"Frosty Cliffs," Frosty Aunt, and Sandy Beaches: Teaching <i>Aurora Leigh</i> in Oman


  • Marielle R. Risse Dhofar University, Salalah, Oman


Oman, “Aurora Leigh, ” Elizabeth Barrett Browning


“Frosty Cliffs, Frosty Aunt and Sandy Beaches: Teaching ‘Aurora Leigh’ in Oman” describes the reception of the canonical poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning by a class of university students in a small town on the Arabian Peninsula. The essay conveys details of a typical Middle Eastern college classroom and demonstrates how literary meanings are constructed out of local values. The author discusses, in fine-grained detail, how words, phrases, situations and characters from Browning’s poem are interpreted within the value-system of Muslim students; these elements combine to highlight how Western and Middle Eastern perceptions differ over, for example, the personality of a character. Risse then addresses the question of whether, given that the difference in perception is based on cultural differences, the students’ understanding be ‘corrected.’ Using Stanley Fish’s concept of interpretative communities and Paulo Freire’s concept of liberation pedagogy Risse demonstrates how to navigate situations in which the teacher’s and students’ cultural frameworks produce opposing ‘readings’ of a literary text.

Author Biography

Marielle R. Risse, Dhofar University, Salalah, Oman

Marielle Risse teaches literature in Oman. Her areas of research are Omani culture/ history, connecting Middle Eastern and Western writers in literature classrooms and intercultural communication/ competence. She is a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. Her most recent works are the “Reader’s Guide” for the English version of Khadija bint Alawi al-Thahab’s Stories of My Grandmother, published by the Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center, and “Verstehen/ Einfühlen in Arabian Sands (1959): Wilfred Thesiger as Traveler and Anthropologist” in Journeys: The International Journal of Travel & Travel Writing.