Death of the reader

By Annetjie van Wynegaard

Dr Margot Beard of the English Department has recently expressed concern that there is a severe apathy amongst students when it comes to reading books. She said that there are “fewer students each year who seem to spend time with their noses in books,” although she hastened to add that there are, of course, exceptions. Dr Beard’s primary concern is for those students who simply do not seem to care for literature anymore.

Students who elect to study literature when they are in third and even second year have chosen that field, said Beard, and it is assumed that they enjoy reading and that they want to read more. Yet they still seem to spend as little time as possible on it. She spoke about how in places such as Europe there is a huge reading culture, whereas she feels that only a tiny proportion of South Africans actually read for pleasure.

Dr Beard said that she understands that students have complicated and busy lives, but she also thinks that they waste a lot of time on things like Facebook and soap operas instead of reading.

Modern Fiction and Afrikaans lecturer, Dr Godfrey Meintjes, has said that he and his colleagues are very strict regarding the reading of texts, because if students do not read these texts, the lectures would be completely incomprehensible. He went on to say that one of the reasons students do not read is because they do not have time to read. Subjects like Journalism and Drama simply do not leave enough time during the course of the week to allow students to read. Meintjes concluded by saying, “Literature departments must be very careful when they construct the curriculum. While certain canonised texts are necessary and unavoidable, students also want to see the contemporary relevance of literature”.

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