Rehumanizing the Language Curriculum

by Megan M. Echevarría (Volume editor)
©2023 Edited Collection XII, 200 Pages


This volume brings together work by renowned scholars in the field of foreign/second/heritage languages and literatures who employ a variety of scholarly tools to examine opportunities associated with literature as a force for rehumanizing and invigorating target language (TL) education in the 21st century. Offering viable avenues for reconciling historic differences between language pedagogues and literature educators, their work demonstrates that language pedagogy and literary studies are not divergent or competing disciplines separated by firm barriers, but rather convergent, interdependent, mutually beneficial, and genuinely complementary areas of inquiry.
Each chapter foregrounds the multilayered value of target language literary education, aligning it with competencies that reside at the core of broader contemporary educational and societal priorities and aspirations. The contributors connect literature education to a wide array of goals, including not only literacy, communicative competencies, critical reading, and critical thinking, but also social engagement, global citizenship, intercultural sensitivity, and symbolic competence. Without minimizing the significant challenges facing language educators today, Rehumanizing the Language Curriculum argues in various ways for rehumanizing language education as the most effective means for overcoming pressing challenges, for addressing urgent priorities, and for approaching our full potential within the diversity of this vibrant community of scholarship and practice.

"Rehumanizing the Language Curriculum should be compulsory reading for educators wishing to integrate language and literature teaching. This is a welcome and much needed contribution to rehumanizing language education in the 21st century."
—Werner Delanoy, University of Klagenfurt
"Featuring an international cast of contributors, this volume provides new insights into the role of literature in 21st century language education. Through various theoretical, ideological, and pedagogical lenses, the chapters present innovative and thought-provoking ways to reconcile the language-content divide and teach language and literature as interdependent parts of a whole. The result is a volume that encourages readers to value and embrace the range of disciplinary content and scholarly perspectives comprising language programs."
—Kate Paesani, University of Minnesota
"This wide-ranging collection highlights the importance of literature education in the language classroom, critiquing reductionist views of language education and making insightful connections between areas such as literary reading, deep reading, language education and general educational competencies. A thoughtful and often provocative collection, it provides a variety of lenses for understanding the ways in which second language learners can engage with literature, and a clear illustration of the immense world of new possibilities that is opened up when using literature."
—Amos Paran, University College London
"Rehumanizing the Language Curriculum is an ambitious, wide-ranging, yet readable collection of chapters which makes us rediscover the role of literature in language education. Addressing current issues such as intercultural communication, ecology, and diversity, this book proves the practicality and versatility of literature. In the gloomy educational environment in which pedagogical effects are mistakenly visualized statistically, uniformly, or even financially, the multifaceted approaches illustrated in this volume are a must for language teachers and scholars in any context."
—Masayuki Teranishi, University of Hyogo, Japan

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Advance Praise
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editor
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Figures
  • List of Tables
  • Chapter One: Introduction: Reconcilable Differences (Megan M. Echevarría, University of Rhode Island)
  • Part I: Literature and 21st-century Language Education
  • Chapter Two: Poetic Equivalence: Key to the Development of Symbolic Competence (Claire Kramsch, University of California, Berkeley)
  • Chapter Three: On the Recitation of Poetry by Language Learners (Guy Cook, King’s College London)
  • Chapter Four: Literature for Diversity in Formal Foreign Language Learning Contexts (Geoff Hall, University of Nottingham Ningbo China & Nord University, Norway)
  • Part II: Beyond Comprehension of Input: Literary Reading and Learning
  • Chapter Five: Literary Reading in the Second Language: Blending Perspectives from Applied Linguistics and Literary Theory (Per Urlaub, Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
  • Chapter Six: Deep Reading for In-Depth Learning (Janice Bland, Nord University, Norway & OsloMet University)
  • Chapter Seven: Understanding Literary Texts in a Second Language: Instances of Advanced and Superior Comprehension (Elizabeth Bernhardt, Stanford University)
  • Part III: Beyond Production of Output: Literature and Expressive Agency
  • Chapter Eight: Scaffolding Literature Education in Communicative and Intercultural Context (Megan M. Echevarría, University of Rhode Island)
  • Chapter Nine: Literary Dialogues as Models of Conversation: Evaluating Potential (Christian Jones, University of Liverpool)
  • Chapter Ten: Meeting Them Where They Are: Using Differentiated Integrated Performance Assessments to Build Interpersonal Speaking Skills in the L2 Literature Class (Mark Anthony Darhower, North Carolina State University & Dawn Smith-Sherwood, Indiana University of Pennsylvania)
  • Index
  • About the Authors

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Chapter One

Introduction: Reconcilable Differences

Megan M. Echevarría, University of Rhode Island

A linguist deaf to the poetic functions of language and a literary scholar indifferent to linguistic problems and unconversant with linguistic methods, are equally flagrant anachronisms. (Jakobson, 1960, p. 377)

Overcoming Anachronisms

For decades, scholars have been confronting and contesting the polemic language-literature divide, grappling with how to manage the richly multifaceted nature of the field of foreign, second, and heritage language and literary studies, and to reconcile what at times seem like divergent academic identities serving competing interests.1 Throughout this time, a number of researchers and practitioners from across the globe have made significant contributions to successfully integrating target language (TL) literary studies with linguistics, language pedagogy, intercultural development, and other innovative educational initiatives and priorities.

In 1985, Widdowson expressed with his characteristic lucidity concerns about the language-literature divide. Noting that language teaching and literature teaching “have been traditionally seen as belonging to two different pedagogic domains” he laments that in instructional settings these two domains “may occasionally co-occur, but they do not compound” (p. 180). In his essay he aims “to deplore this separation and to propose a reconciliation for the future” (p. 180). ←1 | 2→He expresses clear disagreement and dissatisfaction with efforts to “purge” literature from the language curriculum and offers an equally unambiguous admonition to literary scholars who base their approach to TL literature teaching on the false premise that their students already possess “an independent ability to read literature for themselves” (p. 180, 186). His proposal for reconciliation consists of his renowned stylistic approach to teaching literature that stimulates interactive student engagement with both language and literature, and that supports both language learning and literary learning (Widdowson 1975, 1985, 1992). Widdowson makes a strong argument demonstrating that the domains of language teaching and literature teaching are complementary, and that “the strength of the case for exclusion [of literature in language education] is undermined by the principles of communicative language teaching” (Widdowson, 1985, p. 181).

Since the moment of Widdowson’s call for reconciliation, many scholars from across the globe have contributed additional perspectives to advocate in different ways for the integration of literature education and language pedagogy.2 In response to imperfect vertical articulation of curricula, scholars and practitioners have argued for expanding the presence of literature and of literary learning across different levels of the TL curriculum to provide smooth and coherent support for a variety of TL educational goals.3 To address calls for improved learning in literature classrooms, educators have developed interactive and student-centered teaching methods and innovative course designs.4 In response to calls to document the validity of literature in TL education, researchers have conducted data-based and empirical investigations in defense of TL literary education.5

The primary aim of this volume is to contribute to this ongoing work of resisting anachronistic fragmentation within language, cultural, and literary education with new knowledge and perspectives from scholars working at this exciting crossroads, counteracting illogical and unproductive divisions. At a time when research value is measured too often almost exclusively by the presence or absence of quantitative data points—regardless of the actual significance or impact of those data—this book inclusively brings together different types of scholarship without privileging any one mode of inquiry, analysis, or knowledge creation over another: essays, theoretical research, testimonies, data-based investigations. The chapters ahead exploit different tools to examine multiple aspects of the opportunities associated with literature as a powerful force for rehumanizing and invigorating TL education in the 21st century.

This collection foregrounds the multilayered value of teaching and learning TL literature: each chapter aligns TL literary education with competencies that reside at the core of broader educational and societal priorities and aspirations. Contributors connect literature education to a wide array of goals, including not only literacy, communicative competence, and critical reading and thinking, but also social engagement, global citizenship, intercultural sensitivity, and symbolic ←2 | 3→competence. As a cohesive whole, this volume demonstrates viable avenues for reconciling the historic differences between language pedagogues and literature educators.

The Partial Paradigm Shift

The paradigm shift towards functional communication skills in language education that occurred during the second half of the 20th century has been celebrated in a variety of terms: a refreshing and egalitarian renunciation of an elitist past, an overdue and rational turn toward more realistic and meaningful communication, the adoption of new and more relevant priorities.6 Key concepts in remarks like these, that aim to commend the noteworthy achievements of communicative language teaching, have also been invoked to question the utility of literary studies in the TL curriculum. Skeptics and detractors view literature as a luxury for the elite, as a form of communication that is less authentic and less meaningful than the spontaneous speech one might hear at the corner butcher shop or in TikTok videos, as a cultural product of low relevance and interest to contemporary students. While viral amateur videos, transactional exchanges, and casual social repartee may respond to the most immediately discernible notions of utility, authenticity, and relevance to some young people, that does not mean that beautiful, powerful, complex, or challenging literary texts are not also uniquely useful and authentic, socio-culturally genuine, and thoroughly relevant to those same people. The easy accessibility of tweets, Youtube shorts, and viral memes is appealing because it gratifies instantly. The ultimate appeal of learning how to unravel the complexities and elucidate the ambiguities of a skillfully crafted literary text, while perhaps not immediately dazzling on the surface, when taught effectively through supportive and empowering methods is certainly far more impactful.

Education is not about leisurely indulgence or the expeditious retrieval of prizes: it is about exerting sustained effort in pursuit of valuable, enduring, and satisfying rewards, many of which are difficult or impossible to quantify. In an age in which educational accountability is too frequently and myopically reduced to countability, all language educators at all levels must resist the temptation to race toward lowest common denominators.


XII, 200
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2023 (March)
foreign language education curriculum reform literature education communicative competence symbolic competence intercultural competence intercultural learning critical literacy diversity in language learning second-language reading literary reading Rehumanizing the Language Curriculum Megan M. Echevarría
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2023. XII, 200 pp., 4 color ill., 6 tables.

Biographical notes

Megan M. Echevarría (Volume editor)

Megan M. Echevarría (PhD, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) is Professor of Spanish and Film Studies at the University of Rhode Island. Dr. Echevarria specializes in Hispanic literary, cultural, and film studies. Her publications include articles and book chapters on literary and film studies and a literary reader for ¡Anda! Intermedio program (2010, 2013).


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214 pages