Introduction: Literature as Discourse
This book offers an account of existing research and practice, and aims to stimulate further research and informed pedagogic innovation in the field of literature and language teaching, with special but not exclusive reference to foreign language studies. Colin MacCabe’s pronouncement was no doubt somewhat premature, and more specific: I have pruned ‘English’ and ‘in English’ from either end of the quotation. Jacques Derrida deliberately overstates the case too. Nevertheless, this book in its present form has been made possible by the historical dominance and later removal of English Literature from its privileged central educational position in favour of a more open and relativistic, linguistically inspired image of writing(s), a ‘plurality of writings’ (MacCabe 1984), a movement in which MacCabe himself featured notoriously in 1983, before — prefiguring one argument of this book — moving from literature into cultural studies as Director of the British Film Institute. Such a move was prepared by Derrida and others, taking various linguistic perspectives on text, ‘literary’ or otherwise, the educational implications of which are still being elaborated here and elsewhere. The key development was to see literary text as best studied against the background of other texts, and all texts as socially situated. Thus ‘Literature into cultural studies’ arguments are central to reviews of the field offered by Easthope 1991 (viewed more positively) and Bergonzi 1990 (more negatively).
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