Teaching Literatures

A Paradigm Shift


Humanism, structuralism, poststructuralism, literary theories, critical theories, reading theories, aapplied poststructuralism


Humanist approach to literature teaching had been an academic custom and convention in almost all cultures even since literature studies in modern languages and literatures was institutionalized in the last decade of the nineteenth century. Though the genesis of this two millennium old approach is traced back to Plato’s Academy and Aristotle’s Lyceum, it was further scaffolded with advanced arguments and methods in the Anglo-American world at the hands of Mathew Arnold in the second half the 19th century and New Critics in the early 20th century. It advocates the inculcation of ethical and aesthetic values in students (readers) of literary studies. This approach was, however, challenged for the first time in history in 1950s and 1960s by structuralist approach but it was short-lived since the John Hopkins University International Seminar on structuralism paved the way for the advent of poststructuralist approach to literature teaching. Poststructuralist approach to literature teaching became anti-humanist and anti-structuralist. It emphasizes the importance of theories of reading since poststructuralist thought has enormously influenced human interpretive capacity of the practitioners of human sciences to the extent that it has facilitated professionalization of the literary academia around the world. This paper examines the paradigm shift in approaches to literature reading, understanding, interpreting, teaching, and researching from humanist perceptions to poststructuralist assertions through structuralist recommendations, how poststructuralist approach enables literature academics around the world to create literary-critical scholarship, and how English literary academia in India is lagging far behind the rest of the world since it is inadvertently stuck in the colonial mire of humanist approaches.


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