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A Didactics of Cultural Readings

By Mikkel Jensen

Introducing first-year university students to any discipline requires that teachers unpack many of the underlying ideas that shape their field. This is relevant when teaching students how to use a scholarly field’s concepts and approaches, but it is also of crucial importance when teaching students how they can develop their writing in ways that adhere to the several different requirements of constructing a scholarly text in a specific discipline.

Having taught writing and textual analysis for more than a decade, I have found that many pupils and students struggle with honoring the disciplinary requirements they encounter. This is why I have taken to heart Hilbert Meyer’s concept of “transparent performance expectations.” Meyer’s basic but crucial point is that students will have difficulty living up to the requirements of any scholarly discipline if they are not really able to decipher what it is we expect of them.

This essay explores how this ideal of transparent performance expectations can fruitfully be used when teaching students how to write literary criticism in a way that lives up to the norm of “close reading,” but which is also committed to applying theories (e.g. sociological theories) about non-textual matters in the scrutiny of creative forms of expression, like literature or film. Discussing how this endeavor can be explored through the notion of “imitation-style teaching,” I show how we may think about the links between teaching literary analysis, academic writing, and how to use theory in a way that equips our students with a skillset they need in order to be competent members of the academic community they are effectively seeking entrance to throughout their university studies.

Read the TLI article here.

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