By Kelli Drummer-Avendano
Literature is said to be a mirror as well as a window. We read with the hope of learning more about ourselves and our own society, but we also read to explore far-away lands, fascinating cultures, and new ideas. For this reason, we can use literature as a tool to understand the countries and cultures we discuss in the language classroom.
Authors do not write in vacuum. They are influenced by their immediate surroundings, their personal experiences, and the society that raised them. These elements show up in their work, even if the books they’re writing are fiction. In this way, literature is a reflection of culture, allowing students to take a closer look at behaviors, social norms, and beliefs. All of these concepts can be seen when students examine characters, setting, theme, etc. Additionally, certain styles of writing are closely identified with a culture, such as magical realism with Latin America or nouveau roman with France.
Furthermore, literature can be a way for students to explore the past of the culture they’re studying. History may be made up of events that happened in the past, but the effects of those events are felt in the present. Students may have sound knowledge of their native country’s history, but only a general idea of what was going on in the rest of the world. Consequently, literature is an effective way of understanding a specific time and place in history through the eyes of characters living during that era.
Students can always learn about a country’s culture and history by reading nonfiction, informative texts, but they could also delve into the plethora of poetry, plays, and novels written by its citizens. So, open a window to the world by opening a book.
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