in terms of positive changes that the students are likely to experience by the end of the curriculum. Based on this notion thus, the essay presents a brief and critical elaboration on the selection of 9 literatures to be included in the college curriculum.
The first selection to the learning plan is The Lesson by Toni Cade Bambara, which is a short fiction story and falls in the category of a first-person narrative piece. The aesthetic ground of this short story is apparent and strong to persuade the imagination, empathy and understanding of the students in realising the modern socio-economic context, as its narration is not only based on the African-American backdrop but also offers a simply strong message regarding money and its value. Narrated through the voice of Sylvia, a young Black girl, the story addresses one of the many dilemmas of a teenager, who is never reluctant to show off her confidence as better than her peers but is also unaware of the outer world and its complexities. Irrespective of the cultural background that the reader belongs to, this short story is quite likely to have a strong influence on the perceptions of the students, by raising their level of empathy and agility for other races, besides inspiring them to lead a meaningful life. Although the short story is pertinent to any and every story, its backdrop is strong inspired by the cultural background of the author, Toni Cade Bambara, who was a renowned African-American writer. The story however does not refer to any specific date or time, although the description indicates the period of early seventies, giving an idea of the then prevalent racial segregation and inequality in the society. The theme is significant in terms of the fact that it denotes the history of racial prejudices that the modern society has been witnessing making its place in the curriculum (Gale 5-6).
The next selection is Gwendolyn Brooks’ The Mother. It is a lyrical, thirty-five lines poetry, depicting the theme of contrasts between possibility and reality. The author of this poetry, Gwendolyn Brooks, assumes the role of an impoverished mother, idealising the abject poverty that a female experiences through her decision of abortion. The most influencing factor in this poetry is its unfailing reference to the role of a mother, her pain, dilemma and her love for her children, irrespective of her being or not being able to touch them. It also acoustically explains the effects that abortion has on the mother’s psychological conditions and bereavement, while her social environment remains unnerved. The theme of this creation indeed stands distinguished in the dais of modern poetry, as it offers a simple but strong elaboration of the mother’s agony and a lack of alternatives when deciding to abort her unborn child. Expectedly, the theme will help the students connect with the social dilemma that will in turn help them intrinsically relate with the outer world in a more sensitive manner (Bachelor and Master “The Mother”).
The third selection for the curriculum is Gwendolyn Brooks’ We Real Cool. This piece is another creation by Gwendolyn Brooks picturing the modern day society, emphasising young pupils and their attitude after dropping out of school. The poem comprises eight short rhyming lines, with the final word in every line as “we”. The inspiration of writing this poem came when the poet, Gwendolyn Brooks crossed a group of young pupils playing pool. At the very onset, it might seem to indicate the carefree and rash attitude of the pupils although an in-depth observation reveals the dilemma in these young minds, which is concerned about their existence in the material world. Indeed, it reflects the anxiety and confusions of young age while it transforms into a more mature level. It is likely that the students will be able to relate with the poem intrinsically being at the same age to that of the idealised protagonists in the poem. The theme of the poem is however apparent in the context that emphasises the basic uncertainties of the young mindset, which in itself can have an influence on the students. Nonetheless, neither of the creations by Gwendolyn Brooks, i.e. The Mother and We Real Cool had the feeling that poems were inspired by her personal cultural background and thus, no biases could be identified (Modern American Poetry “On “We Real Cool””).
The following selection in the curriculum was composed by Robert Browning, who was renowned for his remarkable writings in the early period of English literature. This writing is titled Porphyria’s Lover, which also surrounds a certain extent of controversy concerning the variations observed in its interpretation. The poem is a dramatic monologue, which comprises only of sixty lines and can be effortlessly segregated from the other writings by the poet. It offers an insight to the classic Victorian literature, taking the readers back in time, with its subtle and simple flow of words. Being one of the earliest compositions of Robert Browning, it is also quite likely to help the students to gain an insight to the then cultural context. The theme of the poem is rather tragic where a lover kills his love interest in the hope that it will keep her to him only. Interpretations in this regard have been diverted towards two ends, one with a philosophical and purely literary explanation to it while the other is intended towards a more rational and psychological elaboration (Encyclopedia.com “Porphyria’s Lover”). This friction or amalgamation may certainly boost the interests of the students.
The next piece of literature selected for the curriculum is Désirée’s Baby, which was written by Kate Chopin. It was written at the backdrop of the civil war scenario is America. The theme in the story centres around the issue of racism, which was quite apparent in the then context. In the short story, the writer succinctly exemplifies the poison of racism and the way it affects the calm and spontaneity of a love relationship within a family. This particular short story apparently exhibits a social issue, racism, which may boost interests amid the students to learn about the issue with greater depth (Gibert 38-40).
The sixth addition to the list of literatures selected for the curriculum is a coming-of age novel titled The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. Based on the cultural backdrop of Latin America of the 1980s, with the protagonist as a young girl named Esperanza Cordero, the story revolves around her growing up in an impoverished neighbourhood and then turning to a life on the street. It is selected on the basis of its genre that can build the understanding of the students concerning their age and the transitions they are likely to face in their age, besides attracting their attention towards the social issue of homelessness. Nonetheless, even though the story seems to have been strongly inspired by the cultural background of the author, it does not depict racism or similar symbolisms but strictly emphasises the dilemmas that young minds often experience (Grum 40-41).
The story titled Only Daughter by Sandra Cisneros is another literature selected for the curriculum. It emphasises the gender stereotypes often witnessed in the modern society, based on the setting of a Mexican-American family. The story is inspired by the childhood experiences of the author herself, being brought up in a family with seven sons and only her as the daughter. Throughout the story, the narratives direct towards her feelings of seclusion and a lack of interest that her father had in her career decisions. This particular story can offer a different perspective to the students to understand the social issue of gender stereotyping, which is often believed as confined within the external arena of the society and not within a family (Cohen ““Only Daughter” Textual Analysis”).
Emily Dickinson’s Because I could not stop for Death is the next selection of the curriculum, which is a lyrical poem divided into six quatrains. In the poem, the poet idealizes Death as an individual, in a manner that unlike the traditional folklore does not bother or frighten but offers a luxurious feel throughout the journey to the grave. It is therefore established as a soothing and an undeniable feature of the mortal world. Reflecting the innate fears of a mortal life, which is often associated with death, this particular literature piece contributes to the richness of the poem (Detweiler and Jasper 132-133). The students are quite likely to enjoy reading the poem, increasing their interests in reading literature.
Emily Dickinson is one of the celebrated authors of the late 1800s, who contributed substantially in the Victorian era literature. The final addition to the curriculum is Dickson’s Success is Counted Sweetest, which is a lyrical poem as well, replicating the joys of a victorious army but along with the solemn feeling of one dying soldier. It admirably portrays the paradox of a war that involves high compassion at the cost of death. Offering a sight to the classical literature, this particular poem is likely to assist students to grow their interest in similar reading as well as enhance their understanding regarding war from a philosophical point of view (Gale 1-2).
Throughout the selection, aesthetics played a significant role, as it contributes to the interest of the readers, especially young students or amateur readers. While aesthetics often do determine the excellence in a fiction literature, there are certain other aspects equally significant such as its theme, the cultural background it is based on as well as the possibilities of the extent to which the readers can relate with the artwork. Nonetheless, I would like to mention that my personal cultural beliefs and preferences did not participate in the premise of my process of selection in this curriculum. I have also tried to keep the list as versatile as possible and therefore, author’s cultural background did not play a role in the decision making process. The choices however do span across centuries to contribute to the versatility of the entire list and irrespective of their gender or country of origin, offering an insight to the period when it was written. Emphasising social issues was also important in an effort to encourage the students to study the phenomenon in the present context.
- Bachelor and Master. The Mother: Gwendolyn Brooks – Summary and Critical Analysis, http://www.bachelorandmaster.com/britishandamericanpoetry/the-mother.html#.WYBqFBWGPcu. Accessed 01 Aug. 2017.
- Cohen, Melissa. “Only Daughter” Textual Analysis. Stony Brook University, 2011, https://stonybrook.digication.com/melissa_cohen/Textual_Analysis. Accessed 1st Aug. 2017.
- Detweiler, Robert, and Jasper, David. Religion and Literature: A Reader. Westminster John Knox Press, 2000. Print.
- Encyclopedia.com. Porphyria’s Lover, 2017, http://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/educational-magazines/porphyrias-lover. Accessed 01 Aug. 2017.
- Gale. A Study Guide for Emily Dickinson’s “Success is counted sweetest”. Cengage Learning, 2016. Print.
- Gale. A Study Guide for Toni Cade Bambara’s “Lesson”. Cengage Learning, 2016. Print.
- Gibert, Teresa. “Textual, Contextual and Critical Surprises in “Désirée’s Baby.” Connotations, vol. 14, no. 1-3, 2005, pp. 38-67. Print.
- Grum, Špela. “The Analysis Of Sandra Cisneros’ House On Mango Street Based On Social Criticism Of Gloria Anzaldua’s Borderlands: La Frontera.” Acta Neophilologica, vol. 73, no. 31, 2006, pp. 39-48. Print.
- Modern American Poetry. On “We Real Cool”, 1987, http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/a_f/brooks/werealcool.htm. Accessed 1st Aug. 2008.