Culture and Literature in the EFL Classroom

Bridging the Gap between Theory and Practice

by Theresa Summer (Volume editor)
©2019 Edited Collection 296 Pages


In the context of foreign language education, the importance of cultural and literary studies has grown continuously in our globalising world. Language educators and researchers are looking into ways in which inter- and transcultural awareness and competence can be developed so that learners become responsible global citizens. This volume invites the reader to engage in critical thinking while reflecting upon important theoretical concepts and their application in practice. The contributions deal with a wide variety of topics including antinomies that mark literary and cultural competence development, textbook analysis, Shakespeare, South Africa, India, and pop culture artefacts such as graphic novels and songs. Resources are presented to illustrate how theory can be related to practice.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title Page
  • Copyright Page
  • Tribute
  • Acknowledgements
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • Citability of the eBook
  • Contents
  • Introduction
  • Part 1: Setting the scene: culture and literature in EFL education
  • Culture and literature in EFL education: functions and antinomies
  • Learning about culture in the EFL classroom: then and now, in theory and practice
  • Developing inter- and transcultural competences in EFL textbooks for advanced learners
  • Part 2: Shakespeare in EFL education
  • “To be or not to be digital” – Shakespeare 2.0
  • Relating to the bard and dealing with human conflicts in EFL education
  • Translation history and the propaedeutics of literary theory: Apropos of Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 66”
  • Part 3: Learning with authentic materials
  • Integrating authentic texts from pop culture in EFL education
  • ‘Time the final frontier’1 – learning English through time travel narratives
  • Global and transcultural learning through Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner
  • Getting engaged with South Africa’s culture and history through authentic materials
  • Part 4: Focussing on India in EFL education
  • Bollywood in Indian diasporic literature
  • Of tigers, tiffins and Diwali – taking students on a (mental) journey to India
  • List of figures
  • List of tables
  • Editor
  • Contributors


In today’s global society, it is of paramount importance to be able to interact with people from different cultural backgrounds, understand, and embrace them. For the foreign language learner, this means operating “as informed agents between languages”, “overcoming stereotypes”, and becoming a “responsible global citizen” (Garrett-Rucks 2016, p. 41). Educators, therefore, play an important role in fostering the development of inter- and transcultural competence as well as literature-related competences in the foreign language classroom. The concepts and issues raised in this volume surrounding culture and literature in EFL (English as a foreign language) education invite the reader to engage in critical thinking while reflecting upon significant theoretical frameworks and their application in practice.

The contributions deal with a wide variety of topics related to culture and literature ranging from theoretical concepts to textbook analysis, Shakespeare, the integration of authentic materials and pop culture as well as India in EFL education. Several practical resources are presented to illustrate how the vast fields of culture and literature can be integrated in practice. Students of TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) as well as practising educators require theory clearly related to practice. This volume aims to bridge the gap between theory and practice by encouraging educators to apply concepts to their own teaching contexts. The contributions contain suggestions, ideas and several practical activities to illustrate practical tasks for teachers’ usage in their own classrooms. Practising teachers, researchers, and university students are thus equipped with theoretical concepts as well as practical resources. Regarding the objectives of the resources presented, their function is utilitarian as well as entertaining – a discrepancy that can be identified when examining learning goals presented by governmental syllabuses (Ahrens 2013, p. 182).

Crucially, when attempting to develop competences related to culture(s) and literature(s) in the EFL classroom, texts play a key role. In the context of this volume, literature and literary texts are defined rather broadly and openly. They refer to the whole range of different text types including written novels, Shakespeare’s dramas as well as texts from pop culture such as graphic novels and songs. This complies with Hallet’s broad definition of texts (cf. Hallet’s “weiter Literaturbegriff” in Hallet 2015, pp. 13–14) as well as Delanoy et al.’s concept that goes beyond the core cultures and literatures in English studies (Delanoy et al. 2015, p. 9). Texts are culture-bound or, more specifically, texts are ←11 | 12→cultures-bound. In Pope’s words, “texts and utterances in English can be identified with distinct national and regional cultures, even as they transgress, transcend or transform the boundaries of those cultures” (Pope 2002, p. 19). In effect, when dealing with a text in foreign language education, some form of cultural, intercultural, or transcultural learning can take place.

More specifically, the volume’s variety of contributions discusses numerous texts ranging from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 66, artefacts from pop culture such as a picturebook and short animated video, time travel narratives, Khaled Hosseini’s Kite Runner, and songs dealing with South Africa to Bollywood Literature. All contributions underscore the important role of connecting learners with the cultural dimension of foreign language learning through the use of a wide variety of textual materials that allow learners to get in touch with a different culture (or different cultures, in the plural) first hand. Moreover, some contributions suggest digital media and apps as useful resources. The goal of practical suggestions and activities is to encourage learners to interact in the target language so as to enable them to participate in English language exchanges worldwide and become responsible global citizens. Furthermore, specific objectives are in focus in the practical suggestions provided which comprise an immanent part of getting engaged with a text. These include “Landeskunde” (cultural studies), aesthetic education, acquiring knowledge about authors and their work, an increase in motivation, as well as media competence (Ahrens 2013, p. 183).

This volume is divided into four main sections. Part 1 sets the scene for the topic of the volume: culture and literature in EFL education. Laurenz Volkmann presents the connection between culture(s) and literature(s) in EFL education in his contribution “Culture and literature in EFL education: functions and antinomies”. He presents seven basic antinomies, i.e. pedagogic contradictions, which need to be considered when designing competence models dealing with the aforementioned topic. These, for instance, include the “literary literacy” versus “multiliteracies” as well as the “empathy” versus “critical approaches” antinomy. He highlights that it is primarily the power of literature to draw readers into a culturally different world and thus emphasise with culturally different characters that comprise some of the strongest arguments for integrating literature in EFL education.

The second contribution by Jennifer Meier “Learning about culture in the EFL classroom: then and now, in theory and practice” provides a historical account of how culture has been and still is taught in the EFL classroom. By illustrating and analysing numerous examples from the late 19th century up until the present day, she provides a comprehensive account of how cultural education has ←12 | 13→been and is put into practice ranging from Kulturkunde-lessons to examples of the implementation of transcultural learning.

The final contribution of Part 1 is devoted to textbook analysis. In her chapter “Developing inter- and transcultural competences in EFL textbooks for advanced learners”, Janina Kuhn-Deutschländer explores to what extent current EFL textbooks prepare advanced learners for a life in a global society and foster inter- and transcultural learning. The author presents and analyses examples from textbooks and sums up that principles of inter- and transcultural learning are by and large integrated in textbooks. The focus is on supranational institutions and the process of globalisation exemplified, for instance, by the garment industry and migration.

Part 2 is devoted to William Shakespeare in EFL education – dealt with from three rather different perspectives. By referring to Shakespeare’s timelessness, Maria Eisenmann in her contribution titled “ ‘To be or not to be digital’ – Shakespeare 2.0” provides an outline of Shakespeare adaptations, creations and transformations from the World Wide Web. This includes a theoretical discussion of multiliteracies, digital media, and digital literacy. In addition, numerous Web 2.0 tools are suggested for teaching practices such as computer games and apps.

In the following contribution “Relating to the Bard and dealing with human conflicts in EFL education”, Sabine Mollenhauer focuses on the universal human conflicts presented in Shakespeare’s work. These, for example, include ‘racism’ in Othello, ‘revenge and depression’ in Hamlet, and ‘greed’ in Macbeth. She provides a comprehensive outline of these topics and suggests methodological options for dealing with basic human feelings found in Shakespeare’s dramas in the EFL classroom.

Dealing specifically with one of Shakespeare’s sonnets, Norbert Greiner in “Translation history and the propaedeutics of literary theory: apropos of Shakespeare’s ‘Sonnet 66’ ” analyses different German translations of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 66. In his comparative study, he illustrates that the nature of translation is a dialogue between two authors and cultures arguing that translation history should be part of comparative cultural history. His examples of different translations illustrate that every translation serves “as a kind of cultural ‘interface’ of different maps, cultural norms, and stylistic attitudes”.

Part 3 is devoted to the issue of integrating authentic materials in EFL education. In the introductory chapter “Integrating authentic texts from pop culture in EFL education”, Theresa Summer provides an outline of numerous text features in order to provide a theoretical groundwork for the discussion of authenticity with regard to pop culture. It is argued that pop culture texts in all their variety ←13 | 14→deserve a place in foreign language education. Three examples are provided including a picturebook, a graphic novel, and a short animated video. Practical activities illustrate how these authentic materials can be integrated in primary and early secondary schools.

In the following contribution, “ ‘Time the final frontier’ – learning English through time travel narratives”, Christian Ludwig explores the potential of time travel literature for EFL learning from the perspectives of comic studies. While presenting some examples of comics and graphic novels, he shows how these texts can encourage learners to deal with the paradoxes of time travel and develop core competences and skills.

Claudia Deetjen inspects “Global and transcultural learning through Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner” in her contribution in which she discusses learning objectives and presents practical teaching suggestions for integrating the novel and its film adaptation in the EFL classroom. The focus is on fostering global knowledge about Afghan and Afghan-American diaspora cultures while dealing with religious heterogeneity and processes of hybrid identity formation and developing competences in conflict resolution.

The subsequent contribution “Getting engaged with South Africa’s culture and history through authentic materials” by Daniela Anton provides an account of why South Africa deserves to be dealt with in EFL education and how this can be approached in practice. She provides an outline of cultural learning with the aid of various authentic texts – for instance, songs that deal with South Africa. By getting engaged with South Africa’s culture in the EFL classroom, it is argued that the scope of topics can be broadened and students’ learning experience is enriched.

Part 4 deals with “Focusing on India in EFL Education”. In the first contribution Klaus Stierstorfer looks into “Bollywood in Indian diasporic literature” by analysing and comparing contemporary Bollywood novels such as Miss New India by Bharati Mukherjee (2011) and Show Business by Shashi Tharoor (1991). The author argues that dealing with Bollywood literature constitutes an important part of intercultural learning because it provides learners with knowledge and access to, in his words, “a remarkable diasporic phenomenon in the English-speaking world”.

In the final contribution, Iris Wagner first discusses a range of Indian novels for the advanced EFL classroom in her contribution “Of tigers, tiffins, and Diwali: taking students on a (mental) journey to India”. The content of each of these novels is summoned up combined with practical suggestions on how learners can be taken on a mental journey to India. This is followed by the description of and reflection upon a real journey to India – a project carried ←14 | 15→out at her school in which knowledge, competence, and skills were developed as students immersed in real Indian culture on an exchange programme.

The collection of these papers, on the occasion of Rüdiger Ahrens’ 80th birthday, is to honour his far-reaching international academic achievements as well as his dedication to TEFL research and the field of EFL education.


Ahrens, Rüdiger: “Introduction: Teaching Literature”. In: Eisenmann, Maria / Summer, Theresa (eds.): Basic Issues in EFL Teaching and Learning. Winter: Heidelberg 2013, pp. 181–189.

Delanoy, Werner / Eisenmann, Maria / Matz, Frauke: “Introduction: Learning with Literature in the EFL Classroom”. In: Delanoy, Werner / Eisenmann, Maria / Matz, Frauke (eds.): Learning with Literature in the EFL Classroom. Lang: Frankfurt a.M. 2015, pp. 7–15.

Garrett-Rucks, Paula: Intercultural Competence in Instructed Language Learning: Bridging Theory and Practice. Information Age Publishing: Charlotte, NC 2016.

Hallet, Wolfgang: “Literatur, Bildung und Kompetenzen: Eine bildungstheoretische Begründing für ein literaturbezogenes Kompetenzcurriculum”. In: Hallet, Wolfgang / Surkamp, Carola / Krämer, Ulrich (eds.): Literaturkompetenzen Englisch: Modellierung – Curriculum – Unterrichtsbeispiele. Kallmeyer: Seelze 2015, pp. 9–20.

Pope, Rob: The English Studies Book: An Introduction to Language, Literature and Culture. Routledge: London 22002.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2019 (March)
English teaching methods cultural didactics intercultural, transcultural learning didactics of literature textbook analysis Shakespeare Pop culture
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien. 2019. 296 p., 14 col. ill., 8 b/w ill., 15 b/w tab.

Biographical notes

Theresa Summer (Volume editor)

Theresa Summer is lecturer for TEFL and a secondary school teacher for English and Music. Her research interests lie in the field of task development and pop culture in foreign language education. She has published widely within these fields with a focus on relating theory to practice.


Title: Culture and Literature in the EFL Classroom
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298 pages