World Literature and the Youth of Today

I’ve been on my world lit soapbox since… probably my Junior year of high school. I see such great importance in it as a discipline and as a voice for humanity. We just read Alexander Solzhenitsyn‘s “One Great Heart” speech, a speech he did not get to present for his Nobel Prize acceptance as he was banned from Sweden. It is THE speech that promotes my field. It is THE speech that proves that World Literature, when used appropriately, can promote cultures while assimilating them as well. It’s beautiful, really. It’s the summation of what we’ve been doing all year long.

It’s the last thing we will be doing in this class before prepping for the final. It is supposed to wrap up just why we do what we do in this class, why I have pounded on the desk and thrown my pen across the room. Literacy makes us who we are. It expresses and influences; it reflects and it exposes. It’s important!

Second hour, in their normal form, sat like lumps on a log as we meandered through the speech. They won’t verbally answer questions so I make them answer them in their notes. And to that I will say: they are brilliant writers. But they’re missing so much. By keeping silent, they miss a lot of what this class has to offer.

Third hour, on the other hand, in a class period with 10 extra minutes, we used every single one of them to talk about the speech. We finished up Camus‘ “The Myth of Sisyphus” yesterday with the most enthusiasm I’ve ever seen. As we were discussing the nuggets of wisdom Camus throws out about life and living it in the happy and absurd times, they said things like “Holy crap, this is throwing bombs in my mind.” “This is deep.” Or my favorite, “This is the most fun I’ve ever had. This is good stuff.” They even became their own philosophisers as they transferred Camus’ lofty language into language they could understand. And as we entered deeper waters of philosophy toward the end, a student warned, “Whoa whoa whoa Ms K… we’re going too deep.” To which I replied, “Next year for my Sophomores, I’ll be sure and bring Philosophical Floaties so we don’t get too deep too quickly.”

Today, 3rd hour came prepared with their floaties. And I couldn’t have been more proud. As we discussed the importance of literature, we found some more nuggets of wisdom and we pounded out the truths we read on our desks. At the end of class one girl approached me, “Ms K, I didn’t even need my floaties. It wasn’t as deep. But I get it. I get why world lit is such a big deal.”

I could have cried. I could have shouted for joy. I could have stood on hilltops and made her my mascot but… I just smiled in silent acknowledgement of the truth.

With all the things that happen in this world, the sneaky government, the child warriors, the genocide, the racism, the pain, the hurt, the self-inflicted wounds… Truth sticks out. I have called my students to have standards and to influence others with their standards; to stand up for the truth and to let the truth set them free. My prayer today for my students, as well as my government, is that truth will be revealed as only God can reveal it. I pray that those with voices will promote the truth. I pray that the truth will set us free.

It may be idealistic, it may even be a feat bigger than mountains… but I personally know a mountain mover.



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