Reading the World, the Globe, and the Cosmos

Approaches to Teaching Literature for the Twenty-first Century

by Suzanne S. Choo (Author)
©2013 Textbook XIV, 196 Pages
Series: Global Studies in Education, Volume 28


This book won the 2014 AESA (American Educational Studies Association) Critics Choice Award.
The purpose of this book is restore the centrality of pedagogy in governing the ways literary texts are received, experienced, and interpreted by students in the classroom. Utilizing a method of pedagogical criticism, it provides an account of core approaches to teaching literature that have emerged across history and the conceptual values informing these approaches. More importantly, Reading the World discusses how these values have been shaped by broader global forces and key movements in the discipline of English Literature. To varying degrees, these approaches are aimed at cultivating a hospitable imagination so that students may more fully engage with multiple others in the world. Given the reality of an increasingly interconnected twenty-first century, literature pedagogy plays a vital role in schools by demonstrating how world, global, and cosmopolitan approaches to teaching literature can facilitate the prioritization of the other, challenge us to think about how we can be accountable to multiple others in the world, and push us to continually problematize the boundaries of our openness towards the other.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • List of Figures
  • List of Tables
  • Series Editor’s Foreword
  • Acknowledgments
  • Chapter One. Introduction: Toward a Pedagogical Criticism of Literature Education
  • Reclaiming the Role of Pedagogy in Debates Concerning the Value of Literature Education in the Twenty-First Century
  • The Decline of Literature Education
  • The Marginalization of Pedagogy in Arguments Defending Literature Education
  • Grounding the Value of Literature Education on Theorizations of Pedagogy
  • Toward a Method of Pedagogical Criticism
  • Conceptual Values
  • The Public Sphere of the Nation-State
  • The Global Public Sphere
  • A Framework for Pedagogical Criticism
  • Author’s Situatedness
  • Organization of the Book
  • Chapter Two. Nationalistic Approaches to Teaching Literature
  • The First Wave of Globalization and Education for Nationalistic Citizenship
  • The Consolidation of the Nation-State
  • The Formation of a Literary Public Sphere
  • Education for Nationalistic Citizenship
  • The Conceptual Formation of a Nationalistic Pedagogical Paradigm
  • The Institutionalization of English Literature
  • The Concept of Taste in Disciplinary Movements
  • The Connection among Concepts of Taste, the Beautiful, Morality and the Absolute in Philosophical Contributions
  • Applications of Nationalistic Approaches to Teaching Literature
  • Chapter Three. World Approaches to Teaching Literature
  • The Second Early Wave of Globalization and Education for World Citizenship
  • The Formation of a Geoculture Based on a Recognition of Territorial Sovereignty
  • Education for World Citizenship
  • The Conceptual Formation of a World Pedagogical Paradigm
  • The Introduction of World Literature in Schools
  • The Concept of Collective Taste in Disciplinary Movements
  • The Concept of Universal Humanity in Philosophical Contributions
  • Applications of World Approaches to Teaching Literature
  • Chapter Four. Global Approaches to Teaching Literature
  • The Second Later Wave of Globalization and Education for Global Citizenship
  • The Significance of Human Rights
  • Education for Global Citizenship
  • The Conceptual Formation of a Global Pedagogical Paradigm
  • The Introduction of Global Education in Schools
  • The Concept of Empowerment in Disciplinary Movements
  • The Concept of Humanity of the Universal and Particular in Philosophical Contributions
  • Applications of Global Approaches to Teaching Literature
  • Chapter Five. Cosmopolitan Approaches to Teaching Literature
  • The Third Wave of Globalization and Education for Cosmopolitan Citizenship
  • The Rise of Global Mobility
  • Extraterritorial Actors and Spaces
  • Education for Cosmopolitan Citizenship
  • The Conceptual Formation of a Cosmopolitan Pedagogical Paradigm
  • The Inclusion of a Cosmopolitan Paradigm in Education
  • The Concept of Responsible Engagement in Disciplinary Movements
  • The Concept of Alterity in Philosophical Contributions
  • Applications of Cosmopolitan Approaches to Teaching Literature
  • Chapter Six. Conclusion: The Teaching of Literature and the Cultivation of a Hospitable Imagination
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index

List of Figures

Figure 1.1. Mediation between the literary text and the reader

Figure 1.2. A framework for employing pedagogical criticism to an analysis of literature education

Figure 5.1. Literature education informed by an other-centric cosmopolitan paradigm

List of Tables

Table 1.1 Titles of books and articles related to the decline of literature education from the 1990s to the present

←vii | viii → ← viii | ix →

Series Editor’s Foreword: A Riposte to Globalization

The concept of time-space compression remains curiously unexamined. In particular, it is a concept which often remains without much social content (Doreen Massey, 1993 p. 59).

All our ventures and exploits, all our acts and dreams, are bridges designed to overcome . . . separation and reunite us with the world and our fellow beings (Octavio Paz, 1990, p. 11).

In recent years, no term has more stirred up critical and mainstream social science scholarship than the insistent term “globalization.” The invocation of globalization has not rendered conceptual closure on the processes to which the term points: the heightened interconnectivity between and among individuals, groups and institutions that characterizes our late-modern world. It has, instead, provoked ceaseless formulation and reformulation. Thus there are those, for instance, who see globalization as linked to expanding economic and cultural transactions across national borders — the so-called flat world of Thomas Freidman (1999, 2005). There are those who use the term, pessimistically, theorizing globalization as an extension of imperialism in its latest phase and pointing to the neoliberal expansion of the West into the third world as somehow more efficiently capturing surplus value (Ritzer, 2010; Waters, 2010). On this view, neoliberal globalization is no more than a kind of McDonaldization of those countries struggling to break out of colonial pasts. There are yet those who seem completely taken by the technological scale of recent globalizing developments that have sparked what David Harvey and Anthony Giddens call time-space compression, which in turn has allowed for the revolution in financial services and other peer-to-peer transactions that have made the state virtually irrelevant (Castells, 2009, 2012). This investment in globalization, in a manner that leaves the term itself unmarked and unquestioned, actually characterizes the scholarly approaches of both mainstream and critical theorists. This is a kind of contemporary positivism on the global. This is what Norman Fairclough ← ix | x → correctly calls “globalism” — a kind of unreflexive, objectivist invocation of the global and its capacities to alter the world (Fairclough, 2006, p. 7).

In reaction to this tendency to deploy a flat, monolithic invocation of globalization, an insurgent group of feminist critical scholars such as Doreen Massey (1993, 2007), Aihwa Ong (1999, 2006), and Saskia Sassen (2008) has called for closer reading and more careful research attention to variability, nuance, discontinuity and disarticulation in accounts of the operation of globalization processes with respect to the real existing circumstances of human actors. Saskia Sassen, for example, has insisted on the need for the methodological deployment of a research strategy of “social thickness” (2000, p. 216). By this, she encourages scholars to especially pay attention to the co-articulation of economic, cultural and political forces in any instantiation of global processes, underscoring the unevenness of the different vectors of globalization: the speed of time-space compression in financial services may not often be matched by the speed of change in culture, education, law and so forth. Sassen shows how late-modern states, under the pressure of new developments, are not in demise but are morphing into new collections of practices marked by the disarticulation of authority, territory and rights. The concrete human experiences derived from this are what Ong (2006, p. 7) calls “graduated sovereignty” and graded forms of citizenship. In her “Power-Geometry” essay, Doreen Massey maintains that space/place is not monochromatic but hosts plural identities, usages and attachments. Aihwa Ong points to the rational calculation of government actors in post-developmental states such as Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia and their radical combination of neoliberal globalization and powerful drives towards upgrading the social commons.

With this wonderful text, Reading the World, the Globe, and the Cosmos, we must now add Suzanne Choo to this venerable list of feminist intellectuals who want us to consider a wider range of subjects concerning globalization than we normally explore. Choo writes from the perspective that all of these logics related to globalization are now fully articulated to schooling and must pass through the pedagogical encounter in the classroom. Ultimately, globalization must be brought into dialogue with pedagogical criticism. Here the task is to construct from the encounter with literature — reaching back into previous centuries and forward into the twenty-first century — models of thoughtfulness and meaningful, empathetic relationships. The techniques and aesthetics of literature study should not be a self-enclosing, self-isolating enterprise but should foster the conditions of production of a deep ← x | xi → engagement of the self with the other as Tzvetan Todorov tells us in The Conquest of America (1984/1999). We must be, as Todorov suggests, much more open to surprise and the improvisatory — learning from each other as we build ever new forms of collaboration, affiliation and feeling. This idea of shared community and shared responsibility for each other and the fate of the human species is the starting point of a new kind of cosmopolitanism that might help us better transact the devaluing of our intellectual labor in the present age of neoliberal globalization. The project here is ambitious but urgent. The teaching of literature has often insulated the literary text from the world, recuperating and preserving the “literary” for a vain form of aesthetics. On the other hand, teaching about the world in geography, social studies, etc. has often ignored the imaginative domain of literature. Scholars like Edward Said have sought to overcome this gulf in the disciplines in such powerful ripostes as Orientalism (1979), The World, the Text and the Critic (1994), and On Late Style: Music and Literature against the Grain (2007). Homi Bhaba, in his Locations of Culture (1994), also points to the critically important work of the text in relation to the vigorous life world of subaltern actors. For Bhabha, texts take on their significance in an encounter with human actors at the extremes of Empire: “a literature of empire . . . played out in the wild and wordless wastes of colonial India, Africa, the Caribbean” (Bhabha, 1994, p. 102). The text then is conditioned by the play of globalization’s asymmetries.

Choo builds on these insights by introducing a form of pedagogical criticism that brings the globe into the literature classroom. Her interest here is not to describe the world as it is. Neither is it merely to improve the pedagogy of literature. Choo raises, instead, the issue of teaching new cosmopolitan values through pedagogy by integrating the “hospitable imagination.” The hospitable imagination is a space for the gestation of creative and critical reflexivity. The classroom, after all, may be the place of a kind of last stand in an age of the ever-expanding refeudalization of the public sphere. As such, it offers possibilities for elaborating networks to the world — networks for a New-World imaginative geography and the building up of subaltern knowledges. In this manner, the classroom becomes a space for the staging of a new enterprise in literature studies—for thinking about the world as we mediate aesthetics. The radical promise of Choo’s intervention here is to bring the entire range of aesthetic critique and “reply” (Paz, 1990, p. 5) to the West into a dialogue with globalization from below. Here the concatenation and plurality of voices might serve to reinvigorate the ← xi | xii → now deeply invaded space of the modern classroom where one might argue the future of humanity resides.

Cameron McCarthy
Director of Global Studies in Education
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


Bhabha, H. (1994). The location of culture. New York: Routledge.

Castells, M. (2009). Communication power. Oxford, UK: Oxford.

Castells, M. (2012). Networks of outrage and hope. Oxford, UK: Oxford.

Fairclough, N. (2006). Language and globalization. New York: Routledge.

Friedman, T. (1999). The lexus and the olive tree: Understanding Globalization. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Friedman, T. (2005). The world is flat. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Massey, D. (1993). Power-geometry and a progressive sense of place. In J. Bird, B. Curtis, T. Putnam, & L. Tickner (Eds.), Mapping the futures: Local cultures, global change (pp. 59–69). London: Routledge.

Massey, D. (2007). World city. Cambridge, UK: Polity

Ong, A. (1999). Flexible citizenship: The cultural logics of transnationality. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Ong, A. (2006). Neoliberalism as exception: Mutations in citizenship and sovereignty. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Paz, O. (1990). In search of the present. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Ritzer, G. (2010). Globalization and McDonaldization: Does it all amount to . . . nothing? In G. Ritzer (Ed.), McDonaldization: The reader. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Said, E. (1979). Orientalism. New York: Vintage.

Said, E. (1994). The World, the Text, and the Critic. New York: Vintage.

Said, E. (2007). On Late Style: Music and Literature against the Grain. New York: Vintage.

Sassen, S. (2000). Spatialities and temporalities of the global: Elements for a theorization. Public Culture 12(1), 215–232.

Sassen, S. (2008). Territory, authority, rights: From medieval to global assemblages. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Todorov, T. (1999). The conquest of America: The question of the other. New York: Harper and Collins. (Original work published 1984)

Walters, M. (2010). McDonaldization and the global culture of consumption. In G. Ritzer (Ed.), McDonaldization: The reader. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. ← xii | xiii →


XIV, 196
ISBN (Softcover)
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2014 (December)
criticism imagination pedagogy
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2013. XIV, 196 pp.

Biographical notes

Suzanne S. Choo (Author)

Suzanne S. Choo is Assistant Professor at the National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. She obtained her PhD in English Education from Columbia University, USA. Her research in literature education has been recognized with the Walter Sindlinger Writing Award from Teachers College, Columbia University and the International Award for Excellence from the International Journal of the Humanities.


Title: Reading the World, the Globe, and the Cosmos