Literacy Stories for Global Wits: Learning English Through the Literature-Language Line
Keywords:literacy, literature, English, grammar, ex-colonial world
This essay addresses the drastic and detrimental divide between language and literature characterizing the study of English in university programs and sustains it is high time for language and literary studies to dovetail a common ground allowing students to better comprehend and navigate through both the complex phenomenon of the spread of English in this era of globalization and the transcultural nature of English itself. One way how this pedagogical turn may be made is exemplified by an English course I taught to English Studies undergraduates at the University of Venice, Italy, in 2014. In examining four literacy stories by J.M Coetzee, Ngugi Wa Thiong'o, Ngozi Chimamanda Adichie and Caryl Phillips, the course had two aims: first, to prove that English, as any language, is formed in relation to personal identity and the context of use with its specific culture, a basic principle often implicitly denied by the widespread structuralist and generative approaches to language; second, to see the English classroom as a microcosm connected to the social and cultural dynamics of the English-speaking world at large, by using exceptional stories set in ex-colonial scenarios as mirrors casting reflections of one's positions and aspirations.