Literature in the Language Classroom
The teaching of literature has recently been resurrected as a vital component of English language teaching. Over the past few decades, there has been much discussion on the value of attempting to teach any kind of literature, whether it be the classics or any imaginative work written in English, as part of an English language syllabus. For instance, in the sixties and seventies, there was a distinct reaction against the use of any literary English before the pendulum swung again in support of literature teaching. The opposition towards literature may well have been due to the impact of the approaches that were practised in the decades prior to the sixties and seventies and prevailing ideas in language teaching and methodology. The study of literature acquired eminence during the Romantic period when the Romantic poets such as Wordsworth and Coleridge asserted that the "imaginative truths" expressed by literature were superior to those discovered by scientists, historians and other scholars: ....the Poet, singing a song in which all human beings join with him rejoices in the presence of truth as our visible friend and hourly companion. Poetry is the breath and finer spirit of all Knowledge; Poetry is the first and last of all knowledge - it is as immortal as the heart of man. (Wordsworth: 1805)
Literature was seen as a body of knowledge which ought to be learnt for its own sake. The process of creativity and the entire body of literature were given an honoured and elevated status that sustained the elitist nature which the study of literature had already acquired. In examining traditional approaches to literature, what is apparent is the prevailing views amongst the elite were continually emulated by educationists, possibly preventing a clearly-defined role for literature teaching in education. Most of these views remained as propaganda and failed to motivate a reasoned set of proposals as to how a literature course could be designed. The ultimate purpose of literary criticism can be defined as interpretation and evaluation of literary writings as works of art and the major concern of the critic is to explicate the individual message of the writer in terms which make it clear to others. However, this is a difficult process to implement without a sufficiently explicit and pedagogically-oriented definition of the nature of literature study as a subject. A consistent assertion that literature illuminates the mind with no specific aims in terms of objectives only served to make literature an unpopular subject. Moreover, changes began to happen in the sixties and seventies. The approaches in language teaching in the sixties and seventies stressed the structural methods to language learning, with emphasis on discrete-point teaching, "correctness" in grammatical form, repetition of graded structures and restricted lexis. These approaches represented a methodology unsuited to literature teaching, and were unable to accommodate literary texts. Thus, in many situations, while English language teaching adopted a structural approach, literature was taught as a separate subject, sometimes comprising of purposeless poetry recitation. Nevertheless, current approaches have endeavoured to re-examine the value of literature and have begun to uphold its worth again. These approaches assert the value of literature teaching from several aspects, primarily, literature as an agent for language development and improvement, cultural enhancement and also for the eminence that many poets have previously ascribed to it. Literature is beginning to be viewed as an appropriate vehicle for language learning and development since the focus is now on authentic language and authentic situations. The Relationship Between Language And Literature
It is difficult to supply a watertight definition of the term "literature" but what can be asserted is that literature is not the name of a...
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