TO ANY student who has an aversion to reading, literature is always a boring subject, dealing only with incomprehensible metaphors, dead authors, and making sense of seemingly senseless works.

Hence, more than others, teachers of literature face the challenge of bringing the subject closer to students and making them understand literary pieces and their ability to record reality and even transcend it.

The challenge was discussed in a faculty development seminar, “Guess Who’s Coming to Listen? Shaking the Reading and Teaching Grounds Beneath our Feet,” which gathered literature teachers from UST and other schools last May 17 to19 in the Faculty of Arts and Letters (Artlets), to discuss fresh perspectives on teaching literature pedagogy.

With teaching literature comes great responsibility

Ferdinand Lopez, chair of the UST committee on literature, said the mentor of literature should be no less than someone “who is able to plum the depths of the soul.”

“The main goal of a literature teacher is to help students to be free from darkness, ignorance, and negative things,” he said.

He added that teachers should employ interesting strategies. Describing literature professors as beacons of light, he urged them to embrace changes in literature, while motivating well their students.

Joselito Zulueta, publications adviser of the Varsitarian and literary arts head of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, said literary instruction is a matter of reading. “New Criticism remains the dominant reading and compositional framework among writers and educators even without them knowing it,” he said, referring to the Anglo-American formalist approach of the last century that continues to influence teaching and writing in the Philippines.

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Standard books today are mostly employing new criticism, and even national writers’ workshops are effects of new criticism as they are headed by formalist critics, he said.

To encourage reading, the teacher may employ other media such as films as an extension of literature, according to Joyce Arriola, Artlets chair for Media Studies. She warned teachers, however, that films are not the actual literary texts.

“Film is a text that engages literature into a dialogue; and the classroom is the site of this dialogue between the book culture and film culture, both to uphold and deconstruct reality as we perceive it,” Arriola said in “Reading Films as Postmodern Text: Popularizing Literature for Classroom Instruction.” She said, film adaptation, no matter how good or bad, teaches students to critique as well.

The connection between literature and political reality was likewise stressed.

In “From Aesthetics to Politics: Reading Class Struggles in some Filipino Literary Texts,” Gary Devilles said everyday class struggles, as measured in literature, permits readers to question social and political issues.

“We may not entirely know what a literary piece suggests or how to solve problems, but literature offers some discourse that enables us to question and ponder on basic issues,” Devilles said.

Meanwhile, multi-awarded poet Rebecca Añonuevo tackled gender reading in “Recovering Women’s Voice and Visibility in Selected Writings: Experiences in Gender Reading.”

Añonuevo believes gender reading would question an author’s representation of the “predisposed” gender and defy the traditional representation of masculinity and patriarchy. She added women are often “misrepresented” in works.

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“Gender reading challenges the predisposition to ascribe masculine and feminine places believed to be largely, if not entirely, culturally affected by omnipresent patriarchal male biases of civilization,” Añonuevo said.

The misrepresentation of homosexuals was tackled in “Beyond Straight Line: Reading (Pink) Sexuality in Literature.”

In the lecture, Lopez said no one articulates or writes about the experiences of the bakla because not all homosexuals are similar.

“The reason why we are coming up with this reading seminar is more or less to open our eyes to the existence of this other being and perhaps we can more sensitively discuss issues confronting us or perhaps baffling our students with regards to sexuality in literature,” Lopez said.

The seminar also saw other literature professors explain other unique styles and methodologies in teaching the subject.

Given the attitude with which students face Literature as a subject, literature professors have a tough job cut out for them.

To the organizers’ credit, the event shows a determination to possibly improve student acceptance. Zulueta said it best: “As teachers we must lead our students to the adventure of reading, but we should provide them with correct direction.” Bernadette G. Irinco

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