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Literary Studies and the Questions We Ask: On Reflection as Cognitive Core Competence

Conference paper
Authors Christer Ekholm
Ingrid Lindell
Published in Conference Proceedings: The Future of Education. 9th Edition. Florence, 27-28 June 2019
ISBN 9788885813458
ISSN 2384-9509
Publisher Libreria universitaria
Place of publication Florence
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Literature, History of Ideas, and Religion
Language en
Keywords literature didactics, educational philosophy, reflection, generic competences
Subject categories General Literature Studies, Educational Sciences, Didactics


Trapped in a contemporary educational twirl, generated by a public management inspired definition of educational quality as something wholly measurable and assessable, the teaching of literature in school faces major difficulties in terms of both justification and performance. At the same time the reading and talking about fiction and poetry reveal some profound shortcomings in the current tendency to make education secure and predictable. These shortcomings are apparent against the backdrop of a long history of regarding literature reading as a main aspect of education and of becoming educated. In this paper we focus on the core competence of reflection as central to all education regarded as an essential practice in the forming and upholding of a democratic society. To reflect is, we propose, to critically-ethically engage yourself with the notion of something and someone Other. Reflection, then, is fundamentally dialogical and of an indefinite nature, i.e., a process of reciprocal estrangement – acknowledging yourself in the other, and the other in yourself – making space for the becoming of liable subjects. We suggest that reading and talking about literature in school by necessity must open up for such events of a dialogical reasoning not aimed at producing answers of a presupposed and definite nature. We furthermore propose that if reflection systematically could be taught, modelled and given time and centrality in education – and thereby be a counter-discourse to the focus on speed, quantity and assessability in contemporary schools – much would be gained. And what it all comes down to, in a teaching perspective, is the questions we ask.

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