Excerpt from The Teaching of English Classics in the Grammar Grades: Suggestions for Study, Questions, and Subjects for Written Exercises on Standard Literature
A piece of literature worthy to be studied in school, all the classics contained in the Riverside Literature Series... , every such piece of literature is a work of art, of fine art. It represents an idea, one fundamental idea, just as a painting, a sculpture, an oratorio stands for one idea. This idea is the motif of the piece. TO find what this motif is, is the primary purpose Of reading any piece Of literature. Sometimes this purpose is stated in terms at the outset, as in the opening lines of Evangeline; sometimes it is not discovered until the piece is partially or entirely read, as in the Christmas Carol. The kind Of motif is very varied. In Enoch Arden it is the noblest emotion of the soul, self denial; in Rip Van Winkle, it is the embodiment of an interesting story in the wonder-book, it is the reproduction Of some ancient legends; in snow-bound, the apotheosis of home life; but always there is the theme which must be discovered before the piece Of literature can be under stood Or taught.
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