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On literature's use(ful/less)ness: reconceptualizing the literature curriculum in the age of globalization

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This paper begins by examining how debates about literature's usefulness or, more specifically, its uselessness, have been framed in terms of the binary between utilitarianism and pragmatism on the one hand, and between humanism and idealism on the other. Instead of conceiving the literature curriculum in terms of a position one privileges in a binary structure, the question is whether the curriculum may be conceptualized as a hybrid space incorporating both values of utilitarianism and humanism, pragmatism, and idealism. The first part of the paper explores the hybrid nature of the literature curriculum that is framed by the paradox of its usefulness and uselessness. The second part of the paper shows how this hybridity is at present compromised by World and Global Literature curricula models and argues for a reconceptualization of the curriculum through the model of a Cosmopolitan Literature curriculum. This study shows how such a curriculum would adequately prepare students for global labour markets where they are expected to be mobile, to be able to shift among different communities, and to communicate with diverse groups by cultivating dispositions related to cosmopolitan curiosity, openness, and empathy towards others.
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Keywords: cosmopolitanism; global literature curriculum; globalization; literature education; world literature curriculum

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, USA

Publication date: 2011-02-01

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