- Sunday, December 20, 1987
- Teaching English Literature:A Generic Versus a Chronological Approach
- Published at:A paper presented at the ELT Issues in the West Bank and Gaza University English Departments-Symposium, hosted by the Department of English at the University of Hebron, 20 November 1987
If we all agree (and we must) that methods follow aims and techniques depend on objectives, then a discussion of approach becomes like trying to place the carriage before the horse. I will, therefore, discuss this issue (of "chronology versus genre in the teaching of literature") as a detail of a pattern that has been a painful obsession with me for the last six years of my career as a university teacher of English literature. That sorrowfully enough Arab university English departments do not seem to have a studied policy, or a calculated goal, (in a national, ideological sense) to the teaching of British or American literature to Arab students - is the pattern. The question of why at this particular moment in history the Arab student, as a member of a nation with its plentiful share of dilemmas and confusions, quests and apirations, should study a foreign literature is never raised. The evasion of such a nationally portentous question is so puzzling that it assumes the proportions of a wilfully collective exercise in make-believe.
Genre or chronology, then? Each has its appropriate stage in a scrupulously thought out strategy for teaching English (or any foreign) literature. For as Raymond Chapman observes, "The value of new methods depends on starting from the right place." And, as it seems, we are yet to. Warde Fowler’s incisive statement still rings true, "It is men not methods which really tell in education."