What is literature?

Essay by magicnrCollege, Undergraduate May 2003

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Literature as Problem

Of the set of problems facing literary instruction in foreign language depart-ments, the most recurring ones stem from the specific status and the role of literature, and its relationship to the teaching of language. In this country, as well as elsewhere, there has been an increasing concentration on pragmatic methods of communicative approach to foreign language teaching that sees literature as one of the mediums through which a language can be taught. In an almost canonical book, Literature in the Language Classroom, Collie and Sla-ter (1987) claim, as do most teacher trainers, that literary texts should be used in the language classroom because they offer:

·valuable authentic material,

·cultural enrichment,

·language enrichment,

·personal involvement.

The shortcomings of such an approach are evident. The fact that the authors left out of their list two important, primary features of literature, namely, the formation of aesthetic sense, and the development of critical and creative thinking, and, on the other hand, emphasised secondary ones, means that they reduced literary instruction to the position of a facilitator of a more important process - the teaching of language.

Recent debates in most social sciences, however, point to the growing importance of the excluded concept of critical thinking, especially because it becomes evident in many fields that traditional skills cannot satisfy the demands put on us by the increasing sophistication of our life any longer. According to Thomas and Smoot (1994, p. 34), "today's jobs demand higher-order thinking skills of workers", and, the educational sys-tem must reflect this situation by reconsidering its preferences. In their article, they summarise the reports of state task forces and curriculum frameworks on different educational levels, each of them stressing the need for the develop-ment of critical thinking teaching in all subjects.

What is critical thinking? The fact that...