Confessions of a Twilight-loving teacher

In Confessions of a Twilight Addict, English teacher Jennifer Morrison compares the popular teen vampire series to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

Like an 18th century novel of manners, Twilight criticizes social assumptions and regimented ideas of appropriate behavior. In an interesting twist, whereas Austen’s heroines single-mindedly protect their reputations and seek marriage, Bella must struggle against a 21st century taboo against teen marriage to wed and find happiness in Edward. Even so, social reputation and marriage are central to both stories.

Austenites Shirley and Wallis Kinney discuss the links in “The Jane Austen—Twilight Zone.”

Twilight operates on multiple levels, Morrison writes. The book entertains, provides social commentary, “offers universal themes about love and society” and “inspires a vision” of ideal romance.

For teen readers, Twilight is the book that makes classics relevant. While Twilight references Pride and Prejudice, its sequel New Moon draws parallels with Romeo and Juliet. Eclipse, the third book in the series, is littered with allusions to Wuthering Heights. For many of my students, the Twilight series has opened doors into much more difficult, classic texts. Because they know the story, students are more resilient in the face of complex language; they bring more background to their reading and they are able to engage with a strong point of reference.

My 28-year-old daughter, who once worked as a literary agents’ reader and a book publicist, says Twilight is badly written and infused with a 13-year-old virgin’s vision of sexual passion without actual sex. But it’s a page turner anyhow.

If sexy but chaste vampires aren’t your thing, try Our School: The Inspiring Story of Two Teachers, One Big Idea and the Charter School That Beat the Odds.  The hardcover is here.

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  1. I gotta go with your daughter on that one. I think a lot of the appeal for young teens in the books (at least the early ones) is that the heroine, who is really not all that spectacular, gets all the romance with no worries of being pressured into sex.

    I think that Jane Austin would be spinning in her grave to be compared to Meyers, but on the other hand, anything that gets kids reading and interested in literature seems like a good thing.

  2. Michael E. Lopez says:

    I’ll agree that you have to start reading somewhere, and that it’s almost true that any and all practice of reading words is a good thing. (One does not get to be a high-level adult reader without tens of thousands of hours of practice under one’s belt.)

    The worry, as always, is that it won’t transfer. Reading Twilight is great. I’d do it myself if there weren’t such an opportunity cost to it. But it’s only good for kids if its part of an ever-expanding repertoire. You can have favourite genres, of course… but how many Twilight readers are actually going to go on and read Jane Austen? 2% ? 3% ? Maybe??????

    But then again… how many people actually read Jane Austen, period? Maybe 8%? So maybe 3% of Twilight Readers isn’t bad after all.

    (All statistics are entirely pulled out of my nethers. I make absolutely no claims to empirical accuracy.)

  3. Although I’m an Austen fan, I’m no literary snob, but your daughter is right. Twilight is poorly written, embarassingly so. I’m convinced one of the reasons it’s so popular is because it demands something no other type of teen romance does – self discipline – on the part of both main characters. The tension between the vampire/human element creates all the romantic interest. He can’t stand to be to close to her – he can’t stand to stay away from her.

  4. There are so many reasons to hate Twilight. Where to start…

  5. one can alway parry with the lampoon Nightlight which opens wickedly:
    “About three things I was absolutely certain. First, Edwart was most likely my soul mate, maybe. …”

    of course any such explorations should come after purchasing Joanne’s Our School.

  6. Miller Smith says:

    With the latest movie that came out i kept wondering throughout the film when Stewart was going to take a razor to her forearm.

  7. I think that the Twilight Saga is turning into for women, what the Star Wars Saga has been for men for the last 30 years.

    And there’s nothing wrong with that. People are allowed to enjoy things other people don’t enjoy.

    Mars vs. Venus = Star Wars vs. Twilight! LOL


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