As we get into chapter four of J. M. Coetzee's Disgrace, we see so many of Lurie's delusions begin to crumble around him. As we see throughout the novel, Lurie's narrow mindset is not limited to his more obvious failings. As he is lecturing on the poet Byron, we read that:
He has long ceased to be surprised at the range of ignorance of his students. Post-Christian, posthistorical, postliterate, they might as well have been hatched from eggs yesterday.” ~J M Coetzee. “Disgrace.”
Obviously, there is a lot going on in the novel at this point. Coetzee's protagonist has many, many failings that set him apart from the average person. However, I find the attitude Lurie expresses regarding "post-everything" more common than not. So many in education, particularly in literature, have in their minds a "canon" of books that ought to have been read in order to qualify one as educated. They all seem to lament the "post-canonical" world we live in.
Admittedly, what that canon looks like changes, depending on with whom you speak. Yet, the responses all feel the same: "you haven't read that? Oh, you really ought to have." In the end, students end up feeling not only like they have failed in educating themselves, but that their own particular literary traditions or interests are somehow... subpar and abnormal.
There must be a better way to encourage others to read works of literature that we feel have "literary merit" (the AP's beloved phrase) and yet remain not simply open to non-canonical works but hospitable to them.