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Literature Teaching Approaches

This article shows how literature can be taught in different ways.

Related to the models of teaching literature is the teaching approach. There are four types of teaching approaches suggested: literary-core approach, thematic approach, holistic approach and language-based approach. The teachers have to bear in their minds that each approach has its own target or aim.

The literature as content approach (literary-core approach) is used traditionally and covers the history and characteristics of literary movement, social, political, historical background to a text, the literary genres, rhetorical devices and others. Unlike in other approaches, the learners acquire English by focusing on the course rather than the language itself. Eagleton (1983) writes, “One of our aims …should be to teach our students to read literature using the appropriate literary strategies” The learners also read set texts and literary criticism to help them. Translation is also allowed for their benefit in their discussion of the texts. Eagleton states, “Students may have already acquired this kind of literary competence in their own language, in which case we simply need to help them to transfer these skills.”

Literature for personal approach encourages the learners’ active involvement, emotionally and intellectually, in learning English. G. Lazar (1991) points out that they are incited to draw their own experiences, feelings and opinions. This approach is also known as the thematic approach due to the use of themes in teaching literature. Texts are chosen according to the same theme and them compared by the learners.

Holistic approach integrates all the approaches mentioned before. It uses the critical analysis, themes and the learners’ responses. Texts are treated cognitively and affectively. This approach focuses on the correct and apposite point of entry into text which will them motivate the learners.

The language-based approach is used to help incorporate the language and literature syllabus by studying the language. This helps the learners to interpret significantly and improves their use of English. Lazar claims that the learners are encouraged to draw their knowledge of familiar grammatically, lexical or discoursal categories to make their anesthetic judgements. Despite covering a range of different goals and procedures, this approach concerns with the process reading and standard EFL procedures are used for opening up the literary text thus releasing its meanings. In other words, literary texts are used to teach language. A. Maley and Duff (1990) insist, “ The primary aim of our apporach is quite simply to use literary texts as a resource ( and it will not be the only resource) for stimulating language activities.”

Two factors are proposed the focus on the study or reading literature itself and the use of literature for language practise. The former aims to provide the learners with the tools to interpret a text in order to make competent critical judgements and help the learners to develop, explore and express their perceptions using their communication skills. The latter aims at improving the learners’ proficiency in English by using certain language-based study skills as preliminary activities to studying literature as expressed by Brumfit and Carter (1986). Brumfit (1985) claims that, “ The process of reading is a process of meaning creation by integrating one’s own needs, understanding and expectations with a written text.” However, Lazar argues that in this approach, literature is viewed with a small “l” as the texts used vary from lterary to non-literary.

As conclusion, by using literature, the learners are exposed to humanity and its values, belief and customs and taught to appreciate the language used in the literary texts. Which ever approach a teacher may use, literature helps the learners to develop their confidence in the language and stimulate them to enjoy reading. As literature offers wide range of materials, teaching literature can be interesting and the teacher need not stick to one particular approach.


Carter, R. & Long, M.N. (1991) Teaching Literature. Harlow : Longman

Chitravelu, et. al. (1995) ELT Methodology: Principles and Practice. Kuala Lumpur: Fajar Bakti.

Collie, J. & Slater, S. (1987) Literature in the Language Classroom. Cambridge: CUP

Duff, A. & Maley, A. (1990) Literature. Oxford: OUP

Lazar, G. (1991) Literature and Language Teaching. Cambridge: CUP

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