Literacy Stories for Global Wits: Learning English Through the Literature-Language Line


  • Roberta Cimarosti University of Venice Ca' Foscari


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.


Author Biography

Roberta Cimarosti, University of Venice Ca' Foscari


Roberta Cimarosti teaches English language and literature at the Universities of Padua and Turin (Italy). Her research fields include world literatures in English, postcolonial and transcultural theory, and critical English language studies. Among her published work: a monograph on the poetics of Derek Walcott; essays on Shakespeare's plays and their relation with colonialism and contemporary literatures in English; J.M. Coetzee's work in relation to Beckett and Defoe; V.S. Naipaul's most recent novels in relation to chaos and creolization as theorized by Glissant; essays on the English language in light of critical applied linguistics, critical stylistics, and multilingual literacy.