ERIC Number: ED333435
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1990
Reference Count: N/A
The Difficulty of Difficulty. Report Series 4.2.
The notion of literature's difficulty must have begun with its first interpreter. Biblical readings sometimes allegorized scripture into moral precept, while occult readings (i.e., Gnostic writings) often carried an implication that such texts are either for an elite readership or represent the essence of a tradition of spiritual truth under threat of extinction by modern materialism and science. The difficulty of difficulty is not that it is difficult, but that people do not face difficulty soon enough. Two problems arise as a result. First, the opportunity to take advantage of the fascination of difficulty itself is lost, and second, to put off difficulty is to increase difficulty in the same way that the difficulty of learning a foreign language is increased immeasurably when delayed past the earliest grades. In reading, it is beneficial to offer students a puzzle, and engage them in the dialectic of convention and variation or revolt. Extreme texts, not at the periphery but in the center, and therefore strange, are actually quite useful for this endeavor. Students need to come to understand that to read a text is never a terminal event like the placement of the last jigsaw piece. To learn this and be able to live with it and be satisfied with it is itself a solution. With literature, the process of reading is more important than the destination. (Thirty-five references are included.) (PRA)
Descriptors: Difficulty Level, English Curriculum, Higher Education, Literary Criticism, Literature, Reading Comprehension, Reading Materials, Reading Processes, Student Needs
Literature Center, University at Albany Ed B-9, 1400 Washington Ave., Albany, NY 12222 ($3.00 prepaid; checks payable to the Research Foundation of State University of New York).
Publication Type: Opinion Papers; Information Analyses
Education Level: N/A
Sponsor: National Endowment for the Arts, Washington, DC.; Office of Educational Research and Improvement (ED), Washington, DC.
Authoring Institution: Center for the Learning and Teaching of Literature, Albany, NY.