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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 Four. Global Approaches to Teaching Literature


C H A P T E R F O U R Global Approaches to Teaching Literature Eternal minstrel of liberty! Thy shrill voice rends the wintry air Dost thou sing for want of sympathy? Or art thou tired of strife and care? (B. C. K., 1935, para. 1) These lines comprise the first stanza of a poem titled “The Rook.” The remaining three stanzas of the poem speculate on the bird’s wanderings and its dismal cry. Perhaps it is oppressed by the dreariness of the world, perhaps it knows something of the fate of human existence that the rest of the world does not. In the final stanza, the narrator reflects on his envy of the bird which, in its freedom, appears to express deep wisdom about the condition of humanity. The poem was published in 1935 in the school magazine of Raffles Institution, a premiere all-boys high school. Since the magazine was only published three times a year, it was most likely the case that the poem was selected above others by the teacher or headmaster for its exemplary literary qualities. For example, the poem almost consistently employs the iambic tetrameter throughout; its first stanza ends with two rhetorical questions establishing the yearning, sympathetic tone of the poem which reaches its climax in the final stanza as the protagonist contrasts the rook’s freedom and courage to his own helpless resignation toward life. What is most remarkable about the poem, however, is that the school concerned is situated in Singapore...

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