Sunday, November 14, 2021

Bruns' Why Literature? A Short Summary

The subtitle of the book, “The Value of Literary Reading and What It Means for Teaching” clearly defines the pedagogical goals Bruns sets in her Why Literature?: how to uphold the value of reading literature while teaching it in the classroom. Much like Elaine Showalter’s Teaching Literature, Bruns’ Why Literature? starts with the common question faced by the teachers and students of literature, what is the justification of studying literature? There are a lot of answers are in the market. However, Bruns is not satisfied with the rationales given by others for reading literature during the recent years. According to her, these rationales have been put forward “without clear-cut notions of why it is worthwhile to read literary texts” (2). She says that even the “teachers of literature lack an adequate conception of the value of literary reading”, which ultimately results in “leaving students little motivation to read literary texts outside of school” (3). So, her main pedagogical goal is to discuss how teachers of literature can overcome the “inadequacies in literature instruction in their own classrooms” (3) by instilling “in students a sense of the value of literature” (4) they read both inside and the outside of their classrooms.

Bruns has a lot of suggestions and recommendations about how to achieve these goals in the literature classrooms. At first, Bruns sees the value of literature in its being of a “transitional object”. She writes: “Literary texts, then, function as ideal transitional objects because they are transactional in nature — between text and reader” (33). The literature teachers can help students experience this transitional potential of texts. In order to do so, teachers must value the personal encounters the students have with the texts they read (9). The students’ personal experiences with the texts are often overlooked and hence they do not bring the “meaningful experiences reading texts or, at least, may prevent them from bringing into their coursework reports of the meaningful reading experiences they've had outside of class” (4). Bruns suggests that teachers should involve students as "co-inquirers," respecting and trusting their readings of texts as valid. She talks about two kinds of approaches that are key to gaining the most out of the reading experiences: immersion and reflection. According to her, these are integrated parts of a whole reading dynamic, without which one can neither enter nor resurface a literary text.

Bruns talks about all forms of literary texts. Here she does not say anything exclusively on the pedagogical techniques of teaching poetry.