Literature and Stylistics for Language Learners: Theory and Practic

Greg Watson and Sonia Zyngier (Eds.), Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007. Pp. xxiii + 217.

Reviewed by Vander Viana
Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

According to Carter (2007), it is possible to identify three historical stages in the teaching of English as a foreign language leading up to today. The first one dates from the beginning of the 20th century when literary texts were used as models for writing. In the 40 s and 60 s, literature left the limelight as a more functional approach to language teaching came to the fore. The third period arrived with the communicative approach in the 70 s and literary texts regained prominence in TEFL as they were now seen as authentic materials and as ways of helping students deal with more imaginative texts. It is in this scenario that Literature and Stylistics for Language Learners: Theory and Practice has been launched.

The book, containing 15 chapters written by scholars representing most continents, has a major pedagogical concern–it focuses on the teaching of stylistics to speakers of English as a first language, as a second language and/or as a foreign language (L1, L2, or FL)–and is divided into five parts. In the first part, Theoretical Perspectives, the theory which underpins stylistics is offered. Here, Geoff Hall comments on the role of stylistics in the teaching of English as a second language and Peter Stockwell argues in favor of the teaching of literature as such.

The second part, New Approaches, opens with Joanna Gavins and Jane Hodson s account on their experience of setting up a stylistic course for third-year undergraduates at the University of Sheffield. John McRae goes on to discuss the narrative point of view in three literary works. Afterwards, Rocio Monteiro expands on the relationship between literature and cinema. Finally, Urszula Clark reports on her work with detective fiction.

Corpus Stylistics is the title of the third part in which those interested in corpus linguistics can see how its tools may be applied to stylistic analysis. Donald E. Hardy begins by probing the fiction of Flannery O Connor by means of a text-analytic computer program. In the next chapter, Bill Louw discusses how collocations may be used in order to identify the semantic prosodies of specific lexical items. In the last chapter, Mick Short, Beatriz Busse, and Patricia Plummer comment on their experience regarding the teaching of Language and Style, a web-based course on stylistics.

The fourth part, Stylistics, Grammar and Discourse, also presents another study on the work of Flannery O Connor. Different from Hardy, David L. Gugin, however, focuses on pseudo-cleft sentences and makes a link between their use and the activation of students schema in the Persian Gulf. In the chapters that follow, Paul Simpson investigates the use of the Hiberno-English Emphatic Tag, and Judit Zerkowitz explores Gricean maxims.

The last part of the volume, entitled Awareness and Cognition, expands on empirical work. David Hanauer begins by investigating the differences between explicit and implicit educational approaches to the teaching of literature to secondary students in Tel Aviv. In the following article, Willie van Peer and Aikaterini Nousi observe whether there are differences in reading and in reading and discussing texts with relation to reducing negative stereotypes. Finally, Sonia Zyngier, Oli­via Fialho, and Patri­cia Rios reappraise the concept of literary awareness and apply it to a Brazilian context.
This volume certainly offers a vast array of studies from different theoretical orientations which can be easily applied to the language classroom. The only shortcoming seems to be the title of the volume which does not cover all the text has to offer. A much better description, however, is given in the preface to the book where the editors state that the collection may be of interest to teacher trainers, teachers, arts instructors, educational administrators, and lecturers. Nevertheless, on the whole, this volume is a collection which surely contributes to pedagogical stylistics by helping teachers conduct such type of work in a language classroom–be it a L1, L2, or FL environment–and looks ahead into future developments in the area.

Carter, R. (2007). Literature and language teaching 1986-2006: A review. International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 17(1), 3-13.