Teaching literature

Teaching Literature, a talk with Dr. Adrian Radu

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I am both a writer of fantasy and a student of English Language and Literature. I have often wondered and been asked if we have any impact in the world. Indeed, with all the technological advancements of the world, literature and fine arts have lost their honorable place in society. But today, I am there to say that literature it’s still a thing. Teaching literature? Yes, we’re just starting!

This is not to say that they have lost their relevance and beauty in any way. 

But they had to evolve differently than how smartphones do. In itself, writing is all about getting in front of a screen and typing until the target word-count is done.

Neil Gaiman once said that “This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it is done. It’s that easy, and that hard.”. 

Truthfully, I find this to be the most real statement any author can say about the process and duress that comes when writing any novel that plans to shake norms and engage the more delicate themes. Naturally, one does not learn how to write by simply reading, the reality is that one can start writing even before looking at the ‘competition’, even before understanding certain norms of genres. Personally, when I took up writing, I had only read a single author of the genre I chose to work with.

And that is J.R.R. Tolkien who remains to this day my greatest inspiration.

Thinking of both the practice of writing and teaching of literature in this age of advancement, I’ve asked one of my former mentors and friends, Dr. Adrian Radu, some questions on his views of today’s teaching practices and literature.

So, let’s start! 

Q: How do you feel about teaching literature in this age where sciences and computers have taken over fine arts?

A: Teaching literature can develop the students’ skills and capacities to access and understand those parts of the human mind that are not directly accessible through science and technology – such as one’s spirituality and capacity of thinking, associating and dissociating, arguing and demonstrating. To offer the key to open the door to the product of someone’s creativity or inventivity or power of demonstration that only literature is able to do, can only lead to the development of one’s own mind and energy of reasoning and creativity.

Therefore, teaching literature is a must even (maybe even more) in the age of science and computers.

Q: What is your opinion of literary evolution compared with technological advancement?

A: Literature has its own way of marching on, its own direction and pace that cannot be compared with technological advancement. Therefore, literary evolution is often unpredictable and comparing it with technological evolution would be similar to comparing pears with sleeping cars.

Q: At any point in your career, have you considered leaving the practice of teaching for something paid better?

A: No, never. I was given several instances to do it but abandoning the practice of teaching would mean abandoning myself.

I hope you’re as intrigued as I am.

Q: What was your reasoning for writing a PhD Thesis on D.H. Lawrence instead of another author/topic?

A: Actually, I had in mind two topics to write a doctoral thesis on, namely (in this order) Emily Dickinson and D.H. Lawrence. I felt close to their mind and literary output; in many instances I found myself immersed in their works, being thrilled at the challenge to dig their works and discover the meanders, caves and cliffs of their brains.

I felt I directly vibrated and echoed with their creation.

It is just like when you fall in love with someone, you often cannot explain why – it just does happen, the chemistry is there. My first suggestion was nicely turned down, so… it was D.H. Lawrence. But not the writer of Women in Love or The Rainbow, but the author of the mythopoeic short prose of the 1920s when illness became a menace to his own life.

 

Q: Do you feel that humanities will have a chance to be on equal importance as technology in the future?

A: O, yes, by all means.

You can use computers, but you also have to spiritually eat and breathe. Because that’s what literature actually is.

Q: If you had the ability to make a change in the educational system of our country, what would that be? How do you believe it would affect the current standard of humanities in Romania?

A: I would encourage everyone’s creativity and expressivity, thinking outside the box, developing one’s own skills and offering, in this respect, open roads and less fences and less dogmatic and scholastic instructions and rules. Maybe this would make many students capable to speak their mind, emit an opinion or simply answer why they like or don’t like something.

Dr. Radu is, to me and many other students of his, one of the best examples of a diligent and passionate professor of literature.

Someone who somehow always found a way to bring one of the novels he taught to us into our hearts. Of course each one of us had a preference which he always encouraged and supported us in the many projects we chose to undertake. Even though he was not my thesis supervisor, he aided me with many ideas and suggestions throughout the writing of my own works and conference papers.

And I can say I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to work with such an amazing professor. He didn’t only taught me more than I expected to (inside and outside the halls of the university)

but also gave me the willpower and the ambition to persevere in my goals, both future and current.


Autor: Tudor Rusu

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