Nothing Funny About the English Curriculum

Mikaela, Contributor

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“Are we gonna read something that isn’t depressing this year?”

That’s the question that I’ve been annoying Mr. Gal and the rest of my English class with. Unfortunately for me, the answer to that question is no. For AP Lit, almost everything we’re reading falls under the tragedy genre. From Heart of Darkness to Hamlet, this is the year of violence, death, and depressing endings. As someone who’s more of a comedy fan, this year’s reading list felt like my own personal tragedy. Each depressing story after story has me wondering, “Why are we only reading tragic books? Are we ever going to read something a little light hearted?”

Now, I don’t want to be perceived as some “snowflake” who can’t handle reading depressing things. I know life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, and I realize you need to be aware of the harsh realities of the real world. I think literature is a great way to expose yourself to these challenging topics. For example, reading stories that openly address racism, sexism, xenophobia, or imperialism forces us to examine difficult situations and see things from different perspectives that we might not have come across in our daily lives. Over the past four years, I’ve felt that my English classes have done a great job exposing me to these difficult topics and teaching me to think critically from them.

With that being said, I feel like the English Department relies heavily on depressing, tragic, and dramatic stories to convey these difficult topics to students. While I still believe that we should be exposed to challenging ideas and themes, I don’t think it always has to be done through the traditional dramatic novel or tragic play format. I think it would be a welcome change to include more comedic literature in the curriculum. While comedy is addressed in Sophomore English via humorous essays, it would be nice to see a wider range of comedic content across the grade levels. Adding more comedic works to the curriculum will still teach students the same literary concepts, like narrative structure or tone, that they would have learned from a more traditional dramatic novel. For students like me, who aren’t big fans of tragedy, adding more comedic works would be a refreshing change to English class and would bring back a sense of excitement about what we’re reading.

Looking to the future, it would be in the English Department’s best interest to keep diversifying their curricular content. So far, their implementation of the upperclassmen Selective classes has done a wonderful job in providing students with options regarding what they want to read. When the time comes to switch the selective offerings and make curriculum changes, it would be great to see the English Department include more comedic works, whether that’s through a comedy focused Selective class or by including satirical novels, Shakespearean comedies, or modern platforms like The Onion in the traditional curriculum.

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