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"Literature And Lives" By Allen Carey Webb Ascertaining The Efficacy Of Reader Response And Cultural Studies In The Classroom.

1527 words - 6 pages

When it comes to the teaching of literature, there are, perhaps, as many didactic methodologies as there are literary genres. Until recent decades, literature has primarily been taught as a lecture course, the teachers apprising students of timeless truths about what literature means, and students eagerly soaking up those "truths", taking them at face value and never thinking about the variable criteria, such as authorial intent, social constructions of reality, both contemporary reactions and those of generations subsequent to the writing, implicit repressive devices that work through formalistic and rhetorical devices and ideological constructions working implicitly from beneath the literal, and the criteria that a work must have to be considered worthy of study, that may be having an impact on their lives, or may yet have an impact on their lives if they learn to analyze the literature from different worldviews. However, in an age when people are becoming increasingly sophisticated, refusing to be besotted by the fustian tirades of pompous preceptors who claim to be omniscient, their worldviews unable to be qualified, novel approaches to teaching literature have stormed to the forefront, attempting to penetrate a seemingly non porous structure to extract the life-giving fluids that minorities and the oppressed have been deprived of for so long, cracking the shell of the coconut to find the sweet milk that nourishes the mind, body, and soul. It is exactly these novel approaches that Allen Carey - Webb espouses in his book Literature and Lives.In an attempt to relate literature to students lives, and remove it from the esoteric and often archaic social ideologies and linguistic constructs of centuries gone by, he uses reading materials from many different disciplines in conjunction with the literary works to draw connections between such things as homelessness in stories such as Of Mice and Men and the students home-town, gender discrimination across variable historical periods to develop an understanding of how sexual biases can remain stagnant or change over time, social and economic forces and their effect on youth violence, in an attempt to use literature as a didactic tool to understand their own plight, and racism in America in the 1800's and in the classroom and the world today, Based upon Carey-Webb's reconstruction of the classroom accounts, although the students were somewhat hesitant at first to move so far from the methods of literary study they were used to, after becoming involved, learning to think critically, ask questions, and work with their peers to develop answers and solutions to the problems, most students were grateful for being disabused of the erroneous notion that literature is just a world of its own - now it was THEIR WORLD. As I read the book, however, I cannot help but wonder if an approach that focuses entirely on reader-response and cultural studies might be a detriment to the students' abilities as analysts,...

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