A Bouquet of World Literature in Two Months

Hasmik Ghazaryan


It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.

                                                                             Charles Darvin

In modern world reading fiction is not quite the most pleasant occupation; furthermore, it doesn’t even have any priority. Daniel Pennak writes: “Let’s not be offended, but if there is a necessity to choose between a good book or a foolish film, the latter is preferred far more often than we would like to confess.” But even if being informed is given more importance to than the information itself to keep pace with the time passing by (also changes in thinking), modern man prefers to get to know it with faster means. I agree that it is often done at the expense of artisticism but the writers themselves beginning with the second half of the 20th century tend to go farther and farther from the way of imagining the artisticism of previous centuries and prefer the sharpness of speech to its decorativeness. This is a way of thinking which is achieved by the new world outlook and motion of time.

The school that supervises the significant amount of time of a great number of young people, is responsible for the effectiveness of that time. That is why, while organizing a literature lesson, we should take into account both the content and the method of conducting it, which will allow us to perform intellectual work as intense as possible.                      

Literature, as I have already written in one of my previous articles, “…the subject matter of literature is no longer the process of picking up bare facts and being entertained by them. It is already passing to the process of the reader’s self analyses, comparing one’s personal experience with what has been read, and obtaining skills of evaluating creations. It is intellectual work which is realized by reading just at the moment of reading.” Lessons and schools can’t be cut off life. Particularly, reading will acquire significance when learners feel change in their thinking, and are able to look upon some problems from a new angle and find solutions to them. With this respect I fully agree with my colleague Margaret Sargsyan’s idea in her article “Once again about projects in reading” which says, “Social life, modern  living and the system of values, concerns and observations, everyday emotions should somehow be included in the project. The past, present and future should be associated, the book shouldn’t be cut off reality, and the lesson shouldn’t be cut off life and man-be cut off fatherland.” But how to make this diverse life accessible and give consideration to it in a short period of time allocated to literature in the curriculum. One way out has been found in our Educomplex: The youth magazine “Lusastgh” (Margaret Sargsyan, supervisor) and “Tigran Hayrapetyan” Library (Mary Gabanyan, supervisor) are implementing the project “Getting to know our contemporaries”. The learners read, hold online discussions and also express their point of views at the presence of the author (a meeting with the author is held after having studied his/her works). But this is not enough to avoid one-sidedness and we will not perceive the diversity of thinking.

What do young people all over the world read? Studying the American  school literature curriculum and the list of Popular High School Literature Books in the world, we find out that both classical writers beginning with Homer and Shakespeare up to Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Margaret Mitchel and contemporary writers are popular: George Orwell, William Golding, Franz Kafka and also Russian writers Tolstoy, Dostoevsky. The Armenian readers’ list of literature doesn’t differ very much. But here we are going to consider the world literature of the 20th century.

We have a serious experience in reading at our Educomplex. Breaking the stereotype of the state literature curriculum called “The History of Armenian Literature”, we have established a new approach not only to the literature curriculum but also to the methodology of its implementation. For example, Margaret Sargsyan uses the form of “Film Poetry”. After having read a piece of literature, the learners use film stills and images to narrate not as much the text of it but its essence.

They also turn to reading at the theatre lessons (Knarik Nersisyan, supervisor). Here the language of a dance, sketch and performance is used to express an episode, mood and which is most interesting the key idea of a creation. The learner’s self designed audio readings of a literary creation also becomes an applicable teaching material. In this case the learner matches his own personality with the character created by the author with the help of photos and voice recording. Each performance is preceded by an analysis. Knarik Nersisyan writes in her article: “ At first we try to get to know the author and his creation better. (We sit on the floor as we consider the audience and stage to be on the same level.) And then we try to analyze the author’s key idea and how to make a performance out of the play.”  However, the shortcoming of this method is that only a group of learners take part in the creation of the final product at best, even if all the learners take part in the analysis. 

It is the written analysis, essay writing, that gives a chance to each learner to express his/her own tale. It is a good means to work out one’s written speech which is applied not only in presenting a piece of literature or introducing one’s culture of speech. The learners write essays in philosophy, economics, civil law and so on.  An essay in social science subjects is the result of teacher-learner discussions and study of some sources, but an essay in literature is based on the learner’s impressions got by reading. It is also a widely used method in our Educomplex. The learners usually read pieces of literature, write down their ideas and discuss them in class.

If we do a project work, an interactive way of teaching becomes unavoidable. Our contribution here is the possibility of studying a lot of materials in a short period of time. How is it done?

The learners resist when given a task to read several pieces of literature. They think that they are to read them all together, although the idea of reading several pieces of literature together is not at all inapplicable. This year I experimented with a project to study five authors at a time. The learners of Grade 10 in high schools have the first graders’ syndrome: learners from different middle schools don’t know each other yet, are ashamed of each other, dare not speak. It is difficult to organize group work because the teacher doesn’t know the learners’ capabilities and moral criteria either. That is why I made a research experiment: at first I suggested that they should read and study an author, Kortassar, who, I thought, was not so well-known to them. Work distribution was done in class. Each group of learners got its task which was to be divided into smaller parts within the group. They had to present the author’s biography and one of his creations (a different one for each group): the problem touched by that creation, and the learner’s attitude to that problem from three angles: as a member of society considering that problem his, as the hero of that creation, and as the author of the creation revealing the key idea of the creation. Having at hand Kortassar’s creations in different genres (poems, short stories, abstracts from a novel), we had also the opportunity to pick up information about literature genres. The learners had to write an essay about their impressions on different creations. Presentations on different creations of the same author interested the learners of different groups so much that they began reading all the other creations mentioned in the whole task. In the result of it we had the learners’ collection of information, narrated attitude, the performed literary analysis, the author’s collection of quotes, and the written essays.  It is not little for the first time. The existence of personal laptops and the Wi-Fi Internet access in class is of course a great help, thanks to which the literary electronic text is accessible, and we can perform the Internet search in class.

The next step was to be the courageous initiative to study several authors simultaneously. The class of 25 learners was divided into 5 groups. Five authors were chosen: German Wolfgang Borchert, Americans Richard Bach and Robert Shaklee, French Bernard Werber and Brazilian Luis Fernando Verissimo. Both the geography and the aesthetic approaches of the authors are different. The period of time, the 20th century, lived by the writers and the subject matter of their creations, man with his inner world and his collision with current time  problems is in common. There was not enough information in Armenian about all the mentioned authors. The learners used their ability to collect information in foreign languages. Rafael Vardanyan, a student of Grade 10, translated information about Luis Fernando Verissimo from Russian, and Kirakosyan Davit – about Robert Shaklee. The students of other groups were able to study these authors’ biographies relying on these translations. The learner gradually forms his/her own behavioral attitude by reading, analyzing, comparing and especially by making conclusions. The five authors’ unanimous claim that one should be independent makes the learners ask the same question to themselves: “Are You Independent?” The learner should make a conclusion here, which is just one of the aims of education.

During about 25 lessons the learners studied the selected authors, read critical reviews about them, did translations in case of necessity (there is little information about the 20th century writers in Armenian), made teaching materials about Kortassar, Bach, Shaklee, Werber, Verissimo and Borchert, in which they included their essays on the themes of these writers’ creations. They improved their written speech by writing these essays, developed skills of team work, understood that they are responsible for group work, overcame some difficulties in oral speech while presenting their works. All the groups became aware of the authors presented by the other groups, got interested and read some other creations by the same authors, wrote new essays on their own initiative, and the publications on our school web site gave rise to their self-evaluation.


In conclusion, we can mention that in spite of a number of obstacles in the way of modern world literature to our environment (lack of high quality translations, shortage of reading-comprehension skills in foreign languages, insufficient time), the attempt to get to know a tangible bouquet of the modern world literature has been a success. The gained experience is also applicable for studying a bouquet of Armenian literature. Thus we not only spend God given time purposefully but also manage to see currents and directions in the overflow of information to keep up with time and “manage change in the best way”.        




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