Until recently, I loathed American Literature. We read so much of it through middle school and high school, and it was always presented in a boring and dry manner. Vividly I recall my sophomore American Lit. class being forced to read The Crucible aloud over the the course of weeks. I preferred British and World Literature classes. Unknown and Unseen Places. Let me get lost in iambic pentameter and Austen’s countryside. I could not care less about who Tom Sawyer convinced to whitewash the fence.
This week I started literacy tutoring again. (sorry for the PTSD flashbacks, Amanda) I signed on before my semester got insane with midterm work (midterms already?!) and considered being put in-limbo status for a while. Then I got the call — one month, GED student, needs help analyzing poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and drama. I did what any sane person would do. Any sane, literature-obsessed person anyway.
We had our first session this past Thursday. We dove right into Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
Dr. G was my enthusiastic Shakespeare/British Literature professor in college. She expressed to my Shakespeare class once how she can still read Shakespeare after years of studying the Bard’s work and still find new ideas and things she hadn’t noted before. Teaching helped her with that, since every semester brought new minds to the table. While I am no Frostian, I had a moment like that while reading this poem with my student. We picked at and prodded words and phrases. We considered our own roads and discussed Big Ideas. (The theme of Choice resonates with me more now, having had to make choices.) Incredible what can change in readings. My preference remains in British/World Literature, but I welcome any opportunity to read in a new light.