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REQUISITES FOR THE STUDY OF ENGLISH LITERATURE.—To teach one English literature is to acquaint him with the writings which constitute it. It is to put him in the way of getting at the characteristics of those who in a memorable degree have contributed to it; and to lead him along this way until the traits peculiar to each are distinctly seen by him, and in some measure of intimacy the desired acquaintance with them is reached. To such a study it is evident that the student should come prepared ; he should bring to it respectable attainments, and a respectable discipline acquired in making these attainments. What rhetoric can teach him of thought and its invention, of words and the handling of them, of sentences in their myriad variety, of the cardinal qualities of style, of the great classes of literary productions, and all that this instruction can do in developing his power to discriminate and to classify he should bring to this work. Some knowledge of what goes to the making of literature and so of what he is to seek in it, some standard of excellence by which to judge the writings he is to study, and a faculty to compare, to estimate, and to decide are desirable, may we not say needful, at the outset.
THE TEXT-BOOK.—The text-book can only aid the pupil in this work—it will be something if it aids without hindering him in it. Instead of coming in between the pupil and the author to keep them apart with matter of its own, it should come only to introduce the one to the other, and to put the one on the best possible footing with the other. It has no right to substitute, for what the author has written, something which another has said about his writings, and call the study of this the study of English literature. It has no right to tax the memory of the pupil in the learning of this, and omit calling his judgment into vigorous exercise by a careful study of the authors themselves. a
The text-book may map out literature by dividing it into the periods into which it naturally falls; some account of the great events which have helped to shape the literature of each period it may give; the continuity of the literary stream through all these changes in its channel may be traced ; the influence of his surroundings upon an author and his reaction upon them may be indicated; the productions of each writer should be named ; a more ample description of this and that great representative of his period may be given ; and even a critical estimate of some works may be made that the pupil through the glasses thus furnished may see what his unaided vision could not detect : but all this, be it remembered, the book should offer the pupil, not as the end of his study, but only as a means to place him in a better attitude for forming his own opinions, and to enable him to judge more accurately because of the light thus added. Let this also be remembered—that what the author of the text-book or the critics whom he quotes may say of these writings is not to be received and retailed without question, but is to be passed upon by the pupil himself, and ratified or amended according to his findings in the extracts given or the works referred to for study in the preparation of his lesson, and for reading in the class
Only by making the pupils witnesses to give the evidence, advocates to arrange and present it, and the jury to weigh it and decide upon it, will the study be made interesting
and profitable in the highest degree. Only thus can a cultivated taste and a sound judgment be formed to guide pupils in their after-reading, and a key be placed in their hands to unlock the treasures of literature—the study of which will be to most of them the best, perhaps the only, means with which to continue the life-long work of education.
HOW THIS WORK IS TO BE STUDIED.—We wish here to point out more in detail how this work should be studied—to younger teachers the experience of an elder may be useful. The questions below are framed for all except the eight historical Lessons, which introduce the periods of our literature. Some of these questions may seem trifling, others may be too difficult. The teacher will take into account the age of his class, and the rank of the author under discussion. He will take counsel from his experience and from his use of methods—David could not fight in the armor of another. Remembering that he cannot shift from himself the responsibility for his work, he will use his best discretion in conducting it. But if the line here traced is followed, we ask that these questions shall not be put in detail. They are grouped under headings, such as classification and diction. Let each pupil take the heading assigned him, and answer the questions under it without interrogation from the teacher or interruption from any one.
The recitation is his work and his only. The direction of the whole, correction of what is amiss, and expansion of what is only suggested will give the teacher all needed occupation. If any heading is too comprehensive for a single pupil, he may share it with another, with others. tions under classification relate to the text; those under the heads which follow relate to the author's writings. Insist that the pupil, in answering these, shall put his finger upon the words or passages from which he claims to derive his opinion. His answers, when he has ended, will provoke question and objection, and furnish matter for profitable debate.
I. CLASSIFICATION.-In what period is the writer placed? What great
men are representative of it, and what is their exact date? Who were his contemporaries? To what class* of prose writers or of poets does he belong? What are his works? What is said of him? Of them? Have his productions become classic?
II. DICTION.- As a whole, are his words long or short? Simple or abstruse? Native in origin or foreign? Does he use words with precision, or is he careless of their exact meanings? Does he handle them with ease? Has he a copious vocabulary? Judged by our standard, is he always grammatically correct?
III. SENTENCES.-Does he affect long sentences or short? Are they diffuse or epigrammatic? Are they sonorous, or are they written with slight regard to the ear? Are they mainly simple? Compound? Complex? Are his complex sentences involved and intricate, or is the connection of clauses obvious ? In the arrangement of parts, does he incline to the natural order or to the transposed? Are any of his sentences climaxes, the parts growing in importance as the sentence proceeds? Are any periods, keeping the meaning in suspense till the close? Are any loose sentences, containing each at least one point before the end at which the sense is complete, the part following not making complete sense? Does he abound in parentheses? Is le happy in grouping his sentences into paragraphs?
IV. STYLE. 1. PERSPICUITY. -- Is the author always clear? If so, to what is his perspicuity owing? If not, is his obscurity due to imperfect mastery of his subject? To an inexact use of words? To the use of strange words—technical, obsolete, foreign, or newly-coined? To excess of words—tautology or verbosity? To the omission of needed words? To expression too condensed? To a careless use of personal pronouns? To a faulty arrangement of words, phrases, or clauses? To an overloading of the sentence that destroys unity?
2. IMAGERY.—Does he use imagery? Does he use an excess of it? Is his imagery helpful to the thought? Are any of his fig?ires of speech used only for ornament? What class of figures does he prefer? Do his figures contain allusions? From what sources are his figures drawn? Are any faulty ?
3. ENERGY.—Is the writer distinguished for strength? If so, is it due to vigor of thought? To strong feeling? To the use of specific words? To conciseness of expression? To the transposed order of arrangement? To rapidity of movement? To striking imagery? To idiomatic expression? To apt quotations? To the use of the climax? To the use of
* For explanation of this and of other puints in this Lesson, see Kell