1st Edition

Teaching Ethics through Literature The Significance of Ethical Criticism in a Global Age

By Suzanne S. Choo Copyright 2021
    178 Pages 3 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    178 Pages 3 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Teaching Ethics through Literature provides in-depth understanding of a new and exciting shift in the fields of English education, Literature, Language Arts, and Literacy through exploring their connections with ethics. The book pioneers an approach to integrating ethics in the teaching of literature. This has become increasingly relevant and necessary in our globally connected age. A key feature of the book is its integration of theory and practice. It begins with a historical survey of the emergence of the ethical turn in Literature education and grounds this on the ideas of influential Ethical Philosophers and Literature scholars. Most importantly, it provides insights into how teachers can engage students in ethical concerns and apply practices of Ethical Criticism using rich on-the-ground case studies of high school Literature teachers in Australia, Singapore and the United States.

    1. Introduction: The Significance of Ethics in the Teaching of Literature 2. Objectives: Ethics as the Philosophical End of Literature Education 3. Curriculum: Developing Cosmopolitan-mindedness through Ethical Inquiry 4. Texts: Applying Ethical Criticism to Interpreting Literature 5. Pedagogy: Building a Critical-Ethical Community of Readers 6. Values: Developing Ethical Character through Dispositional Routines 7. Conclusion: Literature Education and the Hospitable Imagination


    Suzanne S. Choo is Associate Professor in the English Language and Literature Group at National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. Her book Reading the world, the globe, and the cosmos: Approaches to teaching literature for the twenty-first century (Peter Lang, 2013) was awarded the 2014 Critics Choice Book Award by the American Educational Studies Association. She co-edited the book Literature Education in the Asia-Pacific: Policies, Practices and Perspectives in Global Times (Routledge, 2018).

    "Directness, coherence, and lucidity distinguish Teaching Ethics Through Literature as Choo opens door after door into fields of inquiry about the central purposes and practices of literature education and its complex relationship to ethics. Drawing upon a wide variety of resources from histories of literary criticism, reception theories, pedagogical practices and into the particularities of classroom exchanges, Choo demonstrates that only through transforming the very purposes and structures of literature education will ethical dispositions—"listening to the heart" of others and Confucius’s teachings of shu (not to impose one’s will on others)—be cultivated. This timely book is a bold reconsideration of how readers create, in company with literature, ethical encounters and dilemmas and how teachers may encourage or discourage ethical imagination. What links the work of teaching literature to experiencing and feeling with and for others? Choo has an answer to this question as she considers her signature theorizing about how we might hone the hospitable imagination in order to grapple with ways to understand the purposes of ethical response and action. Just what does it take to nurture narrative imagination that allows one to step into the river of another’s experiences, to transmigrate into their wishes and desires, and to understand their positionalities—that is, to be an ethical reader of others’ stories, desires, and experiences? The gift of Choo’s explorations might just be that she exposes the nervous system of literature where the hand and mind of writer perturb a fictional shell game which requires a hospitable imagination in order for readers to feel distanced from their own lives and find familiarity and possibility in the lives of others." – Ruth Vinz, Professor at Teachers College, Columbia University, USA

    "In this book, Choo has defined a serious problem with precision and she has devised a comprehensive and creative solution. She has deftly exposed two dangerous myths: first, the myth that academic scholarship and literature can be value-free; and, second, the myth that learning is a solitary experience. Her solutions show up in the diverse classroom practices which help students learn how to communicate with each other about subtle ideas in literature. She analyzes those practices skillfully and humanely. In doing so she is not only helping a generation create the kind of habits that are urgently needed in a global age, but are need in an electronic age which constantly emphasizes quickness. Choo’s approach enriches the reading and teaching of literature that spark conversation and collaboration essential to any thorough understanding of how stories unfold as they do – stories in fiction and stories in daily, real life." – Stephan Ellenwood, Professor at Boston University, USA

    "This remarkable book provides a supremely timely reminder of the importance of teaching literature to young people, whilst recognising that we need to argue more emphatically for literature’s place in the curriculum. Suzanne Choo inspires teachers and scholars to regain their belief in the fundamental seriousness of literature as an ethical change agent in young people’s lives, helping them to see, as no other curriculum area can, that they are part of a global humanity that requires a vision of international, cultural understanding. Literature, she passionately argues, and based on her substantive research in real classrooms, illuminates the world and human behaviour so that young people can enjoy texts and feel the questioning power that literary texts demand, texts invite young people to scrutinise human behaviour and moral integrity. The book includes a remarkable review of literary traditions that have influenced the teaching of literature and finds them all important but with too strong an emphasis on reducing texts to either aesthetic icons or troubling sites of discourse. She draws intensely on her own experiences of the extraordinary richness of the multilingual and cultural diversities of Singapore. There ‘English Literature’ occupies a significant position for her and for its young people leading to her developing a vision of the ultimate value of all literatures and their extraordinary importance to the ethical development of young people in a post-COVID world." – Andy Goodwyn, Professor at University of Bedfordshire, UK