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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 Six. Conclusion: The Teaching of Literature and the Cultivation of a Hospitable Imagination


In tracing the historical evolution of literature education, I have discussed how, when English literature was first formally institutionalized as a subject within a system of mass education in Britain during the late eighteenth century, its goals were anchored on education for nationalistic citizenship. English literature served as an influential tool by the state to cultivate a civilized and disciplined citizenry, and concepts such as taste, the beautiful, morality, and the Absolute grounded the objectives of the curriculum and influenced the manner in which the subject was taught. In this context, the nation-state took over the function of moral guardian of the citizenry previously monopolized by the clergy and established the value system that citizens were to conform to. Education was then the ideological apparatus through which the state could enact its hegemonic influence over its citizens. Put another way, this nationalistic model of English literature education represents a nation-state model of values education.

One of the problems with a nation-state model of values education is that engagements with values and explorations of identity are conveyed in superficial, didactic ways with little room for student inquiry and exploration. It is essentially reflective of a Fordist paradigm of public education which, in contrast to a post-Fordist paradigm, emphasizes order, standardization, and an attitude of docility (Brown & Lauder, 1996). Perhaps it is the philosopher Michel Foucault (1995) who has most comprehensively described how, when this Fordist paradigm emerged during the late eighteenth century, it was governed by the invisible...

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