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Reading the World, the Globe, and the Cosmos

Approaches to Teaching Literature for the Twenty-first Century


Suzanne S. Choo

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.


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Chapter One. Introduction: Toward a Pedagogical Criticism of Literature Education


C H A P T E R O N E Introduction: Toward a Pedagogical Criticism of Literature Education At the front of the classroom, children gather in eager expectation as their teacher, sitting in the middle, begins a story about the little cuckoo and the nightingale. The cuckoo, chancing upon a nightingale, begins to earnestly wish that he could sing as beautifully. But to sing beautifully, the nightingale tells the cuckoo, is something that just cannot be learned; it is simply a gift that one is born with. On hearing this, the cuckoo’s wife stubbornly refuses to believe it and decides to test the nightingale’s theory by hiding her egg in the nest of a hedge sparrow. When the egg hatches, a young cuckoo emerges and is nourished and cared for exactly like the other hedge sparrows. As it grows up, however, the cuckoo finds that it is unable to fly like the others, nor can it sing like the others. The only sound it makes is just that of a cuckoo. The teacher stops at this point, turns to the children, and asks them to tell her what the moral of the story is. At first glance, there is nothing unusual about this scene of teaching. This educative use of storytelling in formal settings of modern-day classrooms inherits oral traditions in premodern enchanted worlds where hunters with their children would gather around fires under starlit skies to listen to heroic tales or moral fables. The storyteller could be a...

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