The New York Times recently published a guide for those just entering freshman year.
Harold Bloom, noted literary critic and professor since 1955, encourages the close reading and rereading of English language’s giants: Shakespeare, Blake, Yeats, Frost, Stevens, Etc. I am currently taking Bloom’s class at Yale, The Art of Reading a Poem, and the 79 year old professor recounted the New York Times approaching him to write the piece. He lamented that he’s said it all before, literally for decades, but then he still agreed to write it. He takes literature quite seriously, as well as his mission to spread the reading of good literature. Not just any work will do. In class, Bloom slammed Harry Potter, as he has done publicly, referring to it as “garbage.”Probably every student in that class had grown up on Harry Potter and had probably attended each book’s midnight release wearing a wizard costume (or was that just me…?). I’m afraid if Bloom were to look at the average college student’s bookshelf, he would not find the names of his idols. The average college student barely has time to read for pleasure, unless you count select NYTimes headlines or Facebook newsfeed updates.
Yet Bloom’s message is important. Don’t let dry, assigned articles on economic policy or the Russian revolution ruin your love for language. Read poems, even if they’re not assigned. I promise it will be more rewarding than reading your favorite celebrity blog.