Literature in Modern Times

Topics: Poetry, Human, Teaching English as a foreign language Pages: 7 (2244 words) Published: May 26, 2002


1.0 Presentation
From the very beginning of human species, literature existed side by side. Human life, in the form of human passions, feelings, loves, sufferings, and human history existed in the literatures. Human legends started with the very stone age, recorded in the stone scripts. It was a human need to communicate the past to the future generations. Poetry, as an art form, has been for many centuries praised, contemplated and has continued to affect man. Man has used poetry to express love and grief, birth and death, innocence and guilt, heaven and hell in a more effective way. In order to achieve such a way of expression the poet does not have any other material at his disposal except language. However in poetry, this language itself, turns out to be the goal of the poet rather than only an instrument for communication. Her/his way of expressing ideas and emotions summarises the poets craftsmanship and creativity. What the poet does is that he/she illustrates and exemplifies how language can be used to achieve the most effective way of expression. Poems deal with universal themes such as love and hate, birth and death, innocence and guilt, heaven and hell, which are familiar to all readers. For this reason, believing in the importance of literature and the contribution of poetry to language teaching and learning, we have decided to use poetry to act as a means to enrich the language awareness of ELT majors.

1.1 Background of the problem
Until the late 60's and early 70's the teaching of literature in foreign and second language classes was an activity whose justification was assumed to be obvious. Poetry and literature in general became the "forgotten" man since then, and this can be ascribed to the advent of communicative language teaching. With the shifting emphasis of the study of English for practical purposes, technical or otherwise, as well as an emphasis on the spoken language more than on written language, the role of literary texts in the language classroom and the relationship between language teaching and literature teaching in the EFL context seemed to be totally neglected. Looking through TEFL/ TESL writings in the 70's and 80's, one can find little about the teaching of literary texts and hardly anything controversial. Although poetry has been the focus of interest for ages, it has not got its deserved place in English language teaching. This is due to the misconceptions that poetry is irrelevant to the objective of language teaching. However, as English poetry is the subtle exploration of the English language itself, we believe that it is closely related. It has made many contributions to the English language learning provided it is selected and taught appropriately. Moreover, the attitude of many teachers towards integrating literary texts into language teaching remained ambivalent and often negative. Literature was thought of as "embodying a static", "convoluted kind of language", "far removed from the utterance of daily communication", (Collie and Slater 1987: 2) and therefore, not suitable. It has also been observed that some teachers of poetry neglect to take some important principles, such as inseparability of form and content in poetry into consideration. We believe in the necessity of covering both of these facets of poetry, by the use of carefully selected techniques and activities. Another problem is the absence of active participation of students. This is due to the teacher's choice of the easier but more monotonous and authoritarian way of teaching in which she/he explains everything, and the students constantly take notes. This naturally results in boredom, discouragement, frustration, and it hinders the possible contributions of poetry. The following remarks all made by language teachers, depict clearly the size of the issue: If poetry is deviant language, what's the point of using it with language learners? They want to know...
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