In the final chapter of her book, Teaching Literature as Reflective Practice: A Reflective Conclusion, Kathleen Yancey posits three claims which she suggests can serve as “exemplars” for conversation that “could point us toward a literature course designed explicitly for general education” (102). The first claim deals with the notion of American writers existing “on the margin,” standing in defiance or skepticism of a society that offers them but a small readership (102). Yancey then provides a number of questions relating to this claim, such as whether it’s actually true, what it might mean with regard to certain novels, literature other than the ‘serious’ kind it relates to, and the relationship between artist and society. While these are thought-provoking questions, are they ones that most non-English major undergrads can engage in? Kate has already suggested that a student in a general education classroom might not have the literary foundation to deliberate what texts the course will cover (something that Yancey proposes earlier in her book), and I think that concern could arise here as well. Although it might serve as a way to compare the status of Literature (with a capital “L”) in the US as opposed to England.

The second claim Yancey discusses relates to the idea that Toni Morrison wrote from “inside the black world,” as opposed to writing for a white audience (103). Yancey suggests using this notion as a way for Gen. Ed. students to examine “the relationship between each smaller culture and the larger culture” (103). This, I think, would bode less of a problem for students than asking them to survey a broad swath of literature they might not have had exposure to. The idea Yancey presents of pairing texts with different cultural contexts seems that it could spark some fruitful thought/discussion, and lead toward the reflective way of thinking about literature she emphasizes.

The third and final claim probes “what happens to text when it moves from one medium to another,” in the form of film adaptations and the like (104). Yancey suggests asking students to consider whether the story has changed, how it compares to the original, and the relationship between form and content. Getting students to consider what happens when the same (or radically altered) novel is presented in a different medium could lead to some rich reflection on the value of film and text.

According to Yancey, these open-ended questions, that draw connections between life and literature in a philosophico-reflective manner, have the potential to “help students negotiate all three curricula,” those being the lived (the experience students bring to the classroom), delivered (syllabuses, assignments, etc.), and experienced (how the course differs from person to person) (104).

Works Cited

Yancey, Kathleen. “A Reflective Conclusion.” Teaching Literature as Reflective Practice. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English,2004. 96-110.