Caring for Literature that Matters? Conceptualizing a Thing-centered Perspective on Literature Education with Rousseau, Deleuze, and Calvino

Studies in Philosophy and Education 41 (5):529-549 (2022)
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Abstract

This paper primarily aims at conceptualizing a new philosophical approach to literature education, one that we—in the vein of certain pedagogical trends—propose to call “thing-centered”. Point of departure is the ongoing confrontation with a two-sided educational problem: on the one hand, the confrontation with the steady decline of younger generations’ engagements with ‘classical’ literature; on the other hand, that with the unsatisfactory answers which either accept this development, in light of the world’s irresistible digitization, or try overcoming it through a more student-centered, ‘biographical’ appropriation of literature. Beyond the more immediate didactical difficulties which this two-fold problem poses, we ask ourselves the question whether it is not time for a more fundamental renewal of our understanding of literature’s contemporary educational significance. In answering this question, for which we turn to such diverse authors as Rousseau, Deleuze and Calvino, it is argued that if education is to continue its care for both classical literacy and literary classics—and not so much against as in relation to ascending digital literacies—a more radically immanent, thing-centered perspective is likely to prove the most sustainable, in the sense of enabling truly new, ‘care-ful’ literary-educational practices to emerge.

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