Integrating Language and Literature: Teaching Textual Analysis with Input and Output Activities and an Input-to-Output Approach

Article excerpt

Abstract:

The Modern Language Association report and Profession issue from summer 2007 (Geisler et al., 2007) are highly indicative of the increasingly debated concerns in the profession surrounding (1) the traditional division of foreign language curriculum between "language" and "literature" and (2) the instruction of textual analysis (or practice of close reading) in the student-centered literature classroom. In this article, I discuss the need in the profession to address the contemporary problems inherited from the traditional "language-literature" divide and postulate the use of close reading as a tactic to overcome this traditional divide. This article specifically addresses the issue of "why" and "how" to teach students textual analysis meaningfully and communicatively in the foreign language classroom and then proposes and demonstrates the use of input and output activities as a pedagogical strategy.

Key words: close reading, input and output activities, integrating language and literature, literacy, teaching methods

Language: relevant to all languages

Introduction

The Modern Language Association report and Profession issue from summer 2007 (Geisler et al., 2007) are highly indicative of the increasingly debated concerns in the profession surrounding (1) the traditional division of foreign language curriculum between "language" and "literature" and (2) the instruction of textual analysis (or practice of close reading) in the student-centered literature classroom. It is not my objective in this article to engage theoretically in these two issues. Rather, in this article, I wish to make a solid case for the need in the profession to address a few of the contemporary problems inherited from the traditional "language-literature" divide. In addition, I wish to introduce into the same discussion a "languageliterature" issue that continues to plague many college-level foreign language instructors: the questions of "why" and "how" to teach students textual analysis meaningfully and communicatively while at the same time maintaining a focus on language acquisition. I specifically discuss this issue of "why" and "how" in relation to a third-year introductory foreign language "literature" course and also touch on more general implications of teaching textual analysis meaningfully and communicatively beyond its traditional literary context.

Grounding this article in Kern's (2000) "literacy-based" approach to the teaching and learning of reading and writing in the second and/or foreign language classroom, I discuss below the place for input and output activities and an input-to-output approach in the "literature" course. Kern's approach adopts the perspective that reading and writing ought to be viewed as intertwined and integrated processes. Overlapping this concept with the format of controlled input and output activities and an input-to-output approach, I specifically discuss several roles this "coordinated approach" (Kern, 2000) may play in the teaching and learning of close reading in any language acquisition-oriented and content- or text-based foreign language classroom. In general throughout the foreign language profession, but especially in French, activities focusing on language acquisition are not widespread strategies adopted in upper-division literature and cultural studies courses (Frantzen, 2002). Yet I propose that they - especially when accompanied by close reading and a process-writing approach - may play a useful and helpful role in such academic settings.

Close reading and academic writing remain critical practices that most literature and cultural studies instructors value and emphasize in their courses. Yet many literature and cultural studies instructors who are not training graduate teaching assistants tend to be unfamiliar with input and output activities and an input-to-output approach to second language (L2) learning. In the latter half of the discussion in this article, I call for and demonstrate the use of input and output activities and an input-tooutput approach specifically as one manner (1) to introduce students to the practice of textual analysis and critical thinking development in the target language, (2) to articulate critical interpretation through standardized academic stylistic or rhetorical writing conventions, and (3) to keep target language acquisition in focus at all times in the teaching of foreign language literary texts. …