Alluring and Entertaining

I often  wonder what response I would get if I taught in the way I used to do at the beginning of my career. Because one thing teachers must learn quickly – and those who don’t will end their days behind a desk or screen bitterly disappointed –  : the communication model has to be modified again and again to be effective and have a positive feedback. Generations change and necessarily we have to change with them.  Any teacher’s repertoire, because we have one, has to be updated, refreshed, modernized in order to be appealing and above all, we always need to find new forms of expression to connect with our public. When I was a student, I was the one who had to find a way to connect with my teachers and if I did not, well, the problem was mine. Now it is just the opposite. If it was much easier to teach decades ago, I can’t say. What I know is that now we are mostly required to be entertainers, as adolescents cannot, must not be bored.

Hence, since it was time to deal with the theme of the double narrator in Wuthering Heights, I wondered how I could connect with my audience without being  boring, but catchy and  entertaining. My addiction to Netflix helped me in a way.  Recently I have noticed that the flash forward device, for example,  has become increasingly popular among series. Flash forwards are effective, if you want to create a certain suspense, which originates in the initial disorientation due to the lack of familiarity with the characters and the usual breathtaking event, of which we have only partial knowledge.  We are given just the few necessary tiles to leave us confused enough to want for more. At that point the chronological, explicative narration begins. I also noticed that if the use of such device is not well calibrated, it may often result quite annoying, as in series I loved like “How to get away with murder”  or “How I met you mother”, in fact, sometimes I found myself wishing to scream: “Enough!”

And what are the first three chapters of Wuthering Heights but one of the first experiments in using flash forwards in a narration? When the novel starts, 98% of the events have already happened. Emily Brontë chooses apparently the most unfit of narrators to introduce us to Wuthering Heights, in fact Mr Lockwood is a total stranger to the story. He has just arrived from London to go to Wuthering Heights and call on Heathcliff, the landlord whose house he has rented: Thrushcross Grange. In a way, he forces Heathcliff lo let him in, feigning to ignore his scarce sense of hospitality and due to adverse weather conditions, he is allowed to stay the night. Through the eyes of Lockwood we are introduced to the weird characters who inhabit Wuthering Heights, even those who are dead. The general  atmosphere is unfriendly and scary. That place seems to be hiding secrets everywhere. When he reads some diaries he finds in the room he has been left, we are acquainted with a certain Catherine, who will be the other central character of the novel. That very moment something seems to be tapping at the window and suddently a sequence of unexpected events follow: a scream, a ghost, Heathcliff’s tears and desperation, till dawn arrives.  

Lockwood accomplishes his task of exciting our curiosity, keeping well locked at the same time, as his name anticipates, the secrets of Wuthering Heights. To unveil all the dynamics of the story a second narrator will be needed, a witness to the entire saga, one of the few who survived, actually, as Nelly Dean, the housekeeper of Thrushcross Grange, who will answer all Lockwood’s curiosities and ours. At this point we could also say that Wuthering Heights has been structured in such a way to make the first three chapters of the novel  the catalysers of the reader‘s attention and curiosity, as a good pilot episode of a modern drama series would. It is up to the reader to say whether Wuthering Heights’s novel keeps up to the expectations aroused by the three chapter pilot episode, but certainly Emily Brontë’s craft and modernity will never be questioned. It is otherwise questionable, whether such an approach may work with my public made of bored adolescents. Well, I’ll let you know about it.


34 thoughts on “Alluring and Entertaining

  1. I was confused by Wuthering Heights as an adolescent (and that was a long time ago). I hope you find better luck with your teenage students! I think looking at cinema techniques of flashing forward and back could help make sense of it.

  2. I often wonder about ‘never be bored’ terror. Do we learn as well when bored? Do we learn more deeply?
    Distracting attention seems to help you absorb what you have just learned, but there must be the learning/teaching first. This is the way religions work with their ceremony: distract attention while the lesson/bible reading is taken in.

    I hope you never have to teach Charles Dickens. Woeful stuff.

  3. The students I have are a little older but there is still the constant challenge of keeping them engaged. This year (or rather last year) it’s been more of a challenge with online classes.

    Also, interesting observation on the use of flash forward in Wuthering Heights–hadn’t looked at it from that perspective.

  4. It is a Masterwork, when I began to it those days as a young man, I couldn’t give it out of hands. I really don’t know what the hell is going on with the youth today 😕 🤸‍♀️🌺❤

    • It is the kind of book they don’t understand any longer. The fact that the two central characters are reunited in the after life only is not acceptable for them. So the secon part becomes less interesting. That is why we teachers have to find another approach to make them like it and understand the meaning. 🙂

      • You are the teacher and I am sure you will find the right way, though the issue; life after death, that also because of love to meet each other again, had fascinated me. I think it helps the power of imagination. 😉⚘

  5. Maybe you should foreshadow their grades for the course . . . and see if they are motivated to improve them.

    As for kids and being bored . . . it’s not just kids who can’t stand the quiet of boredom; adults are just as guilty, even those who should remember a time before computers and the Internet. Heck, it’s difficult getting people to read a post if it goes for more than 500 words, let alone my marathon posts or our current challenge that (collectively) requires about 30 minutes be spared to read three stories.

    . . . I suppose it’s why Candy Crush is so popular . . .

    Note: I don’t play any games on my phone or PC or tablets (none are loaded, none are owned).

    Wait … that’s not true. There is an Unscramble game that came with out Amazon tablet that Melisa and I play. Good way to build a vocabulary that does not involve the straight reading of a dictionary.

    But, to your point, I don’t envy modern teachers because I experience similar impatience when I’m asked for help with something and the people just want the answer without any underlying explanation. Worse, if it takes more than a minute, you get the “never mind, I’ll do without” just before they go spend hours surfing for something to be enraged about.

    I can readily believe the attention span of kids can be measured in microseconds. For adults, it’s seconds, and rarely, a whole minute.

    • You should try click-bait (it works on so many people!) . . .

      “You may already have earned an ‘A’. Details in June 2021.”

      “Studies reveal the path to success and well-being. Sign up and learn the surprising details!”

      “They don’t want you to know this, but we have the scoop!”

      “Tired? Depressed? Listless? Let us teach you how to lake lists! You’ll learn about lists of years, lists of people, lists of events, and list of books! You will never be listless again!”

  6. You know (of course you don’t because I haven’t told you, yet), the closest I have come to Wuthering Heights is Kate Bush’s eerie ‘gothic melodrama’ of 1978 which was made extra memorable by David Gilmour’s (Pink Floyd) souring guitar conclusion. Thanks for the inspiration, Stefania, I will hunt down a copy of the novel and see what all the fuss is / was about. 🙂

  7. Hello! I find myself listening to Taylor Swift’s Folklore a lot (this fact is a surprise to even myself!) and just thought that some of her work would serve as an example of multiple narrators – three songs on Folklore recount a childhood event/relationship from three different perspective and points in time.
    Of course, Stephenie Meyer also changed narrator in the second Twilight book (New Moon) to great effect.
    Two examples that may be relatable for kids. I guess I’m a big kid, so they work for me too 🙂

  8. Be thankful you are not a published writer bella. I’ve been engaged in the gentle art since 1995. During which time eleven of my books of fiction have been published. While when a new book appears it gets a brief moment of attention, it soon fades from the reading publics notice. Unless they can get their hands on a free copy! Readers today simply want everything for nothing…

    • Did someone mention free copies?

      Seriously, I agree. But, it’s also the fault of writers who sometimes give away the first book in a series. And, of course, Amazon (lots and lots of free books on Amazon). All that free stuff has trained the public. I also see the same in photographs. I often hear “you should sell your photos!” but when asked if they want to buy any, the answer is “no, not to me; to other people!”

    • I agree with you, I prefer Jane Eyre. The problem with W.H. is in its lenght, as the second part is “weaker” than the first one and in a way, less intersting. While the flow of narration in J.E in a “crescendo” with a final satsfactory happy end.

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