Letter: Literary heritage: where lessons in Milton could lead

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Sir: You suggest that 'the first question that arises is: why Milton?' (leading article, 12 December). I have taught Milton to A- level students and I am now involved in publishing his works for the educational market.

Nevertheless, for me the first question is: why (John) Marenbon? This is not to question the importance of what Dr Marenbon is saying or his academic credentials, but rather to wonder that you didn't find space among your comments on English literature in our schools to question the danger of allowing politically appointed individuals to prescribe specific authors for our schools. We should all know where that leads.

Such prescriptions might be more understandable (although no less dangerous) if there were evidence that English teachers were hell-bent on destroying the literary heritage you refer to. In fact, the evidence usually adduced on these occasions is that fledgling undergraduates haven't read exactly the same books as their lecturers-to-be. I find this flimsy evidence, especially when I think of all those English teachers of my acquaintance who spend their days trying to build up an active love of English literature.

I'm all for Milton, although I might argue more strongly for Homer or Isaiah if we are talking of heritage. But whoever is to be studied, let us leave it to the teachers. Surely university lecturers would expect no less freedom when designing courses for their students?

Yours faithfully,



14 December