English and ‘the right answer’
| • Why does it seem there is a ‘right way’ to do English? |
| • What happens when you have to read in the ‘right way’? |
| • What are the consequences of this for you, your teacher and examiners? |
| • Why does it happen and can it be changed? |
English teachers often say that there is ‘no right answer’. But coursework and essays are marked, authorities on literature are deferred to and exam answers revised, so it looks as if everybody secretly assumes that there really is a right answer. Why are students and teachers of English caught in this contradiction? And what are the consequences? Chapter 3 addresses this problem.
Why does it seem there is a ‘right way’ to do English?
As I suggested in Chapter 2, it used to be generally taken for granted that you could read literature in a ‘natural’ way, as if you had no presuppositions. This natural ‘right way’ would produce the ‘right answer’, an idea that is still very widespread, especially at A level and on Access courses. It seems that the new ‘theoretical’ ways of approaching literature are seen as ‘add-ons’, to be learned after you’ve mastered the first ‘natural’ method of interpretation.