Men only have four moods, and that is to be traumatized by classic literature. Maybe my “For You” page is too niche, but there is a TikTok audio swirling around that goes “Men only have four moods!” and then spirals into telling a classic literature story that ends with an abrupt and traumatizing ending. Here is an example of one that went viral where the short story “The Lottery” is referenced.
If you had been so lucky as to have never read “The Lottery,” the story revolves around a small town in which every year there is a lottery. In this lottery, everyone gathers around in the main plaza, and there is a drawing done for each family where they pick a slip of paper from a box. If the paper has a black dot on it, you win the lottery. This actually means you and your family draw again, and the person who gets the final black dot is stoned to death. Yeah, and that’s the end of it.
I still have trouble processing this. Many think they can get away from classic works once they get to NC State; however, one of my roommates says she is still dealing with short stories like those in her English poetry class.
To say this is the most disturbing story many read in middle/high school is simply not true when “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Most Dangerous Game” and “The Monkey’s Paw” were in our curriculum as well. A SparkNotes blog writer even detailed a list of the “most messed up short stories” that everyone had to read in school, only making me more interested in this world of classic literature that is simply disturbing. Though our English curriculums vary, there is much to be asked for as we are not receiving a very different curriculum in our undergraduate classes.
At NC State, the English department has an abundance of classes to choose from where these short stories may come to light. While there are classes like ENG 223, where one can read and digest contemporary literature, there aren’t many options like this. The majority of the classes offered are oriented around classics. Intro to Shakespeare, Literature of the Western World I and II and Old English Literature are just a few I can think of that rely on classic literature.
We do have a couple of classes on nonwestern literature that highlights the many other classics one might not have known about. However, there’s definitely room for way more nonwestern literature centered courses.
While I can appreciate the classics and how they’ve influenced modern literature, I’m honestly tired of hearing anything Shakespeare-esque. I hated reading him in high school, and I know people still hate reading him now. In this article by Standard Net, the author says that it's time that schools implemented more contemporary classics instead of pulling out “Catcher in the Rye,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Hamlet” and then some. The reason that reading classics is so dreadful for many younger readers is due to their outdated language and content, and many professors are already aware of this.
Before the English teachers come for me for the heavy criticism, I don’t think curriculums should solely teach young adult (YA) novels. While these books have a lot of appeal, they are not all the dystopian fictions that the genre has made them out to be. Harry Potter, “Divergent” and “The Hunger Games” set the tone for YA novels, but those are not the only ones out there, and we are doing a disservice to other contemporary authors by saying they are. There are works like “Room,” “The Kite Runner,” “The Hate U Give,” “Little Fires Everywhere” and many more that deserve the same recognition as Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter.”
Classics just don’t resonate with the young readers. Reading is all about experience and using your imagination to immerse yourself in the world the novel has created for you. It helps if these works use language that’s recognizable and have storylines that are the least bit modern. NC State, contemporary authors and your students will thank you if they don’t have to only read outdated literature. To all school systems — K-12, undergraduate and graduate — let some of these pieces go for once.