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Heteronormativity in EFL textbooks and in two genres of children's literature (Harry Potter and same-sex parent family picturebooks)

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This paper examines representations of heteronormativity (and its influence) across several kinds of literature aimed at a child (and sometimes adult) audience, and does so by examining relationships between language and sexuality. The study firstly focuses on the study of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) textbooks, giving an overview of research from the literature. The authors look at heteronormativity in these overtly pedagogical texts and consider some implications for textbook writers and analysts when challenging predominantly heteronormative representations of sexuality in these texts. The authors then consider representations of sexuality in children's fiction. The prevalence of heteronormativity in the Harry Potter series is considered in relation to broad aspects of identity (gender, sexuality, class). Heteronormativity vis à vis homonormativity is then discussed in relation to the analysis of a large collection of picturebooks featuring same-sex parents, the results of which suggest that, although gay and lesbian parents feature as central characters, the manner of representation largely reflects heteronormative relationships and parenting discourses. The paper concludes by identifying challenges, in particular for EFL textbook writers and publishers. Producers of these texts have to consider a global audience part of whom is likely to reject material that offers alternatives to heteronormativity. The authors suggest strategies that could be used to offer representations of heteronormativity of a 'lesser' degree (such as same-sex friend scenes) that allow for alternative readings.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2015

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  • Language Issues is the part peer-reviewed journal of NATECLA, the national association for teaching English and other community languages to adults. The journal explores the area between academic research and classroom practice, sharing experiences of teaching, training and management and disseminating research and ideas relating to language, political and social issues. Language Issues comprises articles on published and unpublished research, current studies and pieces of action research relating to ESOL and community languages, language learning theories, methods, materials and learners. Voices from the Classroom brings reflections and experiences from teachers, students and others on topics ranging from bilingualism to testing to poetry in the language classroom. There are also interviews with professionals from the field, reviews and reports. Language Issues looks at broad issues and big ideas and is an invaluable resource for everyone interested in language teaching and learning, both in in the UK and elsewhere in the world. You can subscribe to the journal via the NATECLA website. Publisher: National Association for Teaching English and other Community Languages to Adults.
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