Academic journal article ARIEL

Being in the World: Literary Practice and Pedagogy in Global Times

Academic journal article ARIEL

Being in the World: Literary Practice and Pedagogy in Global Times

Article excerpt

Abstract: This article examines the implications of recent developments in postcolonial theory and globalization studies for literary pedagogy. I argue for a critical cosmopolitan pedagogy that nourishes the creation of alternative imaginaries and uses literature to teach students to engage more fully with the world and provide two examples of how this might be enacted. The first centers on the idea that, in a globalized world, literary pedagogy cannot avoid dealing with texts translated into English from other languages. Using the global, multicultural city-state of Singapore as a case in point, I argue that teaching translated texts can provide minority perspectives erased by official history and be a strategic way of interrogating the hegemony of the Anglophone segment of the population and, historically, the English-educated class. The second example discusses Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist and suggests pedagogical approaches that help the text in its work of estranging the reader. Ultimately, a literary pedagogy that takes the question of perspective seriously can help readers and students resist neoliberal capitalism's emphasis on the management of the self in the service of markets in favor of a more politicized global subject fully committed to engaging the world.

Keywords: literary pedagogy, teaching translated texts, globalization and education

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What is the place of English literature and literature education in this conjunctural moment of globalization, neoliberalism, and powerful market forces? How do we as literature educators convince students that literature is not marginal but central to living the good (i.e. ethical) life in global times and thus they should read this novel or that poem? These are questions that teachers of English literature find increasingly impossible to ignore. In this article, I make the ethical case for literary literacy and consider its crucial pedagogical implications. Drawing upon developments in postcolonial studies and the ways in which the field has sought to position itself to more trenchantly critique globalization, I argue for a critical cosmopolitan pedagogy that nourishes the creation of alternative imaginaries and uses literature to teach students to engage more fully with the world. The specificities of my location in Singapore undergird my investment in and approach to the questions above. As an island, nation, and global city, Singapore has--like many other places around the world--plugged itself wholeheartedly into economic globalization, connective technologies, and information and labor flows. State-driven neoliberalism and an aggressive immigration policy that saw the country's population expand by thirty percent in ten years are some of Singapore's defining features in the new millennium. Given these circumstances, it is little wonder that the educational challenges of preparing students to negotiate and navigate cultural differences, as well as become critical, ethical, responsible, and politically aware national and world subjects, are particularly acute.

After establishing some of the essential theoretical coordinates for literary pedagogy in the contemporary moment, I provide two examples of how a critical cosmopolitan pedagogy might be enacted. In the first case, I argue for the use of translated texts in the English literature classroom, specifically Singaporean literature translated into English from its original Malay, to encourage students to think critically about the constitution of racial otherness and the organization of multiculturalism within the Singaporean national space. Reading Malay literary texts in translation affords students a different perspective and structure of feeling which challenge the received narrative of the nation's history. In the second example, I suggest that teaching students to analyze the deft use of narrative perspective in contemporary literary texts can support the epistemological and ontological demands of critical cosmopolitanism. …

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