Alan Pulverness is Assistant Academic Director with NILE (the Norwich Institute for Language Education) and the co-author of a number of ELT textbooks, including the award-winning Macmillan Short Course Programme.
He has edited students’ editions of Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet and was editorial adviser for The Literary Labyrinth and The World Wide Reader. His most recent publications are Reading Matters and The TKT Course. From 2000 to 2004 he edited IATEFL Conference Selections and he co-chaired the British Council Oxford Conference on the Teaching.
Topic: The Ghost at the Banquet: the use and abuse of literature in the language classroom
For some years there seemed to be little space for literature in the utilitarian atmosphere of the communicative language classroom. In the current post communicative climate, it would seem that literature has been rehabilitated: a number of teachers’ handbooks have been published on literature and language teaching and literary texts appear with increasing frequency in language coursebooks.
Yet despite these developments, many teachers remain uncertain about how to integrate the reading of literature into the process of language learning.
This talk will examine the peculiar status of literary discourse and suggest methodological principles which favour the development of language awareness while maintaining respect for students as readers of literature.
Video recording of the plenary session
You can watch the full recording of Alan Pulverness’s talk on British Council Russia’s YouTube channel by clicking the link below:
Watch an interview with Alan Pulverness talking about his involvement with various projects in Russia, including the BritLit project, and the themes of his plenary talk.
Watch the interview by clicking this link below:
During the plenary session "The Ghost at the Banquet: the use and abuse of literature in the language classroom" our audience asked some questions. Below you can see the questions and read Alan's answers:
Mikhail Mamaev: Do your students drop the mask of a learner while reading?
Yes, if the text and the task(s) are sufficiently engaging, in general they do - though there are always some instrumentally motivated learners who only ever approach texts with a view to what they can get out of them in terms of strict language learning objectives.
Jane Cohen: Is the ghost at the banquet the poor choice of literary tests that r seen as irrelevant to our learners?
Hmm…maybe it's the elephant in the room! Of course the choice of texts is a crucial element in the success - or lack of success - of the students' reading experience, and the wise teacher will consider very carefully what she knows about her students - their knowledge of the world, their experiences, their interests, their tastes - when choosing the most appropriate texts for them to read.
Shadrova Ekaterina: Do you think the stylistic analysis of a literary text helps to raise learners' awareness of the target language?
I think that stylistic analysis helps to raise learners' awareness of how and why texts have an effect on them as readers. As Henry Widdowson puts it: "I know what I like because I know how it works." Increased language awareness is also a kind of by-product, as learners can make inferences about the normative features of the language through recognising the deviant forms of language in literature.
Suchkhova Svetlana: What's your attitude to graded readers?
I think graded readers are fine when they are specially written, original texts, where the main intention behind them is to tell a good story. I feel much less positive about simplified / abridged readers. John McRae cites the example of a simplified version of Orwell's 1984, where the description on the first page of the streets of London as 'grimy' is changed to 'dirty' - McRae comments that "Literature is the difference between 'dirty' and 'grimy'!
You can download Alan’s presentation “The Ghost at the Banquet: the use and abuse of literature in the language classroom” below