Do some real reading

October 28, 2005

Frank Furedi's column "Give them a little textual pleasure" was instructive and beautifully symptomatic (October 21).

When I was an undergraduate in the 1980s, you read proper books. One read theJcomplete works of this classical tragedian, the complete works of that comic dramatist, the complete works of this naturalist novelist. Then you went away and read about them. And since I was on a special honours French course, I did it all in French.

Nowadays - and I speak as an ex-pro with 13 years' university teaching behind me - you read a bitesize bit of this third-rate writer (in translation) and a paragraph or two of that fourth-rate writer. Woe betide any lecturer who dares intimidate a student by suggesting canonical French novels be read in the original.

So, we live in a throwaway, visual culture; but as the last bastions of intellectual endeavour and development we must incite students to read a lot about a lot, and read proper books that teach one about human experience. Anything less is short-changing themJ(literally from 2006), as their literacy skills will be no more sophisticated than a GCSE school-leaver's and their world-view as naive as that of a babe in arms.

Why not go the whole hog and teach French in translation? Simply speak English, and pretend it's French. At least you'll have an honours degree in the art of faking it.

Paul Andrew Tipper Kingston upon Hull

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