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Sakurastressvall
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I have an interview to get onto a teaching placement degree on Thursday. As part of the interview I have to pitch a book that isn’t currently on the British curriculum and explain why I think it should be. I’ve opted to go for A-level students (16-18 year olds), and am seriously considering talking about Nabokov’s Lolita. Is this too much of a risky move? I was thinking of pitching it in a way to talk about cruelty, the prevalence of sexual assault in the modern world, his writing and how amazing it is, including the psychological element of his writing, as well as censorship etc. I believe in taking risks and not staying completely safe, but perhaps this is too much? At the same time, I really love the book and feel I can convey it to the interviewers But again, do you think this is too much of a risk at an interview?
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honeymoons
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Omg my favourite book ever I LOVE Lolita! I discovered it when I was 16 and I am 18 now. I think you should go for it and talk about how amazing it is and all the messages behind the story. Although it is considered really explicit and taboo it still has to be addressed even though people don’t like talking about the topic because of it being too ‘weird’. Research if it has been proposed before and the reasons why it wasn’t taken on and counteract those answers. There are so many reasons why board leaders might think it is inappropriate for a teacher to teach it to a student because that would resonate with the story in a way but you could give it a shot! I’m rooting for you! x
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ANM775
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(Original post by Sakurastressvall)
I have an interview to get onto a teaching placement degree on Thursday. As part of the interview I have to pitch a book that isn’t currently on the British curriculum and explain why I think it should be. I’ve opted to go for A-level students (16-18 year olds), and am seriously considering talking about Nabokov’s Lolita. Is this too much of a risky move? I was thinking of pitching it in a way to talk about cruelty, the prevalence of sexual assault in the modern world, his writing and how amazing it is, including the psychological element of his writing, as well as censorship etc. I believe in taking risks and not staying completely safe, but perhaps this is too much? At the same time, I really love the book and feel I can convey it to the interviewers But again, do you think this is too much of a risk at an interview?
If you're a male FORGET IT!!
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artful_lounger
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The question your choice begs is, why this book, compared to any other of numerous alternatives which are not currently taught, but which deal with issues of sexual assault per your example. There are a lot of options which don't involve a teacher grooming and sexually assaulting his student, so it seems at best somewhat tone deaf to choose that over the many alternatives. This is especially true when several of the alternatives involve characters and authors from backgrounds which haven't usually been represented in the "literary canon", which provide the opportunity to both provide a more relatable set of characters for some of your students and challenge the preconceptions and assumptions of others.

One such example would be The Colour Purple - a powerful book contending with incestuous rape, and grappling with the racism of the American deep south, and sexuality and feminist identity among black women (and how this is different from a white woman's feminist identity). It also has a number of features of literary interest, such as the epistolary form and the development of the narrative with the character that is narrating it. Maya Angelou's "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" deals with similar issues, albeit in a very different form of writing. It also has a history of being censored. Tennessee William's "A Streetcar Named Desire" likewise deals with the issue of rape, and the trauma that comes from it (and as a play has issues of staging that can be considered, and a very well known film production which could be used).

Perhaps teachers and those in the profession may have a different perspective (04MR17 might want to weigh in?), but as a student that studied lit throughout school (up through IB HL), I would consider Lolita the least subversive and for that matter interesting, from a pedagogical perspective, compared to the others I named (as a starting point). It's just "shocking" in a way which makes people who already may feel uncomfortable about the topics under consideration (e.g. those with lived experience of that) more uncomfortable, without really challenging any preconceptions of those who are in positions where the issues don't affect them. It also seems like a significant gamble for an interview where you're trying to sell yourself to an employer, given the above are safer from the employer's perspective while still interesting from a teaching and learning perspective.
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Sakurastressvall
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(Original post by ANM775)
If you're a male FORGET IT!!
I’m male, but also gay. The thing is we have to talk about a book we’re able to show interest through, and few can deny Nabokov’s writing talent.
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Ciel.
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(Original post by Sakurastressvall)
I have an interview to get onto a teaching placement degree on Thursday. As part of the interview I have to pitch a book that isn’t currently on the British curriculum and explain why I think it should be. I’ve opted to go for A-level students (16-18 year olds), and am seriously considering talking about Nabokov’s Lolita. Is this too much of a risky move? I was thinking of pitching it in a way to talk about cruelty, the prevalence of sexual assault in the modern world, his writing and how amazing it is, including the psychological element of his writing, as well as censorship etc. I believe in taking risks and not staying completely safe, but perhaps this is too much? At the same time, I really love the book and feel I can convey it to the interviewers But again, do you think this is too much of a risk at an interview?
please don't. how can anyone enjoy reading a book about pedophilia?
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Sakurastressvall
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(Original post by Ciel.)
please don't. how can anyone enjoy reading a book about pedophilia?
Shows how much you actually know about the book. Maybe if you actually read it you’ll see why many would class it as a must read.
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Ciel.
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(Original post by Sakurastressvall)
Shows how much you actually know about the book.
lolita is like 12 at the start of the book.
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Sakurastressvall
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(Original post by Ciel.)
lolita is like 12 at the start of the book.
May I ask have you actually read the book?
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04MR17
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Okay, so first of all a disclaimer: I don't know the text very well.

My sense is that the task has been given with a view to seeing how you justify your choice (and as a consequence, how motivated you are for your students to leave - because that's half the battle in a compulsory subject like English). The task isn't so much about being judged for your choice of text.

It is a risk, and I'm not very sure whether or not it would pay off. If you choose to go with expect to deal with interview questions about how appropriate that choice was. Something you need to also bear in mind is that if one of your students has suffered from similar things then this would be completely inappropriate and triggering to be delivering to them, and so you're changing the texts you select based on the composition of your cohort. This triggering aspect is going to be something you're either going to have to find a way to argue around, or give up now and find another text.


If it were me, I wouldn't take the risk. That's the short answer I suppose. But the main takeaway for me would be that the choice of book shouldn't be the important thing.
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Ciel.
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(Original post by Sakurastressvall)
May I ask have you actually read the book?
no, but i've watched (part of) the movie. humbert is an abusive pedo.
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Sakurastressvall
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(Original post by Ciel.)
no, but i watched (part of) the movie. humbert is an abusive pedo.
So you’re judging something on a film. A film that quite frankly is terrible to say the least. Yes, the book is about that theme. But the book is so much more. It’s a psychological adventure that words can’t explain. You cannot judge something you know nothing about here. Read the book, and then I’ll respect your opinion here.
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Ciel.
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(Original post by Sakurastressvall)
So you’re judging something on a film. A film that quite frankly is terrible to say the least. Yes, the book is about that theme. But the book is so much more. It’s a psychological adventure that words can’t explain. You cannot judge something you know nothing about here. Read the book, and then I’ll respect your opinion here.
a psychological journey from a pedo's point of view. i get that you like nabokov writing style. but i don't think you realise how sensitive the topic of sexual abuse is. if your interviewer has ever experienced it, you can kiss goodbye to your placement, believe me.
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04MR17
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Guys, I think we've established that you may not agree here. I'm not sure anything more said on the fact that the book covers a contentious topic is going to be beneficial for anyone now.
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Sakurastressvall
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(Original post by Ciel.)
a psychological journey from a pedo's point of view. i get that you like nabokov writing style. but i don't think you realise how sensitive the topic of sexual abuse is. if your interviewer has ever experienced it, you can kiss goodbye to your placement, believe me.
I think that’s a rather bold assumption to make, particularly as my interviewers are English degree holders themselves so they know better than to look merely on what society thinks of the book. I’m not saying I’m going to do the book, hence why I’m asking here. I’ve had English teachers tell me that it would be a great idea if pitcher correctly. And by pitching correctly, I’m not going to dwell on the dark aspects of the book. Merely, looking at censorship, how we handle taboo matters, and Nabokov’s use of language.

I just hate how people get so worked up over this book. I mean, plenty of people read Hitlers biography, but does that make them evil? Does that make them want to reenergise the motives of the Second World War?
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StriderHort
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I wouldn't do that at an interview, but I'm uncultured I suppose.
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KittyN
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I found Lolita interesting and would like to have studied it at school. I can definitely see arguments for including it in the curriculum.

However, when I was in sixth form I was a student representative on an interview panel for a teaching job. And all the candidates were asked a couple of safeguarding questions ("what would you do if a child told you X?" / "you saw Y between a colleague and a student?"). Knowing that safeguarding is in the back of your interviewers' minds, Lolita seems like a rather risky choice. Especially if you're going to be a (male) teacher of teenage (girls).

If you do argue for it, definitely be ready to answer questions about what you'd do if a student made a related disclosure or objected to reading the book.

Personally, I wouldn't take that risk in interview. There must be other books you like that also have some level of controversy. But obviously it's up to you.
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04MR17
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If we could refrain from being rude to other TSR users, that would be appreciated.:yy:
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ANM775
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(Original post by Sakurastressvall)
I’m male, but also gay. The thing is we have to talk about a book we’re able to show interest through, and few can deny Nabokov’s writing talent.

the consensus seems to be that it is inappropriate/risky.

you came here asking for advice/opinions, and you got it.
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SarcAndSpark
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I actually think this would be a really bad idea- it's nothing to do with the quality of the text or whether it's a good book or not. This is an interview which isn't far removed from a job interview- if your goal is to get in, I'd go for a safer choice.

Firstly, I'd go for a KS3/4 choice. That's where the bulk of your teaching (especially during the PGCE) is likely to be. IMO, your interview would be stronger if you could talk about a book that might engage more reluctant readers, rather than talking about something that would engage sixth formers. Putting it nicely, engaging sixth formers is easy- engaging bottom set Year 9 on a Friday afternoon is where the real challenge is. What sort of book might appeal to them and also teach them something about language? Show that you understand the challenges of the job!

Secondly, to some interviewers, I do think talking about Lolita would show a lack of judgement. Not everyone has the same opinion on the book, and in general it's best to avoid really polarizing subject matter in interview. Your interviewers might be fine with it, but why take that risk.

Thirdly, grooming is a hot safeguarding topic at the moment. If you brought up a book that arguably glamorizes grooming, you're more likely to face difficult questions from the interviewers.

If you do decide to go ahead with talking about Lolita, then I'd prepare some answers for difficult questions such as:

-How would you deal with teaching this book if there was a student who had previously been sexually assaulted or groomed in the class?

-How would you deal with it if a student said the subject matter of the book made them uncomfortable? (Telling them to get over it, particularly as a male teacher to a female student, wouldn't be an acceptable answer).

-How would you deal with it if a parent was uncomfortable with their child studying this book?

-Given the subject matter, what can this book teach students about literature that another book wouldn't be able to do?

I'm not saying we shouldn't teach controversial things in school- as a biology teacher I get the fun of teaching teenagers all about their own anatomy, hormones and hormonal contraception- but in an interview it's not necessarily about being true to your authentic self, or whatever. It's about showcasing yourself in the best possible light.
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