Date: Thu, 29 Dec 2005 14:50:43 +0100 From Ingrid Mosquera Gende Subject: Re: review Geoff Hall
AUTHOR: Hall, Geoff TITLE: Literature in Language Education SERIES: Research and Practice in Applied Linguistics PUBLISHER: Palgrave Macmillan YEAR: 2005
Ingrid Mosquera Gende, Department of English Philology, Facultad de Filología, University of A Coruña
This book constitutes a critical review of research into literature in language education, of interest to teachers of English and of modern foreign languages as well as to students and researches, either with or without experience. This book includes sections concerning the language of literature, the reading of literature, the usefulness of literature in language education, intercultural development through literature, and so on. There are suggestions for those who wish to engage in projects or research in this area. The primary focus is on the language of literature, the reading of literature, literature as culture, and literature in education.
The book comprises the following divisions: General Editor's Preface; Acknowledgements; Introduction: Literature as Discourse; Part 1 Language, Literature and Education; Part 2 Exploring Research in Language, Literature and Education; Part 3 Researching Literature in Language Education; Part 4 Resources; Glossary; References; Name Index; Subject Index.
In about one page, series editors Christopher N. Candlin and David R. Hall, from Macquarie University, Sydney, explain the purpose of the international book series ''Research and Practice in Applied Linguistics'', to which the present book belongs. A collection designed for students and researchers in Applied Linguistics, TESOL or Language Education among other related fields of study. In this Editor's Preface the style of the writing is also described as being ''user-friendly'' (p. x), easy to read, and the main points and concepts are stressed, with illustrations, etc. The common structure of the books has to do with identifying key researchable areas and provide examples, details, research tools, resources, and so on. At the same time these books provide several sections designed for further study, which are mentioned by the editors, but, since we are going to describe these later on, there is no need to enumerate them at this point. Candlin and Hall wonder about the way in which research can be useful to practical matters, a core subject in the series, trying to demonstrate that a good professional practice should be based on good research and the other way around, good research should take into account practice(p. xi). This Preface is quite attractive, the audience this book is aimed for is presented, as well as the objectives of the series' editors; therefore a student, a teacher, a researcher or even an ''outsider'' could be very interested in reading it, due to the explanations about its style, content, aims, etc.
Acknowledgements are worthy of mention since these continue the same line introduced in the Preface: emphasis on its readable style and on the figures of researchers and students as the centre of interest which were never forgotten as potential audience of the book while writing it.
The introduction begins with two quite radical quotes from Colin MacCabe ''Literature is dead. Long live writing'' (p.1) and from Derrida ''There is nothing outside the text'' (p. 1); these two quotes could be a very good beginning for a potential class. Only two other chapters begin with quotes, chapters 7 and 8, both in part 3, ''Researching Literature in Language Education''. However, in that same sense, it is fundamental to notice that all the chapters are full of questions, and many chapters even begin with one: Chapter 1 ''Literary Language and Ordinary Language'': ''Does literature have a language of its own, perhaps rather unrepresentative of, or rather different from, ordinary language (e.g. old-fashioned, obscure, pretentious, generally 'difficult')?'' (p. 9); Chapter 2 ''Literature in Education'': ''This chapter addresses the following questions: What is the place of literature in education? What is claimed to be learned from reading, studying, discussing and writing about literature in educational contexts? How has literary reading been assessed? How do literature and language relate to culture?'' (p. 39); Chapter 3 ''Reading Literature'': ''What are the dominant theories and models for the reading of literature? What gaps or problems exist for our knowledge, especially with regard to second or foreign language readers of literature? What empirical research is necessary? More specifically, How does reading literature differ from other types of reading? What makes 'a good' or 'poor' reader of literature? And what is known about reading literature in a second language?'' (p. 83); Chapter 4 ''Language in Literature. Stylistics, including Corpus Linguistics - Readability Studies'': ''What do we know of the language of literary texts and what impact has this knowledge had on the uses of literature in education?'' (p. 129).
Any of those questions would also constitute a good beginning for a class. I believe that, from these questions and from the quotes, the main points in the book are already mentioned. The questions are a perfect way of introducing each of these chapters, letting the audience know what they are going to find in each of them. And, from the point of view of a potential reader, if I should recommend the reading of a specific part of the book, so that that potential reader would find it interesting enough to keep on reading it, I would recommend him or her to read the beginning of the chapters, without a doubt, as well as to have a look at the general structure of the book, the Contents' section, where we can already find the rest of opportunities that the book offers to any kind of reader, either a expertise one or a mere curios person.
After the introductory chapter, there follow the four parts of the book, which contain the individual chapters. Part 1 comprises chapters 1 to 3 and each chapter is subdivided into numbered sections. In all these three chapters the last section is devoted to conclusions, this being a very important decision, and a right one from my point of view, due to their being the opening chapters of the book and therefore intensifying their need of being clear and concise.
Part 2, ''Exploring Research in Language, Literature and Education'', includes chapters 4 to 6, together with its own introduction, which points out the most important aspects of the previous chapters at the same time introducing more questions to solve in the part being introduced.) Part 3 also has its own introduction, along with chapters 7 and 8. Part 4, ''Resources'', is built around chapter 9 alone, ''A Guide to Resources for Research in LLE''.
The main content is followed by a glossary, references, name index and a subject index, all very complete and clearly helpful to users of the book. I think these are important matters to include in a book which is devoted to education.
The most significant thing about this book is its accessibility, which suggests that the author has the same attribute. When I was reading 8.2, ''Some possible projects for literature in LLE'', I felt sure that if I had a project in literature I could e-mail him and he would give me kind advice. The chapters are full of charts with fundamental aspects such as important quotes, concepts, data or similar points, all designed to leave everything as clear and accessible as possible to reach as wide an audience as possible.
My main personal opinions were made clear earlier in this review. Geoff Hall effectively presents his ideas and proposals with the minimum degree of complication needed for the varied potential audience and with a great capacity for attracting and awakening curiosity in the reader by means of an engaging style as well as by means of quotations and questions. If the reader does not know the answer to those questions, he/she will find them very well explained and answered in the book with clear language supported and defended by the author. However, as in any book of research worthy of the name, many new questions arise, and Hall invites teachers, scholars, students and amateurs in general to think about them from a critical perspective.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Ingrid Mosquera Gende teaches at the University of A Coruña, Spain. Her Ph.D. is in English Philology; her Doctoral Thesis is about Edwin Muir: "Early Poetry of a Late Poet: Analysis of First Poems". She has undertaken several research visits to Canada, Germany or Scotland, among others, supervised by specialists such as Professor Cairns Craig and Robert Crawford. She is a researcher of projects related to Translation Studies, Literature and Education. She has written many publications and contributions about Translation, Scottish Literature, as well as other fields of study, including Education, Irish Literature, and Spanish Literature. She also teaches courses of education via the internet in collaboration with The University of Islas Baleares, Spain, and is a reviewer and translator for various universities.