Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Current final thoughts on the literature debate

Given that the purpose of the freshman composition course varies greatly from one institution to another, a one size fits all approach to what is appropriate reading for the composition classroom is not reasonable or desirable. The selection of literature may be appropriate. But does the reading of fiction have advantages over non-fiction? Louise Rosenblatt, author of Literature as Exploration, believes so. She pointed out that it is easy to think about complex human problems when emotions are not involved. This ease is a disservice to students as this type of setting, a non-emotional one, is not realistic. Students need the challenge that is supplied by emotion; fiction supplies that challenge as “literature offers an opportunity to develop the ability to think rationally within an emotionally colored context” (p217).
Rosenblatt notes that fiction provides students the opportunity to identify their emotions, test their assumptions, and consequently reject or revise their original reactions. (p215) She states, “It seems reasonable to suggest…that in building up the habit of mind essential to the attainment of sound literary judgment, the student will also be acquiring mental habit valuable for the development of sound insight into ordinary human experience.” (p215-216) In short, thinking generates more thinking and high level critical thinking generates more high level critical thinking.  And isn’t the generation of high level critical thinking an excellent reason to select literature for the composition classroom?

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