This is Importance: A Students' Guide to Literature

This is Importance: A Students' Guide to Literature

Gregory Betts
  • $10.00

July 2013
120 pages | ISBN 978-1-894987-75-2

Poet, novelist and teacher Gregory Betts has an ear for a well-turned phrase and an eye for captivating errors. In this highly amusing collection, Betts has pulled together some of the best misinterpretations of literature that he has come across in his years of grading papers. With an introduction on the importance of learning through error in education and a full complement of confusions on authors, styles and the point of reading literature, this book will delight English teachers everywhere.


Poetry as the Conceptual Experiment of Language (Jacqueline Valencia, All Lit Up, 04/02/2015)
“The art in Betts' curation lies in the chapter headings he’s condensed them in…. The student’s mistakes become comedic fodder, although in some ways they also make the reader think.”

This is Importance: A Students' Guide to Literature by Gregory Betts (Literary Press Group of Canada, 04/07/2014)
The LPG's feature of the week.

On Writing #24: Gregory Betts (Gregory Betts, Ottawa Poetry Newsletter, 14/03/2014)
"In This is Importance, I wanted to highlight the importance of the error –– not only because they are hilarious, but because they offer a glimpse into the process of teaching and learning, alongside rare glimpses of inadvertent beauty in student writing. In my classroom, in my poetry, I focus on the mistakes because I cherish the painful process of learning. My favourite mistakes are the ones that strive towards something lofty and often clichéd only to inadvertently arrive at a much more convincing insight."

"Jonathan Ball" – a great poem from This is Importance by Gregory Betts (Jonathan Ball, Jonathan Ball's blog, 02/11/2013)
“Beautiful and strange — like the book as a whole. The funniest book of poetry I have seen for a long, long time, and oddly brilliant”


Review (Jonathan Ball, This, 01/04/2014)
“[Betts] aligns error with the poetic imagination, and in his selections Betts emphasizes errors in language that produce strange, brilliant, unintentional wordplay, with accidentally clever insights that are often laugh-out-loud funny.”

A 'best of' list of 2013 Canadian poetry books (rob mclennan, DUSIE, 03/01/2014)
“As a reader, one can approach these lines with absolute delight, perhaps the entire opposite effect the same lines would have on a professor of literature discovering the same within a paper by one of their students.”

Wolsak and Wynn and ECW Press's Fall Offerings (Tracy Kyncl, Town Crier, 28/10/2013)
“A collection of some of the most hilarious phrases that Betts came across while marking his students’ papers.... My favourite academic insight was “the alphabet has been a major influence on many poets.”

Gregory Betts, This Is Importance: A Students' Guide to Literature (rob mclennan, rob mclennan's blog, 15/08/2013)
“To see something different, one must sometimes put words and concepts side-by-side that have no business being there, and some of these small slips may be hilariously funny and ridiculous, while others have the sheen of accidental near-genius, shifting the way a particular writer or work might be considered.”


“On Narrative Form"

Rising Action is the period before the climax where there is a build-up to prepare the reader for the ultimate high.

The narrator is bias.

All literary devices die.

The average reader expects grammar and punctuality in every sentence.

Female protagonists take no heed to spiritual warnings.

It is certain that there is no conclusion.

Writing is one way to control the truth.

An unreliable narrator is one whose recitation of the plot is strongly compromised because of madness, blindness, or biasness.

The past tense represents an attempt to reflect on what has already happened to the narrator, such as future failure.

Realist writers have both feet grinding in the world.

Form causes everything.

The author speaks volumes in his novel.

The narrative is the experience of everything: everything that can happen.


Gregory Betts read selections from This is Importance: A Students' Guide to Literature to great audience amusement at the Soirée de Refusés during Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences 2014 in St. Catharines.

Gregory Betts reads from his hilarious collection of mistakes, malapropisms and misinterpretations, This is Importance: A Students' Guide to Literature, at Hamilton's Workers, Arts and Heritage Centre.

About the Author

Gregory Betts is an award-winning author, editor and professor at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario. He has been teaching literature for a dozen years now at four different universities in Canada and Germany. He has published five books of poetry, edited five books of experimental Canadian writing, and recently published Avant-Garde Canadian Literature: The Early Manifestations. He is currently the Director of the Centre for Canadian Studies and Graduate Program Director of Canadian and American Studies at Brock.

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