Tea or Books? #37: does studying books ruin them? and A View From the Bridge vs Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Arthur Miller, Edward Albee, and schooldays – we’ve got it all in episode 37 (depending on your definition of ‘all’).

Tea or Books logoIn the first half of this episode, we meander around the topic of whether or not studying a book at school ruins them for us. The topic was suggested by Karen (thanks Karen!) and it was really fun to discuss from the perspective of student and teacher. We got a bit preoccupied by Shakespeare, but that’s true of all the best of people.

Rachel and I went to see an amazing production of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Harold Pinter theatre – tickets here! – and it inspired us to compare it with Arthur Miller’s play from around the same time, A View From the Bridge.

Check out our iTunes page, listen above or via your podcast app of choice, rate and review if you so wish, and send us any suggestions you have for future episodes! Thanks for those who tweeted their responses to our school question.

The books and authors we mention in this episode are:

Idaho by Emily Ruskovich
Richard Yates
Wallace Stegner
William Maxwell
Alice Munro
Gossip From Thrush Green by Miss Read
Dorothy Whipple
Fairacres series by Miss Read
Richmal Crompton
Merry Hall by Beverley Nichols
E.F. Benson
A Case of Human Bondage by Beverley Nichols
Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham
The Three Sisters by May Sinclair
Pink Sugar by O. Douglas
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Emma by Jane Austen
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres
Hard Times by Charles Dickens
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson
The House of Sixty Fathers by Meindert DeJong
Cider With Rosie by Laurie Lee
Beloved by Toni Morrison
A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare
Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
All My Sons by Arthur Miller
Noel Coward
Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont by Elizabeth Taylor
At The Jerusalem by Paul Bailey

5 thoughts on “Tea or Books? #37: does studying books ruin them? and A View From the Bridge vs Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

  • April 20, 2017 at 2:03 am

    I TOO was made to read at least part of The Red Badge of Courage. It’s big in America because there aren’t many novels of the Civil War written by people who lived through it? So when you’re doing that period in prose, there aren’t many choices — it’s Red Badge of Courage plus slave narratives — and I suspect Stephen Crane has gotten an undeserved boost in prestige as a result. He’s nowhere near the literary quality of Frederick Douglass, in my opinion.

  • April 20, 2017 at 8:17 am

    When an advert for THE DURRELLS came on tv last week i groaned as i had to do MT FAMILY AND OTHER ANIMALS at school for CSE English.

  • April 20, 2017 at 3:11 pm

    The answer is sometimes! As I’ve said before, Cider with Rosie was ruined for me but Orwell survived – why that is I don’t know! I used to be nervous of over-analysing a book, but having started a blog I have no choice…. :)

  • April 21, 2017 at 2:54 pm

    I think a good teacher can make you like a book you might not have appreciated. I don’t think they can necessarily make you hate a book, but I think if it’s not properly taught (like Rachel’s description of students just reading aloud, which isn’t really teaching anything) then it could be a real drag.

    I would say it’s more likely that students are too young to appreciate certain books. I remember a friend in high school who as assigned Madame Bovary — what 16 year old boy can appreciate that? I never read many classics in school (I had some crap teachers) but I read it when I was about 40 and I completely understood it. I used to regret not having read many classics but now I think I’m glad, because I’ve pretty much discovered favorite authors like Edith Wharton and Anthony Trollope and loved them on their own merits. Of course I do try to read biographies and historical background to understand the context better, but I’m not stressed out by searching for metaphors.

  • April 25, 2017 at 11:51 am

    I enjoyed your discussion on the set books at school debate.

    I too used to hate the reading aloud in class routine, but I think it was to encourage those who wouldn’t read voluntarily – usually rowdy boys! – to engage with the text. I was interested to hear that you now teach in a much more interactive way, though as a very quiet, shy child, I would have withdrawn into silence when the class started shouting out words and acting like a drama group. I think Simon’s school’s idea of having a streamed set is better, so the studious types can read the text quietly and industriously and the more boisterous ones can act the drama noisily.

    My set texts were Henry V, Great Expectations and the poetry of Robert Frost, along with some WWI poetry. I loved reading all of them. I know all of them like no other play or novel or poems. To this day I remember them well – Dulce et decorum est, the St. Crispin’s Day speech, obscure characters’ names, plot twists and all. Yet I have never picked up a single one of them ever, ever again after I left school. Now is that because I know them so well that I don’t need to re-read them, or because I was so heartily done with them after revising for exams that they are no pleasure any more? I can’t even answer that myself. Maybe a bit of both.

    I once saw a production of Who’s Afraid…? and at the interval, two old ladies in front of me in the stalls looked at each other, perplexed, and one said, It’s all just been bickering so far…!


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