Although I am trying to be peaceful and positive— avoiding the crowd, steering clear of argument, making chitchat for the greater good, bicycling to save a devastated planet—I have decided to respond to an irresponsible, depressing article published at the Millennial blog, Book Riot, “When You Hate the Classics, But You’re an English Teacher.”
First, let me say I have known many splendid, well-read English teachers. And yet I have been appalled by others who have not cracked a classic since college.
The writer Lily Dunn may well be of the latter persuasion. She begins, “Hello, my name is Lily and I hate the Classics. Also, I am an English teacher.”
I know what you’re thinking.…but wouldn’t it be more hypocritical if I made my students read books I pretended to love while secretly wishing I could bring the dead author back to life just to tell him (it’s usually a him) how overrated he is?
Indeed, Dunn is an equal-opportunity enemy of the classics: she spares neither sex in her ravings. She despises Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, Melville’s Moby Dick, Mark Twain (she finds the dialect too challenging), Joyce’s Ulysses, and Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles.
One does wonder if she has finished any of these books. She writes of her loathing of Thomas Hardy, “I can’t expect a 17th century author to be all woke.” Can’t you imagine her professor writing gently in the margin, “Victorian”?
I am sure Book Riot has some talented, bright contributors who could have written a thoughtful essay about the classics.
When you click on Dunn’s bio, you will discover that she is not a high school English literature teacher, as she implies, but a literacy teacher in Hong Kong.