photo: Clay Banks / Unsplash
Thousands of words fly over our eyes every day. Starting with the social media that most of us start our day with through the captions on TV screens, street ads, newspapers and magazines, and somewhere at the end of this spiral of everyday life - to books. Although the generalizations about the uncultural nature of modern society are far too extreme, we are not so far from the truth when our delusional thought intuitively takes us to the paradoxes of modernity. They are linked to the increasing pragmatization in life and the proportionately increasing need to quench the spiritual thirst, which, however, is tempted by light-hearted bestsellers, romantic comedies, comic books for superheroes and books for motivation.
Reading, like any intellectual activity, is brought up. That is why the works that are included in the curriculum make a great contribution to the development of literary taste. If anything, depending on them, we at least form an opinion on which authors we do not like and become able to rank the Western European cultural epochs through the scarcity of boredom. But joking aside, the compulsory works that are taught in Bulgarian language classes and literature in high school are not numerous, because this is what the education system requires. However, many Bulgarian classics fall into it and manage to find their way to skeptical teens. The issue of foreign literature is different.
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Works by foreign authors are studied in the first high school classes, the preparation begins with representatives of Antiquity. Homer, Sappho and Sophocles are followed by Konstantin Preslavsky and Chernorizets Hrabar, and in order to complete the cultural melange in the heads of eighth-graders, Bocacho, Cervantes and Shakespeare come. In the ninth grade, adolescents come to a sluggish confrontation with the modernism presented by the 2-3 poems to make a sharp turn to the fringes of the 18 century and the figure of Paisii Hilendarski.
The tenth grade summarizes what has been learned so far, sealing well the confusion of the different interpretative approaches, presupposed by nothing but the totally different cultural and historical codes to which the texts belong. This high school class is distinguished by an assortment of Bulgarian medieval and Renaissance authors in the company of classics from the Renaissance, Enlightenment and Romanticism, ending with the pen of the realists. From then on, the students are introduced only to representatives of Bulgarian literature whose works make up the literary component of the state matriculation examination.
Putting aside the problem of jumping from a cultural period to a completely different age and mentality, it seems that the works studied are exemplars of the classics in every sense. Samples to such an extent that it is quite possible that they will not touch the student in any way, even when he has made an effort to touch them. The high school forms sustainable interests, values, tastes that later develop. Usually then begins the long and often painful process of finding the right professional field, accompanied by no less painful events around maturation.
A period of many dramatic ups and downs, which is undoubtedly much easier with the help of several good books. But "nice" is a stressed relative term. In this case, it links not so much to the works that have withstood the trials of time, but rather to books that relate to growth and experience, to the search for existential meaning, to the search for individuality, no matter how old the story they carry .
American culture almost always stirs spirits when it comes to integrating it into the Bulgarian school. However, no book speaks better to a teenager than "The Savior in the Rye," a novel that has accompanied the long nights of several generations growing up across the globe. Another novel, representing modern American classics, which, along with The Savior in the Rye, is studied in English and American schools, is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Common to both novels is the perspective from which the story is led - through the thoughts and words of the child becoming an adult.
That is why both novels engage the reader in serious moral and philosophical fields of thinking imperceptibly and lightly, without didacticism and disloyalty. And what better than to fall into the hands of their "peer" then? The study of authors such as Hemingway and Steinbeck has become somewhat of an international tradition. A popular must-read is the novels "1984," "451 degrees Fahrenheit," "On the Road," "The Lord of the Flies." The books written by our contemporaries are unlikely to enter the Bulgarian curriculum any time soon. However, in some Western high school programs, titles such as "The Benefits of Being an Outsider" by Stephen Chboski and "About a boy" by Nick Hornby can be found.
American classic literature certainly differs from European literature even for the unsuspecting reader's eye by its atypical genre and style characteristics. Nevertheless, the identity of its highest registers is revealed in the Russian classic novel of the 19 century. Russian classics are absent in Bulgarian language and literature classes, but are represented by Gogol's "Shinel" and Pushkin's "Eugene Onegin". Products that are not neglected but appear to be included in the curriculum mainly because of their small volume.
It should be noted that "Crime and Punishment" is taught in some profiled classes, but "War and Peace" has not been featured in high school textbooks for a long time. Dostoevsky and Tolstoy are not names that sound like potential conquerors of teenage hearts, but even a brief acquaintance with their writing style and creative concepts would contribute to an enrichment of literary culture, something that is often missed .
It is interesting to note that in France, high school students read Camus and Beauvoir, French national treasures, but also rebels who did not conform to the testamentary parameters of thinking. Kurt Vonnegg's "5 Slaughterhouse" and Kafka's "Metamorphosis" stand out among the studied literature in German high schools. This suggests that the selection of literature in these countries is not implied by the possibility of its inclusion in cultural and historical frameworks. Furthermore, there is no element of challenge to the student and his curiosity, which in the context of Bulgarian education can only be useful.
While in France, the students are dealing with Morso's apathy, who bury their mother, indifferent to what is happening, and in Ireland struggling with Joyce's eccentricity, parents recently in Bulgaria are opposed to studying Decameron in eighth grade. According to them, the "spicy scenes" in the work would have a "demoralizing effect" on adolescents. This subscription to one of the founders of Renaissance thinking provokes condescending smiles, but beyond disdainful ridicule we continue to be hostile. We distinguish the contours of true cynicism in this case - the danger of censorship of art, equivalent to the censorship of free thought.
Recently, the subject of the studied works in the Bulgarian language and literature classes has become the subject of attention on another occasion - the teacher gave the task of his students to compare the image of Gergana from the "Belonogata Spring" with Gerry-Nicol. Although there is nothing wrong with finding pedagogical strategies that function effectively to absorb the learning material, it is likely that students' interest can be gained in a "fair" way. As the list of required literature, at least in the first grades of high school education, is enriched in order to be closer to its audience.
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