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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 Five. Cosmopolitan Approaches to Teaching Literature


C H A P T E R F I V E Cosmopolitan Approaches to Teaching Literature The scene of contention occurs when Victor Frankenstein, the scientist and protagonist of Mary Shelley’s famed novel, is confronted by the monster he has created. The monster now demands that Victor create a female companion. “Shall each man ... find a wife for his bosom, and each beast have his mate, and I be alone?” the monster cries. Yet, Victor refuses to give in, his argument being that this would result in another demonic creature of his own making let loose upon the earth. A student stands up and asks his classmates to examine the moral reasoning behind Victor’s argument. Citing various passages from the text, the student argues that Victor does not understand the monster’s plight and constantly reverts to the logic of science. It is a moral argument based on scientific rationality rather than empathy for the monster’s plight. After making his argument, the student sits down and another student now stands up to rebut him. “What we must understand,” the student states, “is that Victor has an obligation to society not to create such monsters.” He then points out the text’s allusion to the creation story, where Eve tempts Adam, to show how the female species has been associated with evil and the fall of man. This allusion is contained in Victor’s fear of creating another female species because this may possibly contribute to a second original sin. The discussion continues for...

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