King Wenclas is not wrong:
Literature can't be taught. All the instructor can do, at most, is leave the student an open path. Then, through reading, the student finds the meaning, his own meaning, for himself.
Rather than classrooms I would have silent reading rooms with widely spaced armchairs, so the student can read-- whatever he wants, but read. Reading is the only way to learn what literature is about.
On the other hand, he's not completely right.
"Literature" can't be taught, unless it's construed as a unified collection of "great works" embodying "the best that has been said and thought." That is, unless it's viewed as Universal Wisdom or essentially as propaganda, to be used to illustrate cultural or national greatness.
Students can be taught to read more efficaciously, however, thus sending them on their "open path" more prepared to find what they're looking for and better able to determine what's worth reading and taking seriously in the first place.
They can be taught to read for style and form, for subtlety and implication, rather than for just "the meaning," whether such meaning is subjectively held or not. This can be done not to satisfy the fancypants vanity of the overeducated instructor but to enhance every individual reader's ability to have a fully satisfying reading experience, an experience that includes but goes beyond extracting "meaning" and allows the reader to reconstruct the aesthetic strategies the author employed in embodying meaning, and in some cases to perceive effects of both manner and meaning of which the author him/herself was not necessarily aware. That some "plegmatic professors" use critical discussions to reinforce their own authority does not make all methods of critical reading and analysis inherently invalid.
However, by and large I agree with the King. Beyond a certain point what readers "get" from literature comes directly from, well, reading. There were times in my otherwise benighted career as a literature instructor when I did indeed think the best thing I could do for my students was to lead them to "silent reading rooms with widely spaced armchairs" where they could burrow deeply into the text at hand. But this is not an MLA-approved pedagogical procedure, and I can't say I miss the days when I would desperately search for an approach to teaching literature that was pedagogically sound and that would justify my taking up space at the front of the classroom.
This essential incompatiblity between the protocols of the classroom and the imperatives of literature--defined as particular works read for their immediate literary value--is probably what most explains the decades-long move in academe away from an emphasis on "literature itself" to an emphasis on literary theory and cultural studies. At best, the literature classroom can only be talk about literature, not the opportunity to experience literature. Students can share their experiences after the fact, but this has limited value as well; it's not a practice around which an entire curriculum of study can be built. Theory and social analysis lend themselves much more easily to classroom pontification, and more readily provide a patina of coherence and intellectual sophistication that focusing on the "merely literary" cannot so easily provide.
The student who would prefer to study literature for its own sake might indeed have to do that "for himself."