Reading cultural encounter: literary text and intercultural pedagogy

University dissertation from University of Gothenburg

Abstract: This dissertation combines aspects of educational research, theories of culture and literary analysis. The main line of argument is that the informed reading and discussion of literary texts that thematise cultural encounter will enhance the intercultural dimension of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) in Swedish Upper Secondary schools. The study reviews recent research on the role of culture and discusses various understandings of the term in modern language curricula in Sweden and internatio... mernally, and outlines the situation of intercultural pedagogical practice in the Swedish school system. On the understanding that cultures are systems of signification, the process of intercultural communication is outlined from the identification of various takes on culture via the core concepts identity and difference to the intercultural issues of contemporary society. Drawing on post-colonial literary theory, cultural studies and psychoanalytic-linguistic theory, the study delineates a framework where positions between an essentialist and a non-essentialist understanding of the concepts of culture, identity and difference form a continuum that serves to analyse the interpersonal, intercultural and political dimensions of cultural encounter in two novels used in EFL classes, Across the Barricades and Fruit of the Lemon. The literary analysis consists of an interpretation of the two novels, focusing on the cultural encounters experienced by the main characters. Both texts concern young adults who struggle to come to terms with their identities and their places in society in the complicated cultural networks of social, personal, religious, race-related and gender-related positions that are available to them. The analysis of the novels is discussed in relation to the need for intercultural pedagogy in the Swedish EFL classroom. Here, a comparison of the representations of culture, identity and difference shows that the cultural identities that are brought into play in the representations of cultural encounter in the texts span the continuum from essentialist to non-essentialist conceptions of culture.

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