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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 Two. Nationalistic Approaches to Teaching Literature


C H A P T E R T W O Nationalistic Approaches to Teaching Literature After the student is handed a selected passage, such as a poem by Blake, he or she is asked to first learn it by heart and then to rewrite it from memory. The copy is then compared to the original and corrections are made. This process is repeated until the student is able to replicate the complete text accurately. It is recommended that such a method of studying literature be implemented for two mornings in a week for four to five years (Michael, 1987). Though such a method may appear draconian today, it was the common strategy of teaching in the eighteenth century when the formation of a national system of education in Britain had just begun (Richardson, 1994). Even up until the first decade of the twentieth century, this strategy of reproduction was expanded to include teaching students to learn lists of useful words from the text by heart (Board of Education, 1905), getting students to copy phrases wholesale from original texts, and getting them to imitate the style and content of the texts they memorized (Myers, 1996; Welton 1906). It was hailed by the Board of Education (1910) as the most effective approach to the teaching of English language and literature. David Shayer (1972) notes the underlying belief behind this strategy of reproduction was that “if the pupil were to start doing things for himself, he would make mistakes and this could not...

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