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Literature studies: study of content vs experience of text

December 21, 2012

“All too often, discussions of literary works in schools focus on the content of stories, in the strict sense, rather than on students’ experiences of that material. While it is certainly possible and useful for a teacher of literature to discuss “Hands” and “The Hammer Man” in terms of plot, characterization, and other literary features, I contend that reliance only, or even mainly, on this approach denies students an important opportunity for understanding their own emotions and ideas. Indeed, I consider it more immediately productive, in terms of readers’ experiences of these narratives, to directly address the fact that large numbers of students have responded similarly to the protagonists of the stories. I should hasten to emphasize that this similarity should not be taken for sameness or, worse, correctness. …In arguing against such “imposed” forms of education, Paulo Freire proposes instead a “problem-posing” pedagogy that begins with students’ own concerns: The views [of students], impregnated with anxieties, doubts, hopes or hopelessness, imply significant themes on the basis of which the program content of education can be built. (1986 [1970]: 82) Freire advocates that teachers “re-present” these “significant themes” in an “organized, systematized, and developed” way, in order to enable students to understand the issues that most concern them.” [1]


[1] P494 Sklar, Howard “Narrative as Experience: The Pedagogical Implications of Sympathizing with Fictional Characters” PARTIAL ANSWERS 6/2: 481–501  2008

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