Journeys Through Literature
Myra Shulman (1995)
Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press
Pp. xii + 342
ISBN 0-472-08296-5 (paper)
Journeys Through Literature: Instructor's Manual
According to the preface, the titleJourneys Through Literature was chosen because "the journey or quest is one of the most common metaphors in literature and has served as the framework for innumerable works" (p. xi). The goals of the text are to help advanced-level ESL students acquire and improve language skills, formulate and express their own opinions and preferences about literature, and analyze literary styles and techniques. The text takes a content-based approach, which means that the focus of the text is literature, but as the students study the pieces they are also learning English. Because of the nature of the text's content, it is also usable in a class of native English speakers.
All the selections in the text were originally written in English. The book contains poems, short stories, and excerpts from novels, autobiographies and longer poems. There is a combination of fiction and nonfiction, poetry and prose. Works in the text range from the fourteenth century to the twentieth. Authors include Chaucer, Shakespeare, Austen, Wordsworth, Poe, Thoreau, Twain, Cather, and Emily Bronte. Modern authors include Alice Walker, Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, and Maxine Hong Kingston. Appendices contain a glossary of literary terms, how to write a critical analysis, how to write an essay, how to write a synthesis, how to write a poem, and an outline worksheet. Shulman states that students who used the text in her classes expressed the opinion that the readings were not too difficult, nor were they too culture-bound to be understood and appreciated.
Chapters begin with quotes from famous authors about the particular genre addressed in that chapter, as well as a description [-1-] of the genre. Each chapter has two or more examples of writing from the genre and time period. Each selection follows the same pattern: 1. Introduction of the author through quotations from other authors regarding his or her work and through biographical information. 2. Questions designed to work on the skills of skimming, critical thinking and scanning. 3. The piece itself. 4. A glossary. 5. Discussion questions. 6. Style and language questions. 7. Writing assignments. 8. Group work. 9. Contrastive pieces from other time periods (in most cases). Style and language questions address rhyming scheme, alliteration, symbolism, tone, and figurative speech. Writing assignments include summaries, comparisons, textual analysis, and language analysis. Group work sets up partnerships or small groups to discuss literature from whole works to quotations, write essays and summaries, or compare different types of writing styles. Each chapter ends with a writing assignment in which students must synthesize all the works in the chapter.
The instructor's manual is a useful resource to accompany the text. Shulman explains, "...teaching literature is creating a nonjudgmental and supportive learning environment. Students should be encouraged to offer their interpretations and opinions and be reassured that all opinions have validity" (p. 5). The manual contains an answer key that gives suggested answers to the discussion questions, noting, however, that answers will vary. It also contains a reading questionnaire designed to find out what students like to read, worksheets for group work, examples of student essays, and additional readings to lead students to more works similar to the ones in the text.
Shulman also explains that a teacher doesn't have to be a literary expert to teach literature. I am not an expert, so I found her assurance heartening. That assurance wouldn't mean anything, however, if it weren't backed up by guidelines for using the information contained in the text, which the instructor's manual provides.
The book includes a wide range of genres that expose students to the variety of English literature. The tone is positive, approaching the topic of literature with enthusiasm and interest. The discussion questions and writing assignments are well thought-out and thorough. The book is dense, with a large amount of information; however, it is well organized so the information is easily digested. It is organized chronologically, but it is not [-2-] necessary to follow the chronology. There are, of course, other pieces of literature that could have been added to the book. No textbook can meet the needs of all teachers in all programs, but teachers can supplement the book as they wish.
As mentioned before, the goals of the text are to help advanced-level students acquire and improve language skills, formulate and express their own opinions and preferences about literature, and analyze literary styles and techniques. Language skills will improve as students work through this content-based book. There are ample opportunities for students to express their opinions and form preferences for literary styles and genres, and students are put in a number of situations where they can analyze the content of the book. This text sets appropriate goals, meets those goals, and uses good examples of literature to do it. Overall, I would recommend this text for a program whose instructional goals correspond to those ofJourneys Through Literature.
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