Preparing students for the upper-division literature/culture classroom: a multiple literacies approach
Conner, Matthew Michael
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This dissertation examines new ways to sequence literature and culture courses for advanced foreign language learners. Traditional language programs frequently institutionalize a split between language and content learning in their curricula. In effect, primary language learning ends with the fourth semester and students in more advanced courses are presumed competent to read literature intended for native speakers. Courses beyond the first two years of study frequently fail to provide students access to the social, historical, and cultural contexts in which literary texts are situated. Such a lack of context compounds the comprehension difficulties students face when confronted with their first longer literary text. Drawing on research from the literacy movement in applied linguistics, I illustrate pedagogical choices instructors can make in such courses in order to enable students to interact with texts from unfamiliar historical and cultural contexts. I examine the existing research on teaching literature beyond the first two years of language study and how this research points or fails to point towards approaches that introduce students to the multiple literacies available to native speakers of a language. I then extend the discussion into how instructors can introduce students to historical and cultural background materials in an initial advanced course, one focusing on Vienna at the turn of the twentieth century, and a more advanced course, which includes Arthur Schnitzler’s “Traumnovelle” as one of its primary texts. In the pedagogical treatment of Schnitzler’s novella, I examine how literary and cultural theory can inform an instructor’s choices in setting up reading tasks for learners. I also provide illustrative examples of how these precepts can be adapted to preexisting curricula. The dissertation concludes with a discussion of how graduate programs can merge the graduate study of literature with pedagogy in practical ways. I suggest how graduate programs can help their graduate students integrate their existing courses in literature, culture and linguistics with the pedagogical knowledge necessary to develop courses that enable learners to undertake culturally-based readings of literature.