Current Issues in Teaching Literature

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The article that I have chosen is entitled ‘Teaching Literature through Language: Some Consideration’ by Abraham Panavelil Abraham (Ph D) who is an English Professor at University of Nizwa, Oman. This research article mainly discusses on why teaching literature in language classroom is important, how to choose an appropriate literary text and also some strategies for teaching literature by creating an awareness of linguistic possibilities and sensibility. In the introduction, Abraham pointed out that commonly teachers will use ‘the traditional method’ such as ‘lecturing on topics like theme, characterization, plot, motif etc directly’ without giving much attention on the language aspect of the literary texts. This phenomenon seems to depict well our own Malaysian classroom. Most of the time teachers in schools focus more on completing the prescribed texts by providing all the information about the text and they rarely pinpoint the stylistic or the linguistic features of the texts. In my opinion, the stylistics and linguistics features of the text are the ones which make the text as an art. Rather than pinpointing these features, some teachers would find it easier to grab the commercial study guide that are easily available in book shops which has simplified version of the literary elements as mentioned above and photocopy the whole chapter for the students. Some teachers consider that they have completed the text when they manage to cover all these elements with the students without bothering much about the students’ understanding on the particular text. In the same paragraph, Abraham mentioned that ‘learning literature through language demands active involvement of both’ parties. Therefore, our teachers should promote active involvement in both sides as well. This means that the teacher should not be the sole information provider but the students should do the exploration on their own with the support of the teacher for the students to build ‘intensive relationship with the literary texts’. The teacher should act as a facilitator to guide the students throughout the texts by not giving the answers but by preparing the road to look for the answers by themselves. In the next section, ‘Why Literature?’, Abraham explains more on the importance of literary texts in language learning. He says that by learning literature, it not only improves the four skills but also ‘other language areas like vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation’. The author points out all the advantages that literature texts provide in language teaching and learning. There is nothing but to agree with the author. These reasons are more than enough to keep the literature component in our English Language syllabus. Teachers should not even doubt the power of literary texts in language learning. Next in the article, Abraham talks about how to choose an appropriate text. He mentioned that choosing an appropriate text is ‘one of the challenges’ that teaches face when teaching literature. However, in our context, there is no needs for the teachers to choose the literary texts as it has already been prescribed by the Ministry of Education. So, for once, Malaysian teachers could skip one of the challenges that other teachers face when they are teaching language through literature. The writer of this article outlines the considerations such as the ‘needs of the students, their motivation, interest and cultural background should be taken’ in order to choose the literary texts. In Malaysia, the Ministry of Education would have obviously taken into account all these consideration but to what extend it is accurate? The consideration would have made in very general context as students may vary from one place to another place not only in West Malaysia but also in East Malaysia. We have students who are with very low English Language proficiency and also students with high English Language proficiency. When we have students in both extremes, the Ministry will not be able to...
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