Queer Beats – Gender and Literature in the EFL Classroom

by Maria Eisenmann (Volume editor) Christian Ludwig (Volume editor)
Edited Collection 466 Pages


Gender diversity and the fact that gender is subject to perpetual renegotiations have become part of teachers’ and students’ lives. This volume tackles this issue by showing particularly innovative ways of teaching gender in the EFL classroom. Thus, the contributions include a broad variety of gender realities, such as trans* and cisgender, a cornucopia of texts and other media, a variety of literary genres, graphic novels, films and TV shows. The authors also illustrate cutting-edge approaches to teaching both literature and gender in the contemporary student-centered EFL classroom with different age groups.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title Page
  • Copyright Page
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • Citability of the eBook
  • Contents
  • Editors
  • Contributors
  • Introduction: Gender and Literature in the EFL Classroom
  • Bibliography
  • Fostering Gender Competence Through Music Videos in Foreign Language Education
  • 1 Introduction: Defining Gender in the Context of EFL Education
  • 2 Developing ‘Gender Competence’ in the Context of Popular Culture: Four Core Elements
  • 3 Developing Gender Competence through Music Videos
  • 3.1 The Importance of Music Videos
  • 3.2 Previous Analyses of Music Videos
  • 3.3 The Music Video Gender Discrimination Test
  • 4 Practical Tools and Examples
  • 4.1 A Guideline for Analysing Music Videos and Gender Issues
  • 4.2 Music Video Examples
  • 4.3 Approaches and Task Examples
  • 5 Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • “Pee in Peace!”11Cf. Jennings (2016) A Literary Approach to US Toilet Politics
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Teaching Gender: The National Dimension and the International Context
  • 3 Teaching Gender Awareness: The Bathroom Debate in the US
  • 4 Learning Context(s) and Teaching Methodology
  • 4.1 POGIL
  • 4.2 Pre-Conditions
  • 4.3 Goals of POGIL
  • 4.4 Phases of the Learning Process
  • 4.5 Democratic Learning Environment
  • 4.6 Text- and Question-Based Learning
  • 4.7 Sketching a ‘Plan’
  • 5 Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Further Reading
  • Gender Awareness and Language Awareness:: A New Role for Poetry in the Foreign Language Classroom
  • 1 In Defence of Poetry – A Short Introduction to the Issue at Hand
  • 2 Reverberations of a Poem in Public Space
  • 3 Ten Gender-Focused Activities With Poetry
  • 4 Poetry and Focus on Gender in the EFL Classroom: Ten Illustrative Examples
  • 5 Conclusion: Poetry – ‘A Symbol for Another Idea’
  • Bibliography
  • Staging Gender – Playing with Identities and Role Stereotypes
  • 1 Introduction: Gender as Topic for EFL Teaching
  • 2 Doing/Undoing Gender – Performativity of Gender Roles
  • 3 Gender Stereotypes and the Development of Performative Competence in EFL Teaching
  • 4 Being Spoilt for Choice – Suitable Texts for the EFL Classroom
  • 4.1 Cross-Dressing in Shakespeare’s Plays
  • 4.2 Suggestions for an Alternative Canon
  • 5 Methodological Implications
  • 6 Teaching Ideas
  • 7 Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Changing Perspectives: Teaching Homosexuality in the EFL Classroom Using Short Stories
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Reasons to Embrace Homosexuality in Schools and the EFL Classroom
  • 3 Linking Intercultural Theory and Fremdverstehen to Homosexuality
  • 4 Putting Fremdverstehen into Practice – Analysing Levithan’s “The Alumni Interview”
  • 5 Putting Fremdverstehen Into Practice – Classroom Application
  • 6 Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Interrogating and (Re-)Defining Gender Roles in a Life-Writing Approach to Teaching Postcolonial Literature
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 (Re-)Doing One’s Own Gender: Life-Writing as a Space for Experimenting with Alternative Selves
  • 3 Transcending Heteronormativity and Essentializing Notions of Culture
  • 3.1 Gender Roles and Culture
  • 3.2 Gender and Postcolonial Literature
  • 4 Teaching Approach
  • 4.1 Hanif Kureishi’s With Your Tongue Down My Throat and Gender Awareness
  • 4.1.1 Plot
  • 4.1.2 Narrative Techniques and Gender Awareness
  • 4.1.3 Curricula and Potential Teaching Contexts
  • 4.2 Methodological Considerations
  • 4.2.1 Creating a Differentiated Understanding of Identities
  • 4.2.2 Use of Postcolonial Theory and Gender Studies
  • 4.2.3 Amitava Kumar’s My Hanif Kureishi Life and Students’ Life-Writing
  • 4.2.4 Initiating Students’ Writing Processes
  • 5 Classroom Experiences
  • Bibliography
  • “She was probably male”: Exploring Gender with Science Fiction in the EFL Classroom
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Science Fiction and Gender
  • 3 Post-Binary Gender in Anne Leckie’s Ancillary Space Opera
  • 4 (Un)Doing Gender in the EFL Classroom
  • 4.1 A Transatlantic Winter’s Tale: A ‘Genderless’ Creative Writing Project
  • 5 Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • A.N.Other Every Day. Queer Questions About the Construction of Identity at the Example of David Levithan’s Novel Every Day
  • 1 David Levithan’s Every Day: A Novel Which Raises Questions of Identity
  • 2 Why Teach Every Day? Reasons to Read the Novel with the Aim of Teaching Literature
  • 3 What to Teach With Every Day: Reading the Novel Along the Lines of Queer Theory
  • 4 How to Teach Every Day: Differentiating and Individualizing the Reading Process
  • 5 Conclusion
  • Recommended Reading
  • Bibliography
  • The Art of Being Normal – Trans Issues in the EFL Classroom
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 The Potential of Trans Perspectives for Critical Gender Learning
  • 2.1 The Relevance of Trans Perspectives in the EFL Classroom
  • 3 Representations of Trans Issues in The Art of Being Normal
  • 4 Teaching for Critical Gender Literacy with The Art of Being Normal
  • 4.1 An Empowering Reading of The Art of Being Normal
  • 4.2 A Critical Reading of The Art of Being Normal
  • 5 Working with The Art of Being Normal in the EFL Classroom
  • 5.1 Pre-Reading
  • 5.2 While Reading
  • 5.3 Post-Reading
  • 5.4 Reflections on the Unit
  • 6 Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Exploring the T of LGBTQ – Canadian Trans* Literature in the EFL Classroom
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Trans*, Transgender or Transsexual or Something Else Completely?
  • 3 Trans* Literature – An Attempt at a Definition
  • 4 Selected Readings of Canadian Trans* Literature
  • 4.1 Kim Fu’s For Today I am a Boy
  • 4.2 Casey Plett’s A Safe Girl to Love
  • 5 Teaching Trans* Issues in the EFL Classroom Through Trans* Texts By Trans* Authors
  • 5.1 Suggestions for Classroom Activities
  • 5.1.1 Stepping-In
  • Working With The Literary Texts
  • A Safe Girl To Love
  • 6 Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Glenyse Ward’s Wandering Girl. Reading an Aboriginal Life Story in an EFL Class
  • 1 The Stolen Generations
  • 2 Biography
  • 3 Aboriginal Life Stories
  • 4 Wandering Girl
  • 4.1 Summary and Introduction
  • 4.2 Stolen Generations
  • 4.3 Dark Servant
  • 4.4 Resilience
  • 5 Wandering Girl in the EFL Class
  • 6 Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Ghostly Parenting: Teaching Family Structures and Gender Roles With Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book and Coraline
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Coraline and The Graveyard Book as Contemporary Children’s Literature
  • 2.1 Coraline – Plot Summary
  • 2.2 The Graveyard Book – Plot Summary
  • 2.3 Drawing Style and Adaptation
  • 3 Family Structures and Gender Awareness
  • 3.1 Parental Images in Coraline
  • 3.2 Family Structures in The Graveyard Book
  • 4 Classroom Suggestions
  • 5 Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Teaching Gender Reflection Through Marjane Satrapi’s Graphic Novel Persepolis
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis: Teaching Gender Reflection Through Inter- and Transcultural Learning
  • 3 Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood in Crisis
  • 4 Transcultural Gender Identities: Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return
  • 5 Conclusion
  • Recommended Reading
  • Bibliography
  • Creating Queer Text Ensembles for the EFL Literature Classroom: Conceptual Considerations and Practice-Oriented Perspectives
  • 1 Point of Departure: The Single Story of Heterosexuality in ELT
  • 2 Sexual and Gender Diversity in ELT: Curricular and Theoretical Advancements
  • 3 Queer Text Ensembles: Conceptual Considerations and Pedagogic Rationale
  • 4 Creating a Queer Text Ensemble: Exploring the Life Experiences of LGBTQ Teenagers
  • 5 Putting the Queer Text Ensemble into Practice: Teaching Perspectives
  • 5.1 Boy Meets Boy
  • 5.2 We Are the Youth
  • 5.3 “Am I Blue?”
  • 5.4 But I’m a Cheerleader
  • 6 Creating a Queer-Informed Digital Story
  • 7 Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • New Wine in Old Bottles: Gay-Themed Narratives Within a Competence-Oriented Framework for Teaching English in German Secondary Schools
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 On the Educational Significance of Gay-Themed Narratives
  • 3 You Know Me Well
  • 3.1 Plot
  • 3.2 Teaching Potential – Central Themes
  • 3.2.1 Mark and Ryan
  • 3.2.2 Kate and Violet
  • 4 Using the Text in Class
  • 5 Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • ‘Look at that baby with those cream-puffs.’ – Exploring LGBTQ Life Through American TV Series in the EFL Classroom
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 The History of the Gay Rights Movement in the USA
  • 3 The Representation of Homosexual Characters on American Television
  • 4 Using TV Shows in the EFL Classroom
  • 4.1 Using TV Shows in the EFL Classroom: Teaching Suggestions
  • 4.1.1 Pre-Watching Phase
  • 4.1.2 While-Watching Phase
  • 5 Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • “There’s a war coming and war means change”: WWI and Its Effects on Gender Roles in the British Period Drama Downton Abbey
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 General Remarks on the Didactic Potential of Television Series in ELT
  • 3 Downton Abbey as Text and Context for a Gender-Focused Approach to ELT
  • 3.1 Downton Abbey as Pop-Cultural Phenomenon and Epitome of British Period Drama
  • 3.2 Downton Abbey’s Depiction of WWI in the Context of Britain’s Commemorative Tradition and Gender Discourses
  • 4 Downton Abbey in the EFL Classroom: Characters, Storylines, Topics, Gender Roles
  • 4.1 Renegotiation of Women’s Gender Roles in Downton Abbey
  • 4.2 The (De-)Construction of Heroic Masculinity in Downton Abbey’s Portrayal of WWI
  • 5 Suggestions for Teaching: Approaches, Learning Arrangements, Activities
  • 5.1 Pre-Viewing Activities: Introducing Downton Abbey
  • 5.2 While-Viewing Activities: Focus on Character Development and Gender Roles
  • 5.3 Post-Viewing: Gender and the Aftermath of WWI
  • 6 Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Deconstructing Gender Stereotypes in EFL Classrooms Through Contemporary Movies
  • 1 Introduction: Gender, Film and English Language Teaching
  • 2 Little Miss Sunshine
  • 2.1 Content, Plot and Characters
  • 2.2 Reasons for Using the Film
  • 2.3 Main Themes
  • 2.4 Teaching Ideas
  • 3 Billy Elliot – I Will Dance
  • 3.1 Content, Plot and Characters
  • 3.2 Reasons for Using the Film
  • 3.3 Main Themes
  • 3.4 Teaching Ideas
  • 4 Comparative Approaches
  • 5 Conclusion and Outlook
  • Recommended Reading
  • Bibliography
  • Judith Butler’s Critique of Binary Gender Opposition in Gender Trouble: A Task-Based Lesson Sequence
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Significance of the Text for EFL and Teaching Gender
  • 2.1 The Use of Philosophical Literature for Teaching Academic English
  • 2.2 The Significance of Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble
  • 3 Methodological Potential in the Context of Gender Awareness
  • 4 Teaching Gender in Senior High School
  • 5 Guidelines on How to Teach the Individual Lessons
  • 6 Conclusion
  • Appendix 1: News Article For Lead-In
  • Appendix 2: Task
  • Appendix 3: Text Input
  • Bibliography
  • List of Figures
  • List of Tables


Maria Eisenmann holds the Chair for Teaching English as a Foreign Language at the Julius-Maximilians-University of Würzburg. She studied English, German and Pedagogy at the Universities of Würzburg and Newcastle upon Tyne, England. She has extensive teaching experience both at schools in Germany and at German Universities. Her main research interests are in the areas of teaching literature, media literacy as well as inter- and transcultural learning. She has edited and co-edited numerous books and published widely in the field of teaching literature and literary literacy. She co-edited Learning with Literature in the EFL Classroom, published in 2015.

Christian Ludwig is currently a substitute professor for American Cultural and Literary Studies at the University of Education, Karlsruhe where he is also the Head of the English Department and Director of the Language Learning Centre. His teaching and research interests include enhancing learner autonomy in the EFL classroom as well as Computer-Assisted Language Learning. His main focus of research lies in the reconstruction of gender and other identities in contemporary young adult dystopias and South African literature. Since 2015 he has been the coordinator of the IATEFL Learner Autonomy Special Interest Group and external consultant for Cornelsen Publishing. He has been a visiting scholar at, among others, Universities in South Africa, Japan, and Belgium.


Mirja Beutel works as a lecturer in teacher education for the Professional School of Education at the Ruhr-University in Bochum. In 2017 she earned a PhD for her dissertation on advancing cosmopolitan competences in the EFL classroom. Her research interests cover inter- and transcultural learning, autobiographical writing, teaching English with digital media and CLIL. She has longstanding teaching experience in different types of secondary schools.

Claudia Deetjen holds a doctoral degree in American literature from the University of Bayreuth. She has taught courses on American literature and the didactics of Anglophone literatures at the Universities of Bamberg, Bayreuth and Münster. Her current focus is her work as a secondary school teacher and her contributions to textbooks. Further, she is completing a post-doctoral project on Anglophone refugee writing and transcultural and global learning at the University of Würzburg. Her main research interests include inter-/transcultural and global learning through literature, environmental education, media and film literacy.

Sasha S. Euler is a German-American teacher of English, Philosophy and Ethics, a teacher trainer and language examiner currently based in Hanover. He has worked as a teaching fellow at the Universities of Trier and Hanover, regularly offers teacher training seminars and has published various articles on TEFL and educational psychology. His research interests include interactive Focus on Form (FonF) instruction, educational psychology, and materials development. In addition, he has also published in philosophy on happiness, gender and culture.

Stefanie Fuchs is a lecturer in the English Department at Leibniz University of Hannover, where she has taught the methodology of teaching English as a foreign language since 2015. She studied German and English at the University of Erfurt, where she also worked as a research assistant for the Department of Psychology and obtained her doctoral degree. She is a qualified teacher for German and English (as a foreign language). Her research interests encompass learning and teaching grammar, gender and diversity studies, and psychological aspects of language learning. Her current research project focuses on non-native students’ perception of English grammar.

Liesel Hermes was President of the University of Education, Karlsruhe, Germany from 1990-1992 and 2002-2011 and formerly a professor of English literature and TEFL at Karlsruhe and Koblenz. In 2001 and 2002 she was a visiting ←11 | 12→scholar at the University of Western Australia in Perth. Her research interests are 20th and 21st century Australian literature, EFL methodology, especially teaching literature, TEFL and diversity, and learner autonomy in Higher Education. She has published widely in these areas. For more than 25 years she was instrumental in the development of numerous English course books as an adviser and still publishes materials for teaching literary texts. She gives in-service seminars for teachers of English and works on a number of committees.

Nadja Heß is currently obtaining her degree in lower secondary education at the University of Education in Karlsruhe where she is majoring in English with a double minor in Biology and History. During the course of her studies, she spent a semester at the NHL Hogeschool in Leeuwarden, Netherlands, where she completed an international teacher training programme.

Alexander Könemann has been a student of English and History at the Leibniz University of Hannover since 2013. He is also a student assistant for History and English Didactics. In 2012 he worked as a German assistant teacher in Melbourne, Australia. He will finish his Master’s degree and start his teacher training in the summer of 2018. Currently, his research interests are children’s literature in the EFL classroom and biography assignments in history education.

Lotta König is an English and French teacher and a researcher of foreign language teaching at the English and Roman Studies Departments in Göttingen, Germany. She recently completed her PhD on Gender-Reflexion mit Literatur im Englischunterricht (Metzler 2018) and has published several articles on gender and queer issues in foreign language teaching. Further research interests include teaching literature and media, language learning beyond the classroom and cultural learning processes.

Viviane Lohe has been a research assistant of TEFL Theory and Methodology at Goethe University Frankfurt am Main since 2011. She studied English and German at the University of Frankfurt and completed her first state examination in 2010. Apart from regular teaching at Goethe University, she has been involved in two projects funded by the European Union (MuViT; EUDOIT) that deal with multilingualism and the integration of first languages into TEFL. In 2017 she completed her PhD in the area of primary pupils’ language awareness. Her research interests include multilingualism, early language learning and teaching, language awareness, films in the EFL classroom, and gender in TEFL.

Matthias Merkl studied English, German, Geography, Psychology and Pedagogy at the University of Würzburg, and German Literature, Applied Linguistics and ←12 | 13→Physical Geography at the University of Exeter (UK) from 1992-1997. In 2001 he received his doctorate in philosophy. Since then he has been a lecturer of English language, literature and culture at the University of Würzburg. In the following years he conducted research on Canadian minority literature at the Philipps-University of Marburg, at the University of British Columbia (Vancouver), at the University of Toronto, at York University (Toronto) and the University of Montreal. For about ten years he has been teaching as a lecturer at the University of Würzburg. He has published books and articles on teaching Anglophone cultures, Canadian literature, postcolonial studies and intercultural learning.

Thorsten Merse is a postdoctoral researcher and lecturer in the field of Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) at the University of Munich, LMU (Germany). He holds teacher training seminars for student teachers with a special focus on cultural diversity and multiliteracies. In his doctoral research completed in 2017 (titled Other Others, Different Differences: Queer Perspectives on Teaching English as a Foreign Language), he investigated current renegotiations of cultural, literary and gender-informed learning from the perspective of Queer Theory and the resulting practical implications for ELT. His other research interests include online media and digital literature in EFL education, critical materials research, global education and teaching with television series.

Anne Mihan studied English and German at the Humboldt University in Berlin and at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. Following her first state examination she worked on her dissertation on race and gender in selected works of Toni Morrison and Jeanette Winterson, earning a living as a freelance teacher of English and German as a foreign language. After finishing her second state examination she taught at a Berlin comprehensive school before returning to Humboldt University where she received her PhD in North American Literary and Cultural Studies. Since 2008 she has been teaching and doing research in English Language Education at Humboldt University. Her research interests include literature and cultural studies within TEFL, professional identities of teachers and teacher educators, and diversity education in TEFL with a focus on critical gender and critical race literacy education.

Franziska Pukowski is a research assistant and PhD student of EFL Methodology at Julius-Maximilians-University Würzburg. She received her first state examination for secondary teaching in English and German from Würzburg University. Her main research interests are teaching multimodal texts and graphic novels, inter- and transcultural learning and gender. She is currently working on her doctoral thesis “The Reconstruction of Gender in Portal-Quest Fantasy Graphic Novels”.

Elizabeth Shipley is a lecturer of EFL and literature at Karlsruhe University of Education. She holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from the State University of New York at Buffalo and did postdoctoral work in a project on cultural-studies pedagogy with emphases on gender and intercultural communication, directed by Professor Renate Haas (University of Kiel). She has taught at the State University of New York at Buffalo and the Universities of Bremen, Braunschweig, Hannover, and Kiel. Her recent publications and research focus on teaching science fiction and the posthuman in connection with gender in the EFL classroom. Other teaching and research interests are young adult fiction, creative writing, Native American literature, slave narratives, and late nineteenth and early twentieth century literature.

Sebastian Stuhlmann studied English and Spanish in secondary education at the University of Gießen (JLU). As a student he worked as a research assistant and TEFL tutor at the English department of JLU Gießen and continued his work there as a TEFL lecturer after his state examination. In 2015 he started his PhD project investigating speaking tasks in secondary English classrooms. In addition to empirical research on competence oriented English teaching, he is also interested in interactive teaching and learning and in teaching literature. Recent publications focus on the term interactivity and on teaching foreign languages with the help of interactive media. He currently teaches English at Stiftung Universität Hildesheim where he also coordinates the GHR 300 program for secondary school. Sebastian Stuhlmann is an active member of the GCSC research colloquium of JLU Gießen and of the DGFF.

Theresa Summer is a lecturer for EFL teaching at the Julius-Maximilians-University Würzburg and a secondary school teacher for English and Music. She is co-editor of the journal Englisch 5-10 and develops teaching materials for various publishers. In her doctoral thesis she analysed methodological options in textbooks for grammar instruction. Her research interests currently lie in the fields of teaching methodology, materials and task design, and teaching popular culture. She has published widely within these fields with a focus on bridging the gap between theory and practice.

Katrin Thomson is a Senior Lecturer of TEFL (Akademische Rätin) at the University of Augsburg. She studied English and German at the Universities of Jena and Nottingham. In 2005 she graduated from Jena University and received her teaching degree for secondary schools. She completed her teacher training with the second state examination in 2012 and received the Hans-Eberhard-Piepho-Award for her second state exam thesis in 2015. Before ←14 | 15→taking up her current position in 2017, she held positions as a TEFL lecturer and research assistant at the Universities of Jena, Münster, and Wuppertal. She has also been actively involved in in-service teacher training programs and has hosted practice-oriented TEFL workshops on a regular basis since 2007. Her interests in research and teaching include EFL methodology in CLT, teaching literature and culture, film literacy, gender issues as well as classroom discourse and reflective competences in teacher education. She is currently completing her doctorate on gender issues in Broadway plays of the Progressive Era.

Britta Viebrock has been a professor of TEFL Theory and Methodology at Goethe University Frankfurt am Main, Germany, since 2009. She studied English, Geography and Mathematics at the Universities of Brunswick and Bremen and did her practical teacher training in East Frisia at Studienseminar Leer and Gymnasium Ulricianum Aurich. In 2006, she completed her PhD at Bremen University and afterwards worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the same institution. Her research interests include Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL), digital und multimodal literacies, film in English language teaching, teacher professionalism, qualitative research methodology and research ethics. She has published several books and articles on various topics in the field of teacher education and Teaching English as a Foreign language, e.g. a collection on Feature Films in English Language Teaching’.

Laurenz Volkmann is full Professor of Teaching English as a Foreign Language at Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena. He has extensive teaching experience both at schools in Germany and at Universities in the USA, the UK and in various German states. His main research interests are in the areas of inter- and transcultural learning as well as in teaching literature, culture, media and gender-related issues. He has edited and co-edited numerous books and is the author of Fachdidaktik Englisch. Kultur und Sprache (2010) and the co-author of Teaching English (2015). He co-edited (with Helene Decke-Cornill) Gender Studies and Foreign Language Teaching, published in 2007.

Maria Eisenmann and Christian Ludwig

Introduction: Gender and Literature in the EFL Classroom

In the beginning, there is no he. There is no she.

Two cells make up one cell. This is the mathematics behind creation.

One plus one makes one. Life begets life.

(from: Vivek Shraya’s She of the Mountains, 2014)

The way we dress, the films we watch, or the language we use all tell something about our gender. In other words, gender is “all around us, encoded in the material world” (Murphy 2013: 171). Despite today’s more widely accepted omnipresence of the concept and a growing awareness of the fact that gender1 has substantial impact on all areas of life from the workplace to political ties to other states, there appears to be the obstinate misbelief that gender is not something which needs to be considered in depth. President Trump’s ban of transgender service in the army or the on-going call for more male kindergarten and primary school teachers may serve as examples here. This may be connected to the fact that gender, despite the growing academic interest in the subject, remains a personal and thus multifaceted and elusive concept, which varies across individuals, communities, time, and place, and, as social constructivism suggests, is constructed in our social interaction with others. However, a top down approach to gender through laws and regulations in areas such as women in the labour market, parental leave, or gender-based violence2 will most likely not take hold in people’s minds. Therefore, a more structured bottom-up approach to raising students’ awareness of gender (biases) from kindergarten and primary school to secondary and university education seems desirable but currently remains a desideratum. Testament to this fact is that, despite the increasing ex- and ←17 | 18→implicit mentioning of gender issues in the curriculum,3 teaching materials for the EFL classroom remain largely (identity and) gender-blind, which leads to a situation in which gender as a topic still continues to depend on the individual teacher or student. Since, as will be seen later on, literature can play an important role in breaking up gender stereotypes and encouraging students to reflect on their own gender, the present edited volume can hopefully contribute to change on the level of classroom practice. Before moving on to an in-depth discussion of the issue at hand, we would like to recount an anecdote from a medium-sized grammar school in Germany which illustrates the need for “gay-friendly pedagogies” (Nelson 1999: 371) and, more broadly, gender-sensitive teaching and learning at all levels of foreign language education.

This intimate account from the daily life of a school teacher demonstrates how LGBTQ students even today struggle with increased anxiety and (minority) stress while, at the same time, attempting to find their identity and place in the world. It also illustrates how they are overwhelmed with a world full of messages perceived as negative about same-sex or gender non-conforming identities. It becomes particularly obvious, however, that gender still does not receive the attention it deserves in an age where sexuality and gender become more of a continuum and testing out different genders becomes more and more common especially among teenagers. Teacher education not only for English but all subjects needs to address the issue at hand in order to prepare teachers for the issues of the gender-fluid generation. Both the teacher and the student in our case turned to the internet and social media to find role models, support, and resources. The articles collected in this volume offer resources paired with innovative and practical ideas for teachers, which they can use to promote gender awareness in their English classrooms and thus hopefully encouraging students to think more critically and beyond the binary.

The present edited volume situates itself in the context of already existing publications on teaching gender in the EFL classroom, especially (though not exclusively) in the context of teaching English as a foreign language in Germany. Decke-Cornill und Volkmann’s 2007 edited volume Gender Studies and Foreign Language Teaching should be given attention here as it is one of the first comprehensive publications on the topic at hand. Furthermore, Elsner and Lohe’s 2016 edited volume Gender and Language Learning should also not go unnoticed. Both edited volumes elucidate the wide range of themes and issues related to gender and foreign language learning. They also include contributions on the role of literary texts in creating, maintaining, and breaking up beliefs and stereotypes regarding gender (you will find some of the authors also in this volume). The aim of the edited volume at hand, however, is not to cover the whole ground of gender and foreign language learning but to highlight the potential of exploring questions of gender through the use of literary texts and other media such as TV series and online resources, e.g. newspaper articles and blogs, in and beyond the traditional canon from Shakespeare to Downton Abbey.4

Concepts of gender, sexuality, and sex continue to diversify at an accelerating rate – one only has to look at the more recent separation of women, gender, gay, and trans studies as well as the question of what will come after gender studies as examples. The contributors are well aware of the fact that the resources and learning suggestions here can only serve as inspirations which, nevertheless, can be transferred to other contexts. Moreover, this book is not exclusively about gender, which must be deemed an impossible endeavour due to the intricate interconnectedness of gender with other areas of life. Closely related to this, the growing inclusiveness of ‘mainstream society’ towards other groups such as otherly abled, ethnic minorities, and members of the LGBTQ community (cf. Stanley 2003: XVI) makes discussions of gender even more interesting. The traditional images of masculinity in the Muslim community in Germany (the same is true for conservative non-immigrant groups), which are often juxtaposed with liberal Muslim or ‘Western’ interpretations of what it means to be a man, may serve as an example here. The papers collected in this volume pay special ←20 | 21→attention to this, as all of them showcase approaches to teaching gender at the crossroads of gender, other identities, and culture.

This introduction is divided into three major sections. In the first section, we explore the history of both the concept of gender and the interdisciplinary field of gender studies. In the second section, we move on to looking at how engaging with (literary) texts in the broadest sense of the term can empower students to recognise gender-related norms and traditions such as fixed patterns of gendered behaviour, which also enables them to question their own concepts of gender and gender stereotypes peddled by individuals and social groups. The aim of the last section is twofold: in a first step, we investigate existing models of gender awareness and competence, while arguing in a second step that the concept of a critical gender literacy may present a more suitable alternative to describe the processes students go through when dealing with gender. We conclude by giving an overview of the individual contributions of this edited volume.

It is no exaggeration to say that gender has diffused into our cultural consciousness and that it “pervades every aspect of life and of living” (Aikhenvald 2016: 1). This, though, should not mislead us into the assumption that gender is easy to define. Taking the following definition by Udry as a starting point, we agree that gender describes “the relationship between biological sex and behaviour: a theory of gender explains that relationship. A gendered behaviour is one that differs by sex” (1994: 561). However, the understanding and meaning of gender can differ depending on the discipline in which it is studied or simply on the social group or individual that uses it. As Aikhenvald (2016: 1) posits:

To different people, the word ‘gender’ means different things. […] For a sociolinguist, a psychologist, and an anthropologist, ‘gender’ is a set of norms, attitudes, and behaviours that a given culture or society associates with the person’s biological sex (male or female). A philosopher defines gender as ‘social construction of male/female identity’ distinct from ‘sex, the biologically-based distinction between men and women’. […] Gender is also defined as a set of ideas about relations and behaviours, and principles of social organization, to be understood within a social context […].

Although the distinction between biological sex and gender as a role was introduced before the 1970s, it became only widespread with the emerging feminist movement and growing women’s activism (cf. Elsner/Lohe 2016: 12) of the “post-war women’s liberation and emancipation movement whose initial focus was on a critique of bourgeois patriarchy and heterosexual relationships” (Decke-Cornill/Volkmann 2007: 7). It was back then that gender studies commenced to gradually emancipate from women’s studies, which interpreted gender mainly as a “code for women” (Bronstein/Quina 2003: 4). Around this time theories of gender as culturalist and discursive also gained increasing influence (cf. Decke-Cornill/Volkmann 2007: 8). As Bronstein and Quina (2003: 4), basing their argument on a binary understanding of gender, state:

Gender refers not merely to women or to women’s issues but to the characteristics and behaviors a culture associates with being female or male and the characteristics and behaviors people may take on as they identify with one gender or the other.

In the following decades, especially in the wake of the emerging poststructuralist ideas, gender theories, and through the work of Judith Butler and others, also biological sex started to be perceived as socially constructed. As Nelson (1999: 374) summarises:

But with the poststructuralism came “the troubling of identity” (Seidman, 1995, p. 117). Identities began be theorised not as facts but as acts (Le Page & Tabouret-Keller, 1985), not attributes but positioning (Hall, 1990), not essences but strategies (Spivak, 1990), not “museum pieces or clinical specimens” but “works in progress” (Phelan, 1994, p. 41).

The idea that gender is not static but constantly changing occurs in many theories of gender. For example, West and Zimmermann in their seminal 1987 article “Doing Gender” suggest that gender is constructed in day-to-day interaction with others. They refer to this as ‘doing gender’, defined as “ongoing activity embedded in everyday interaction” (ibid.: 130). It is worth noting that for West and Zimmermann gender and interaction mutually influence each other, i.e. gender is created through interaction, while, at the same time, interaction is structured through gender (cf. ibid.: 131).

Especially the work of American philosopher and gender theorist Judith Butler, and in particular her ideas of gender as performance and the heterosexual matrix, attracted much attention and set the agenda for modern gender studies and a new feminist genealogy for the years to come. Drawing on the work of Simone de Beauvoir and her famous mantra that “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman” (1973: 301), Butler established an understanding of gender that is not determined by birth but constructed through a series of performative acts. In her groundbreaking article Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory (1988: 519–531), Butler describes gender as a “in no way a stable identity or locus of agency” (ibid.: 519) but rather as an “identity instituted through a stylized repetition of acts” (ibid.). Gender is not real; it is “real only to the extent that it is performed” (ibid.: 524). Butler’s claim that gender is not a fixed trait but a performative act has also led to criticism also in the trans* community as the following blog entry by trans* woman and activist Julia Serrano (2013: n.p.5) shows:

If one more person tells me that “all gender is performance,” […] It is a crass oversimplification, as ridiculous as saying all gender is genitals, all gender is chromosomes, or all gender is socialization. In reality, gender is all of these things and more. In fact, if there’s one thing that all of us should be able to agree on, it’s that gender is a confusing and complicated mess. It’s like a junior high school mixer, where our bodies and our internal desires awkwardly dance with one another, and with all the external expectations that other people place on us. Sure, I can perform gender: I can curtsy, or throw like a girl, or bat my eyelashes. But performance doesn’t explain why certain behaviors and ways of being come to me more naturally than others. It offers no insight into the countless restless nights I spent as a pre-teen wrestling with the inexplicable feeling that I should be female. It doesn’t capture the very real physical and emotional changes that I experienced when I hormonally transitioned from testosterone to oestrogen. Performance doesn’t even begin to address the fact that, during my transition, I acted the same, wore the same T-shirts, jeans, and sneakers that I always had, yet once other people started reading me as female, they began treating me very differently. When we talk about my gender as though it were a performance, we let the audience – with all their expectations, prejudices, and presumptions – completely off the hook.

For Butler, not only gender but also the biological sex is, at least to a certain extent, socially constructed. Butler (1993: 5) posits:


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2019 (February)
Literaturdidaktik Mediendidaktik Gender identity Gender
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien. 2018. 466 pp., 28 b/w ill., 15 b/w tabl.

Biographical notes

Maria Eisenmann (Volume editor) Christian Ludwig (Volume editor)

Maria Eisenmann holds the Chair for Teaching English as a Foreign Language at the Julius-Maximilians-University of Würzburg. She studied English, German and Pedagogy at the Universities of Würzburg and Newcastle upon Tyne, England. Her main research interests are in the areas of teaching literature, media literacy as well as inter- and transcultural learning. She has edited and co-edited numerous books and published widely in the field of teaching literature and literary literacy. Christian Ludwig is currently a substitute professor for American Cultural and Literary Studies at the University of Education, Karlsruhe, where he is also the Head of the English Department and Director of the Language Learning Centre. His teaching and research interests include enhancing learner autonomy in the EFL classroom as well as Computer-Assisted Language Learning. His focus of research lies in the reconstruction of gender and other identities in contemporary young adult dystopias and South African literature.


Title: Queer Beats – Gender and Literature in the EFL Classroom
book preview page numper 1
book preview page numper 2
book preview page numper 3
book preview page numper 4
book preview page numper 5
book preview page numper 6
book preview page numper 7
book preview page numper 8
book preview page numper 9
book preview page numper 10
book preview page numper 11
book preview page numper 12
book preview page numper 13
book preview page numper 14
book preview page numper 15
book preview page numper 16
book preview page numper 17
book preview page numper 18
book preview page numper 19
book preview page numper 20
book preview page numper 21
book preview page numper 22
book preview page numper 23
book preview page numper 24
book preview page numper 25
book preview page numper 26
book preview page numper 27
book preview page numper 28
book preview page numper 29
book preview page numper 30
book preview page numper 31
book preview page numper 32
book preview page numper 33
book preview page numper 34
book preview page numper 35
book preview page numper 36
book preview page numper 37
book preview page numper 38
book preview page numper 39
book preview page numper 40
471 pages