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On Literature in the EFL classroom
by Nelly Zafeiriadou
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The cultural model

The cultural model highlights the teaching of literature for its value in 'encapsulating the accumulated wisdom, the best that has been thought and felt within a culture.'(Carter and Long 1991:2). Works of literature are the relics of culture and through their 'study' students understand and appreciate cultures and ideologies different from their own in time and space. Literature preserves cultural and artistic heritage and because it is characterised by this 'human sense' it possesses a central place in the study of the humanities in colleges and universities of the western world.

However, the relationship between a culture and its literature does not always seem simple and explicit for various reasons. First, few works of literature could claim to be a genuine and purely factual representation of the social and historical reality of an era (i.e Dickens' novels and 19th century novel, but one could not argue the same about the 20th century, especially when looking at the post-war novel.) Literature is a form of art and as such is the language and the content of it is deliberately and creatively modified for the needs of the writer. (Brumfit and Carter 1986:25).

Second , the issue of how far a literary work can represent its culture raises the question of how culture is defined. (Lazar, 1993:16). G. Lazar argues:

'….is our definition to be an anthropological one in which culture is defined loosely as the values, traditions and social practices of a particular group- which are then revealed in the literary text? Or do we define culture as the discernment and knowledge traditionally possessed by the well educated, enlightened and cultivated native speaker, which is passed on 'good literature'? What then is the place of 'popular culture', which may in fact be of greater interest to many of our learners?'
(G.Lazar 1993:16)

As to the teaching practices the model has been associated with a more teacher-centred, transmissive pedagogic mode. The text is seen as a product, a sacrosanct from and about which students accumulate descriptions of critical schools and literary movements, biographical facts about authors and various synopses. An example of the model's implementation was the post-war English teaching in the overseas context which had been marked by a consistent 'flight from the text' (Short and Cadlin1989: 179 -180) ignoring the fact that:

'….if literature is worth teaching qua literature, then it seems axiomatic that it is the response to literature itself which is important.'
(Short and Cadlin 1989:179)

The language model

In the language model (Carter and Long 1991:2) the emphasis is given on language as the literary medium. Since literature is made from language, if students are exposed systematically to works of literature they will develop their literary competence too. Literary texts are exploited for the teaching of vocabulary or structures or language manipulation. The argument behind the model is that the students will enrich and develop their language input since literary texts offer contact with some of the more subtle and varied creative uses of the language. The model seems to retreat in a way into the early 20th century view that concentration on the classics of English literature would promote the students' linguistic development, too.

Undoubtedly, there is much to be gained in terms of language development from such an exposure. It seems though that such a view ignores the real nature of literature, which is above all an expression of art created to communicate feelings, thoughts and ideas. The readers' responses to the literary texts are totally neglected and the approach may result instead in mechanistic and demotivating teaching practices spoiling any pleasure that the reading of good literature can give. In addition, the contribution of the teaching of literature to the students' emotional evolvement and to their personal growth seems to be totally neglected.

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