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Theses Doctoral

Conceptualizing Literature Pedagogy: World, Global, and Cosmopolitan Orientations to Teaching Literature in English

Choo, Suzanne Shen Li

While there is a wealth of research about literary history, literary genres, and the nature of the literary text, research on approaches to teaching literature that shape the interpretation and reception of the text is insufficient. My overarching aim in this study is to conceptualize literature pedagogy across the historical evolution of the field of literature in English. Underlying literature pedagogy are beliefs about the good of teaching literature. Consequently, the teaching of literature is a form of values education. In the late eighteenth century, the teaching of literature was used to propagate ideological values of the nation-state when the discipline of English literature was institutionalized in public education. From the early twentieth century onwards, various global-political and disciplinary movements led to a shift towards a post nation-state model of values education emphasizing education for world, global, and cosmopolitan values. One way to understand the different values underlying literature pedagogy is to examine beliefs about the good of teaching literature as these are manifested in concepts that demonstrate various orientations to teaching literature. Given that the formal institutionalization of English literature and its subsequent re-configurations, in the form of literature in English, were conditioned by the phenomenon of globalization, the study explores how approaches to teaching literature have responded to four waves of globalization from the late eighteenth to the twenty-first century. Rather than focus on events, I employ a historical-paradigmatic analysis to analyze conceptual turns or moments in a historical period when particular concepts gain dominance. The advantage of this analysis is two-fold. First, it avoids examining history in terms of events so that more attention is paid to the history of ideas and second, paradigms disrupt the notion of a linear history which then allows for historical overlaps. In order to locate concepts that gain dominance, three domains are analyzed within each historical period - global waves, disciplinary movements, and philosophical contributions. The objectives of the study are driven by two research questions: (1) How do global waves, disciplinary movements, and philosophical contributions, from the late eighteenth century to the present, contribute to characterizing various beliefs about the good of teaching literature? (2) How do these beliefs orient approaches to teaching literature? The study argues that various global waves across history have facilitated the interrelation and dominance of key concepts that provide insights into beliefs about the good of teaching literature. From these concepts, four orientations emerge - nationalist-oriented, world-oriented, global-oriented, and cosmopolitan-oriented approaches to teaching literature. These approaches serve to recognize a key role for the teaching literature in educating for values beyond the ideologies of the nation-state. The study has implications for literature teachers in the hopes that it would broaden their consciousness and repertoire of pedagogical approaches as well as equip them to be more purposeful in their applications of these to the classroom. More importantly, an understanding of these orientations would serve to develop a greater sense of ethical agency in teachers as they work towards cultivating a hospitable imagination in their students.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
English Education
Thesis Advisors
Vinz, Ruth
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
June 28, 2013