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Conceptions of Literature in University Language Courses

Journal article
Authors Cecilia Alvstad
Andrea Castro
Published in The Modern Language Journal
Volume 93
Issue 2
Pages 170-184
ISSN 1540-4781
Publication year 2009
Published at Department of Languages and Literatures
Pages 170-184
Language en
Subject categories Arts


In this article we set out to explore and discuss reasons for reading literary texts in university curricula of foreign languages. Our analysis is based on 2 sources of information: 16 syllabi of Spanish as a foreign language and a questionnaire in which 11 university instructors teaching these syllabi express their intentions. We point to a number of risks when emphasis is predominantly placed on instrumental goals such as acquisition of vocabulary and grammar or cultural knowledge. We suggest, instead, that the literary modules within language curricula should formulate their own specific goals. Rather than privileging linguistic and cultural competences to be trained, the literary modules could, for example, raise students' awareness of the facts that there are many ways of reading a text but that interpretation nevertheless remains a historically situated and constrained activity.

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