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teaching critical theory EFL  literature teachers at the (university) pretend that...

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hteshak | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Honors

Posted May 14, 2011 at 7:11 AM via web

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teaching critical theory

 EFL  literature teachers at the (university) pretend that literary theories don't fit the student's level even if he has been studying english for 4 years at the university, (i mean as a speciality). when tackling british or american literary works, those teachers emphasize only on the theme and the characters. so what's your viewpoint?  

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James Kelley | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted May 14, 2011 at 8:31 AM (Answer #2)

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Theme and character are always a good place to start, I think, but I would not expect iterary analysis by students of English-language literature at the university level to end there. Instead, I would expect that sort of analysis to dominate at the level of middle school or high school. I don’t mean this comment to sound disrespectful to middle school and high school teachers. To me, the close reading and other skills that middle school and high school teachers help students develop are essential for any good literary analysis.

If language is the barrier, students could simply be assigned translations of foundational essays in literary theory. Many American literary critics can’t read Russian or German or Bulgarian or French, for example, and thus they read and quote Propp, Freud, Kristeva, etc. in translation. I see nothiing wrong with introducing new, challenging material in the more accessible language first (e.g. French or Arabic) and only then (once the concepts and ideas are more familiar) practicing their application in the target language (English).

More importantly, if the university students are already very good at talking about theme and character and are learning nothing new each time they do it, they should be pushed to another level of literary analysis, which would probably involve theory to some degree. Of course, theory is not the only way to increase the level of challenge for students.

In any case, in my view, “more of the same,” once it’s become predictable and easy, is dull routine, not education.

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