Tuesday, September 4, 2007
I 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.)