Roundtable Discussion: Teaching Literature Because It Matters

Roundtable Title: Teaching Literature Because It Matters

Is teaching literature still relevant today? As language and literature instructors, most of us would answer this question with an emphatic yes. To us reading and thinking about literature was the reason to get BAs, MAs, and ultimately PhDs. Literature has always been valid for its own sake because that is how we learned to think about and understand not only the texts, but also the greater narratives that have shaped our daily lives. But teaching literature has come under scrutiny by students, parents, and administrators alike, questioning its purpose. This has put instructors under a lot of pressure to justify literature’s inclusion in the classroom–especially if the selected texts are perceived as controversial. The administrators complain when the courses don’t fill up, while the students don’t see the purpose of taking literature classes in the age of social media thinking a degree in literature doesn’t guarantee a profitable job after graduation: cue “I don’t want to be a teacher” here. Many fail to see how literature impacts their daily lives, how literature shapes their thinking, and finally how understanding the greater context in which we are all embedded is the safest way to becoming an active participant in this global community

In the roundtable discussion, the role literature plays in our classrooms as well as everyday lives will take central stage. The guiding question is: how can we make our students share our views? This roundtable discussion will provide room for an exchange of theoretical contemplations as well as hands-on ideas revolving around the challenge of how to create an understanding among students that literature is one of the most critical instruments for making sense of our realities and the world around us. After the opening remarks, the presenters will have the opportunity to talk about their stance toward this topic and to share teaching methods and assignments that worked particularly well. After the presentations, the discussion will be open to the presenters as well as the audience to foster creative and intellectual collaboration between colleagues from different institutions, because – contemporary or classic – the importance of literature reaches far beyond the classroom. This roundtable is an opportunity to discuss success stories and seek solutions for a pressing problem in the humanities.

Chair: Susanne Gomoluch