Thursday, October 19, 2006

Unteachable Books?

Yesterday's exchanges with Laura about the Female Quixote made me think about the reasons for the FQ's current popularity as a teaching-text, compared with the other novels of Lennox, which have a much lower profile. There are sometimes good reasons for these kinds of disciminations, but sometimes not: I sometimes wonder why, besides length, Burney's Evelina seems to be taught more often at the undergrad level than a novel like Cecilia, which for my money is a more interesting and mature work. And I doubt that Tristram Shandy is taught much at all in undergrad classes nowadays, for a variety of reasons.

But I don't think Laura would mind (would you Laura?) if I resumed a discussion we had a few ASECS ago about Smollett's Peregrine Pickle. I remember telling Laura about how fascinating the Cadwallader Crabtree episodes were, but how hopeless it would be in any novel course. It's a peculiarly unattractive, lengthy, episodic, violent and unstructured novel, even by Smollett's low standards, though it does have its funny bits. And, indeed, I have happily written about Peregrine, without any expectation that I could use it in a course I could envision teaching.

So, let's hear about your unteachable books. Do you have books that you'd study but never teach? Did you ever discover that one of your lifetime faves was a surprisingly hard sell to your stonefaced students?

Best,

DM