The practice of using literature in ELT is far from being a novelty. Paran and Robinson follow on a long tradition of materials developed to bring literature into ELT that stretches back to the 1980s, if not further. They follow in the footsteps of Brumfit (1985), Maley (Maley, 1989, 1995; Maley and Duff, 2005, 2007), McRae (1997), Lazar (2008), and Spiro (2004), among others, and dutifully acknowledge this fact in their introduction. Literature is a new addition to OUP’s ‘Into the Classroom Series’, which aims at helping primary and secondary school teachers to implement new teaching ideas and techniques in the classroom. The fact that such a title has come out in the second decade of the 21st century is both reassuring and, to a certain extent, worrying. It is reassuring because if renowned and well-established publishers, such as OUP, feel that such a title is worth publishing, this means that there is a market for and an interest in using literature among English language teachers and learners. Such interest may be partly due to the individual efforts of academics, teacher trainers, and writers, such as Paran and Robinson themselves, as well as the impact of projects and events related to literature, the arts, and creativity in English language education developed by akin organizations and teachers’ associations, such as the British Council, the IATEFL Literature Special Interest Group, and the Creativity Group. Such individual and collective efforts have kept the flame of literature in ELT alive and this publication makes for a welcome contribution to such effort. However, it is a little unsettling that the authors feel, and rightly so, that there is still a need to justify the inclusion of literature in the EFL classroom (p. 14). Neil Gaiman (2013) in a lecture published in The Guardian, argues that fiction ‘forces you to learn new words, to think new thoughts’ and points out that we live in a world where ‘words are more important than they ever were: we navigate the world with words, and as the world slips onto the web, we need to follow’. Simon Armitage (Armitage and Harris, 2011) points out that ‘poetry has a complex relationship with language’ and adds that ‘there is something about poetry that is oppositional; it is a form of dissent’. From this perspective, exploring literature with language learners in classrooms around the world is now more necessary than ever, and publications such as this book by Paran and Robinson are instrumental in helping teachers do so. Activities that facilitate encounters with poetry, prose fiction, and drama have the potential to help ‘learners appreciate the different functions of language’ (p. 21), engage with ‘key issues of human life’ (p. 32), and develop their ‘knowledge of the world’ (p. 48). We can only hope that in time such activities will help secure such a prominent position for literature in ELT that arguments and justifications for its inclusion in lessons will no longer need to be made. The book is divided into three parts. Part 1 deals with general issues related to the teaching of language and literature in EFL, with chapters that lead to explorations on the meaning of literature, consideration of characters and settings, language functions, dialogue, and narrative. Part 2 deals with the three major literary genres: prose fiction (short stories, novels, and longer works), poetry, and drama. Part 3 explores connections between literature and other art forms, such as film, visual arts, and music. There are many good things to be said about this book. The overall organization is helpful and makes for a steady progress from more general and introductory activities to more developed and complex multimodal ones, as can be seen by the areas covered in each of the three parts mentioned above. This provides teachers who have no or little experience of using literature in the classroom with a quite solid background and a clear and neat pathway to follow. Each chapter contains a number of activities and, most importantly, variations on such activities that allow for the exploration of particular angles, ideas, and techniques, as well as their use with texts other than the ones originally proposed. A feature that I found particularly well thought out and relevant is the inclusion of boxes where some pedagogical rationale for the activities is given. Such boxes appear from time to time among the chapters. These ‘Why does it work?’ boxes provide some theoretical framework to counterbalance the very practical approach that dominates the publication. Such theorization is done in straightforward language which makes this feature quite accessible to teachers regardless of their level of familiarity with complex concepts, such as active processing, close reading, and critical analysis. Another positive feature is the existence of some extra downloadable material available for free on the publisher’s website. In spite of the expected copyrights constraints, the works of literature presented and suggested display a healthy variety of styles, authors, and periods. However, the rationale behind their selection is not immediately obvious and perhaps this could have been made more explicit. Moreover, the issue of text selection is closely related to the internal organization of the chapters, which is particularly noticeable in Part 2. Interestingly, this does not occur in Chapter 7, where the authors have divided the plays into groups, from the 17th to the 21st centuries, with well-selected texts representing each period. Although such chronological division may seem quite traditional, there is no denying that it provides a neat framework and a sense of historical progression. Perhaps such division could have been adopted for the chapters on poetry, short stories, and novels. Alternative divisions in sub-genres (for example, epic, lyric, dramatic poetry) would also have added an extra sense of structure to the other chapters in this particular section of the book. Some other sections of the book could perhaps also merit some further development. I would welcome a more substantial space dedicated to narratives (Chapter 1, pp. 25–6) and literature and music (Chapter 9, pp. 134–5). Giving these areas some more attention would also give the chapters and sections a more balanced distribution of content and space in the publication as a whole. Another possible improvement would be the inclusion of references to related publications. This would allow the readers of this book the opportunity to search for other similar sources of classroom activities related to literature and the creative arts. Suggestions for further reading could, for example, appear in a box at the end of each chapter. For example, in Chapter 8 (‘Literature and film’), Donaghy’s (2015) publication on using films for teaching language could have been mentioned; the same is true for Chapter 9 (‘Literature and other media’) where the excellent work of Grundy et al. (2011) could have been highlighted. The issue of references is something that should perhaps be further considered by the publisher and the series editor rather than the authors themselves. I would very much welcome the inclusion of a list of references to the literary works used and mentioned throughout the book so readers could find the original publications if they wish to do so. On the other hand, the inclusion of a list of useful websites is a very thoughtful feature, especially the links to YouTube videos. All in all, Literature is a very welcome addition to previous publications along the same lines, with the useful addition of activities that involve using resources available online. It is an accessible and practical guide to help teachers working with primary and secondary learners to bring literature into their lessons. It contains some ready-to-use activities while encouraging teachers to explore other possibilities with the texts. It is a book that every teacher interested in using literature and the arts in English language learning should have to hand when preparing their next lesson. Christina Lima is a lecturer, researcher, and teacher trainer. Her research focuses on the roles of fiction reading in the process of language acquisition and in the history of ELT. In the field of literary studies, her expertise is in Shakespeare. She is the winner of the 2015 British Council/Macmillan Education Award for Innovative Writing for her materials on teaching Shakespeare to EAP students. She is also the editor of the newsletter and the academic journal published by the IATEFL Literature Special Interest Group (LitSIG). Chris is a Higher Education Academy Senior Fellow (SFHEA) and teaches at the University of Leicester, UK. Note: This review was commissioned and edited by Alessia Cogo and was accepted for publication before Amos Paran took on the role of Reviews Editor. References Armitage , S. and J. Harris . 2011 . Simon Armitage: ‘Poetry is a form of dissent’, video interview . The Guardian . Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/books/video/2011/nov/07/simon-armitage-poetry-video-interview Brumfit , C . 1985 . Language and Literature Teaching: From Practice to Principle . Oxford : Pergamon Press . Donaghy , K . 2015 . Film in Action: Teaching Language Using Moving Images . Surrey : Delta Publishing . Gaiman , N . 2013 . ‘ Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming ’. The Guardian . Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/oct/15/neil-gaiman-future-libraries-reading-daydreaming Grundy , P. , H. Bociek and K. Parker (eds.). 2011 . English Through Art . London : Helbling Languages . Lazar , G . 2008 . Literature and Language Teaching: A Guide for Teachers and Trainers . Cambridge : Cambridge University Press . Maley , A . 1989 . The Inward Ear: Poetry in the Language Classroom . Cambridge : Cambridge University Press . Maley , A . 1995 . Short and Sweet: Short Texts and How to Use Them . London : Penguin . Maley , A. and A. Duff . 2005 . Drama Techniques: A Resource Book of Communication Activities for Language Teachers . Cambridge : Cambridge University Press . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Maley , A. and A. Duff . 2007 . Literature ( Second edition ). Oxford : Oxford University Press . McRae , J . 1997 . Literature with a Small “l” . London : Prentice Hall . Spiro , J . 2004 . Creative Poetry Writing . Oxford : Oxford University Press . © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press; all rights reserved. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)
ELT Journal – Oxford University Press
Published: Mar 28, 2018
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