2011-2 - Why Literature in a Language Department Chung-hsuan Tung Abstract This paper aims to explain why literature is taught in a language department

2011-2 - Why Literature in a Language Department...

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Why Literature in a Language Department?Chung-hsuan TungAbstractThis paper aims to explain why literature is taught in a language department. Three great reasons are given in it. First, a literature course is “practical” in a language department, since the language usedin literature is usually not quite different from the language used in ourdaily life. Literary fictionality is not equal to impracticality; the speech acts in literature resemble the speech acts in real life. Second, a literature course is pleasurable as well as practical, since literature is to delight and instruct at the same time. A literary work can indeed help teach a language through its delightful form and content. Third, aliterature course can be more holistic than a linguistics course or a language-training course, since it provides us not only with literary knowledge but also with general knowledge in life and for life. A literary text can be used to teach grammar, rhetoric, and pragmatics at once. It contains truth, beauty and goodness. It can help develop the students’ linguistic competence, literary competence, and communicative competence. Confucius knew the importance of literature to language education a long time ago. Modern language teachers are following Confucius if they stress the importance of literature and use literary texts as language-teaching material. Keywords:1. literature 2. language-teaching 3. holistic 4. linguistic competence 5. literary competence 6. communicative competence
I. Two FactsIt is a fact that in our country all departments of foreign languages offer literature courses along with linguistics courses and language-training courses, no matter what names the departments may bear: say, “departments of foreign languages and literature(s)” or “departments of applied foreign languages.” It is also a fact that many students of our language departments keep wondering why they should take so many literature courses. “Aren’t we just to learn such language skills as listening, speaking, reading, writing, and translation?” They often ask such a question, and sometimes they even go so far as to protest against listing literature courses among their required courses and plead that they should be provided with more “practical courses.”II. First ReasonTo those who wonder why we should teach literature in a language department, I have responded several times with theoretical discussions plus practical examples in formal papers as well as in casual talks.1Now, I want to sum up and explain the reasons that I have mentioned or thought out so far.My first reason for teaching literature in a language department is: a literature course is actually a “practical course,” not an impractical course. It is practical because the language used in literature is usually not quite different from the language used in everyday life. I know there are people who believe in the Russian Formalists’ ideas that literary language is distinguishable from ordinary language, that

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