The Bible a Prerequisite for Understanding Literature?

Poet Laureate Andrew Motion (incidentally, the first Poet Laureate to not hold the position for life) suggests that the classics and the Bible should continue to be taught in school, as to cease doing so will prevent a whole generation being able to understand great literature and culture.

I can’t help but find myself agreeing with his argument.

The poet, who describes himself as an atheist, called for an overhaul of the school curriculum to reverse the “depressing” trend which threatened to leave future generations unable to fully understand the works of Milton and Shakespeare or even more recent writers such as TS Eliot.


He insisted that while secularist ideas had put many people off studying the Bible, parents who do not believe in God should have nothing to fear from their children learning about the Bible.

“If people say this is about ramming religion down people’s throats, they aren’t thinking about it hard enough,” he said.

“It is more about the power of these words to connect with deep, recurring human truths, and also the story of the influence of that language and those stories.”

And he warned that growing ignorance of the great stories of the Bible as well as classical mythology was becoming an increasingly serious handicap for those studying literature.

The discussion puts me in mind of the latest thing to make me laugh on twitter: “@pagecrusher: Your inability to catch references to Greek mythology is your Achilles’ heel.”