Building up literary reading responses in foreign language classrooms

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Abstract

In the last decades there has been a growing interest in integrating literature into the foreign language curriculum. At first glance, one expects this tendency to respond to the deep fascination that human beings have for centuries felt with storytelling and, therefore, to serve some motivational and humanistic purposes. However, this integration has been seen as serving merely linguistic purposes by most language educators, who regard literary texts simply as wonderful sources of input which expose students to a rich variety of language forms and uses as well as discourse types in motivating and meaningful contexts. Additionally, work on fictional texts is justified as long as it facilitates the development of reading comprehension skills and critical thinking techniques for text analysis. Though these pedagogical goals are perfectly valid, the treatment of literary texts cannot be restricted to the attainment of language learning objectives. Foreign language teachers should not forget the educational implications of all the decisions they make in the classroom. Therefore, if they transmit the idea to learners that reading literary texts should be justified by some instrumental motivation such as vocabulary learning or text analysis, they are validating current teaching practices at schools which disregard the aesthetic goals for reading literature and, instead, emphasise the achievement of more objective goals that have nothing to do with the true nature of literary reading. These teaching practices usually lead to the same unfortunate outcomes: the widespread dislike for literary reading, the failure to associate the reading of fiction with pleasure, and the subsequent lack of literary reading habits. The purpose of the study reported in this article was, in broad terms, to explore the value of an alternative role of literary reading in foreign language classrooms. It specifically aimed at empowering students to develop a better appreciation of the literary experience and to read literature with greater competence and pleasure by encouraging them to adopt a reader-based approach to fictional texts and a predominantly aesthetic stance during the reader-text transaction.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)01-13
Number of pages13
JournalEnglish Language Teacher Education and Development
Volume12
Publication statusPublished - 2009

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