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Pickle Me This

March 7, 2010

Feeding the inward eye

“I suppose that an American’s approach to English literature must always be oblique. We share a language but not a landscape. In order to understand the English classics as adults, we must build up a sort of visual vocabulary from the books we read as children. Children’s literature is, in some ways, more important to us than it is to the English child. I contend that a child brought up on nursery rhymes and Jacobs’ English Fairy Tales can be better understand Shakespeare; that a child who has pored over Beatrix Potter can better respond to Wordsworth. Of course it is best if one can find himself a bank where the wild thyme grows, or discover daffodils growing wild. Failing that, the American child must feed the “inward eye” with the images in the books he reads when young, so that he can enter a larger realm when he is older. I am sure I enjoyed the Bronte novels more for having read The Secret Garden first. As I stood on those moors, looking out over that wind-swept landscape I realized that it was Mrs. Burnett who taught me what “wuthering” meant long before I ever got around to reading Wuthering Heights. Epiphany comes at the moment of recognition.” –Joan Bodger, How the Heather Looks

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