Opinion | Going by centuries in writing is a bad metric

Arbitrarily studying centuries in literary classes rather than artistic movements as a whole is unnecessary and frankly, shouldn’t exist in the 21st century.

Signe Nettum, Opinions Columnist

I have been an avid reader throughout my life. I am proud to say that I checked out the most books at my high school two years in a row. Sadly, though, I have been too busy with homework and extracurriculars to read outside of what is necessary for class since coming to college.

As an English and creative-writing major, I must complete nine reading classes, which must include either a century focus, or an area focus. I am almost done with all of them and I have noticed a pattern with some of the classes. Within the century classes, we have to cover different writing styles that can be found in other centuries or areas, so – in the end – the information covered is repetitive, just in another time.

I believe the English major requirements should change. Instead of having students learn by century and having us cover different styles of writing within the century, we should go by the literary movements themselves and be able to draw similarities between the centuries.

Writers should gain skills from these literary movements, instead of learning about them in one time frame. If we try to cover too many movements in one time frame, we never go in depth into any of them.

While some literary movements are between centuries – such as Romanticism, which lasted between 1798 to 1832 – they still have an influence on authors and pieces throughout time. There are four major literary movements, Romanticism, Realism, Naturalism, and Modernism (and a fifth, known as Postmodernism, that started roughly around 1980).

Take Postmodernism for example. The era of it has just started, yet there have been stories dating as far back as 1605 in Don Quixote and throughout the centuries with pieces in 1760 and 1957. For a movement that has just started, there have been authors across centuries who have written pieces that contain themes and techniques that are mirrored today.

Even with this shift in requirement for students, professors would still have a chance to explore a theme in depth and focus on a century, if they so choose. There are already many classes that focus on a particular movement or author within a century, such as Shakespeare or Emily Bronte.

With learning by movements instead of centuries for a semester, students can gain skills and learn the different ways to use them within writing. If they only learn the bare minimum, or a crash course of the various types of writing used within a century, many parts get lost within the shuffle of different pieces of literature.

As a final note on this subject, I will leave you with some of my favorite professors who are teaching classes around movements rather than centuries for next semester. Professor Brooks Landon is teaching a Postmodern literature class focused around Disasters, such as The Leftovers and Zone One. Philip Round is teaching nature writing geared before 1900. Marie Kruger is teaching a class about love, war, and activism centered around women.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.