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  • Contemporary LiteratureVol. 1, No. 2, October 1939
  • Henry Seidel Canby

I'm too constricted in time even to write a few paragraphs on the subject you mentioned, but here is the gist of my thoughts which may at least serve to start a discussion: I do not believe in courses in contemporary literature, for I think that the material is still too untested for satisfactory teaching, and that the very large majority of teachers are not sufficiently in the atmosphere of the writing world to interpret and discriminate in any definitive way.

On the other hand, I believe that generally speaking every course in literature not purely philological should be a course in contemporary literature. I do not see how Shakespeare, or Milton, or Wordsworth, or Thoreau can be taught without constant reference to and assimilation with contemporary feeling and thinking, which, after all, is the only feeling and thinking native to the teacher and in which he is instinctively authoritative. I don't mean, of course, anything so cheap as an attempt to illustrate everything in earlier literature by contemporary happenings. I do mean that the teaching of literature should be the teaching of a continuous tradition having an ending which is in our own times. [End Page 120]



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