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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 Three. World Approaches to Teaching Literature


A large outline of the map of the world is placed on the front wall of the room. Next to it are two huge charts. One chart is organized according to lists of nations — America, France, Greece, Persia, and so forth. Another chart is organized according to distinct periods — eighteenth century, nineteenth century, twentieth century, and so on. Surrounding the chart are a set of pictures that vividly display the setting and background of key places and events within some of these geographical regions. Throughout the entire school year, students engage in reading world literature and the front wall is transformed into a giant notepad as they categorize the books according to place and time and note brief descriptions about the texts. The difficulty of mapping the world is evident in this disorganized space of huge charts, handwritten notes, pictures, and connecting lines. In the middle of the program, the teacher observes that national prejudices surface as students begin to make stereotypical associations such as that between Jew and moneylender, Chinese and laundrymen, Italian and bootblack. As they articulate these in their discussions, the teacher encourages them to refer to the map and consider from where these biased impressions are derived, why the text conveys a particular association, and what are the social and political forces conditioning events in the story. If the Chinese in story A is depicted in a particular way in the nineteenth century, how is this similar or different from the way the Americans are depicted...

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