Tuesday, September 4, 2007

death of the literary allusion

MadhatterI teach an advanced course in persuasive writing, and we are presently examining the persuasive uses of literary allusions in judicial opinions. My students have so far failed to recognize allusions to Alice in Wonderland, Oliver Twist, and Animal Farm. (They also failed to recognize allusions to Bartleby the Scrivener, Gulliver's Travels, and Sherlock Holmes, but that was less surprising to me.) In the first two cases, many said they had never read the works. Some students were a bit more resourceful and used Wikipedia to at least look up the allusions used in the opinions.

I personally would not have thought references to those three works to be obscure, but I guess I am out of touch with the cultural literacy of today's law students.

Does anyone know what high school and college students are reading these days?

(And on a side note, having just reviewed some diagnostic instruments completed by my 1Ls, does anyone know whether grammar and composition are taught in high school or college any more? If English departments are not teaching grammar, composition, or literature, what are they teaching? Okay, end of rant, but it felt good to let off that steam.)



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I teach first year legal research and writing. I explained that they were graded on all aspects of their writing, from proper citation form to grammar. I had a student confess he had terrible grammar and wanted to know if my student assistant could help, or if there were any exercises I could post for him. Either they aren't teaching grammar or the students aren't learning it. My guess is the former.

Posted by: Anonymous | Sep 4, 2007 6:44:33 AM

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