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Israel, June 2001

Roundtable #2
Teaching Literature / Literature as Teaching

Practical Applications of Cognitive Approaches

The notion that literature is a particularly effective way to provide "lessons" is both ancient and postmodern. The connotations may be positive, as in Wordsworth's conviction that poetry alone was "written with sufficient power to melt into our affections, to incorporate itself with the blood & vital juices of our minds," or negative, as in the contemporary hermeneutics of suspicion. Ever since Plato, literature's role in society has been controversial, praised or maligned for conveying, in Aphra Behn's words, "secret instructions to the people in things that 'tis impossible to insinuate into them any other way."

The purpose of this roundtable is to explore the different dimensions of a cognitively informed pedagogy and to share ideas about teaching practices. First, if literary works are inherently designed to teach, they create a unique pedagogical situation. How can -- or should -- the teacher intervene in this implicit pedagogy? Second, literary processes can be made explicit; this is the aim of cognitive studies. How do people actually teach cognitive theory? Why is it worth teaching? What are examples of successful -- or interestingly failed -- syllabi and lesson plans? Third, literature is a historical and cultural force, a form of distributed cognition. How can cognitive approaches be utilized in understanding cultural processes? What are the shortcomings of this approach? What doesn't work?

Francis Steen


David Miall, English, University of Alberta The Pedagogical Implications of Reader-response Research
Todd Oakley (English and Composition, Case Western Reserve) Training Writing Instructors
Stephanie Owens (Educational Psychology, University of Northern Colorado) Implicit and Explicit Pedagogies





Maintained by Francis F. Steen, Communication Studies, University of California Los Angeles