Liberlit Manifesto

LiberlitManifestIllustration

This society brings together and unites those teachers who firmly believe that literature has an essential place in the university English classroom. By ‘literature’, we mean authentic texts that use language in creative and careful ways to tell stories, convey impressions, express original opinions, pose critical questions and demand more than simplistic, pragmatic responses. Those texts could include poetry, novels, plays, movies, songs, TV series, or thoughtful authentic writings on culture, society, or history. Teaching literature always means teaching much more than just language. LIBERLIT explores, clarifies, and encourages discussion of attitudes and approaches to ‘literary’ texts in English.

We lament the ongoing ‘dumbing down’ and ‘infantilisation’ of English education in Japan and the consequent marginalization of literature in the curriculum at all levels. Our conviction is that literature offers learners access to the kinds of creative, critical, and non-complacent views of the world that Japanese students sorely need and indeed, in many cases, crave. Literature has the power to engage and motivate second-language learners; its potential for multiple interpretations develops the minds of students who often believe that every question has but one answer, and the authenticity of literary texts respects them as intellectually maturing adults. Eye-opening materials and mind-widening methods should be an integral part of the education process at all levels, but are essential at university level before students go forth to live among the complexities of the ‘real’ world.

LIBERLIT asserts that it is unkind and disingenuous to deprive students of the marvelously varied, meaningful, and challenging content that only great works of literature and thoughtful authentic writings on culture can offer. We want to explore techniques, methods, and ways that literary texts can foreground the roots of education, liberate English language into maturely creative uses and instigate a freer, bolder expression of original opinions. With your participation, we hope this organization will open up an active and collaborative community of thought, reflection, inquiry and discussion. LIBERLIT is an ongoing, constantly developing forum in which we can establish how, where, and why literature should rightly figure in Japan’s English curriculum. Join us. You will be welcome.

Past Calls for Papers

2015 Conference 6th Annual Conference

Monday, February 16, 2015

Meiji Gakuin University Shirokane Campus

Theme for 2015: Teaching for Transformation

Transformation is an essential part of how education takes place. It facilitates and is testimony to the basic concept of growth in our teaching. For the Sixth Annual Liberlit Conference, we want to focus on the process of transforming: how it occurs most meaningfully, and how to enhance it without forcing it. Transformation is central to the texts we use. Whether poetry, novel, film, or essay, every genuine literary text incorporates a significant notion of change. At the same time, the texts call forth a response from students that includes an internal shift in thinking, feeling, or worldview. Most of the texts we use also contain an element of social transformation–sometimes foregrounded, often subtly displayed–and typically hinge on a movement from passive to active. The language acquired with such texts is different from that of traditional textbooks, where the status quo tends to be fixed and the language has little viability and even less life. A process of transformation is central to the texts, language, activities, and ways of thinking that characterize a dynamic classroom. Without the careful introduction, discussion, and facilitation of changing, adjusting, altering, and transforming, learning will not produce the ‘A-ha!’ moments of epiphany that can change students into better, stronger, and fuller versions of themselves. This year’s Liberlit Conference will focus on all aspects of teaching and learning that contribute to transformation in its many manifestations.

 

2014 Conference 5th Annual Conference

Monday, February 10 2014
Meiji Gakuin University Shirokane Campus, Tokyo

Content with Your Content? Contexts, Concepts, and Connections

What content is our teaching based on? And are we ourselves content? That first question is more complicated than it sounds. The second includes a well-intended pun. When we teach a literary text, what do we want our students to learn? Literary analysis? Critical thinking? Cultural sophistication? Emotional maturity? Specialized concepts? Intensified language? Life lessons?

Of course, we teach many things at once. We inevitably must foreground certain elements of a text, and thereby ‘back-ground’ others, but, how do we choose? Our concept of what we are actually teaching shapes our approach, attitude, choice of material, classroom style, and methods of evaluation. What we ask students to do and what we teachers do ourselves is ultimately guided by what we think and feel is the chief agenda.

The particular ways we manage the different levels at which we teach and how we coordinate the various, often-competing goals inside and outside the classroom are crucial elements of our profession. As teachers, the ultimate question we must ask ourselves is whether we are content with our content. And then, we must find ways to better understand and articulate our real content.

The 5th Annual Liberlit Conference is calling for papers that discuss these issues in meaningful ways, theoretically and/or prac- tically. We continue to believe that the distinctiveness of literature holds inspirational power to create a dynamic and productive classroom.

2013 Conference 4th Annual Conference

Friday 15 February 2013, 10AM-6:30PM
Meiji Gakuin University Shirokane Campus, Tokyo

Only Connect: Teacher, Student, Text

‘Only connect the prose and the passion,’ goes the maxim. The main theme of the 4th annual Liberlit Conference is how we can connect, tailor, and translate our personal passions into a workable pedagogy. This year’s conference will explore how to draw on the enthusiasms that brought us to our areas of specialty and to the job of teaching. The ‘student inside the teacher’ always has favorite texts, but how do we present those texts to students? How do we reinforce linguistic aptitude, build critical skills, instill creative confidence, and empower learners? As learners ourselves, we know how much certain texts taught us about life and influenced our worldview. But, as teachers, how can we convey those experiences and recreate similar experiences for our students.

We occupy a privileged but problematic position with numerous questions: How do we decide on suitable content for our learners? Can we trust our instincts? How far do we go in exposing our preferences? How do we develop and employ the materials and approaches we feel most strongly about? The sensitive criteria governing how and why we choose materials, the role of emotions in what we do, the location of texts that complement other texts, and the movement towards multi-textual approaches are among the issues we want to engage with and discuss this year. We continue to believe that the distinctiveness of literature and its inspirational and motivational power creates a dynamic and meaningful classroom.

2012 Conference 3rd Annual Conference

Saturday 18 February 2012, 10 am – 6 pm
Meiji Gakuin University Shirokane Campus, Tokyo

LITERAPHOBIA: CAUSES & CURES

In this digital age of runaway technology, 3-D films, unlimited megabytes and cyber-living, learners too often feel afraid of or intimidated by old-school ‘analog’ literature. When compared to a daily diet of downloadable answers, text messages and tweets, authentic writing — challenging, crafted texts of multiple meanings— can seem just too difficult. Rather than looking beneath the surface, reading repeatedly, and spending time to process, most students opt for the spoon-fed comforts of consumerism to ‘borrow’ ideas, opinions, and emotions. With so much fun and ‘knowledge’ to be had at the touch of a keystroke, students become afraid of approaching literate, articulate, and problematic materials. They often hardly know where to begin, and they quit when it becomes confusing.

The third Liberlit conference will examine the causes of students’ fear of picking up a book, newspaper, or serious film, or even their electronic variants; but we will also search for constructive cures to this educational dilemma. Effective solutions for guiding students into better ways of learning are often some of teachers’ best-kept secrets. We want to know and share exactly how teachers negotiate with students via attitudes, commentary, and interactions above and beyond the classroom workout with texts and techniques. We want to know what ‘value-added’ elements of teaching turn thought-provoking materials into meaningful education. This year’s conference theme seeks to take a step back from the nitty-gritty particulars of daily instruction and look at the wider environment and mindset we try to foster and deploy in our teaching, in order to motivate students towards that elusive goal: truly higher education.

2011 Conference 2nd Annual Conference

Saturday 26 February, 2011, 10AM – 6PM
Meiji Gakuin University Shirokane Campus, Tokyo

Sending the Text’s Message: Why and How We Teach the Texts We Teach

Some questions hopefully to be addressed and discussed include: Which texts and materials work best? Which most motivate and inspire? Why do some texts work where others fail? What value do specific types of text have? What values do they present? How do songs teach practical English? How do films engage learners and stimulate discussion? When is a poem preferable to grammar practice? How might a political speech be used in class? When to adopt, and when to adapt?

We feel strongly that most textbooks prescribed for Japanese students of
English do not begin to tackle learners’ real needs. All too often, standard textbooks fail to elicit latent ability, offer little genuine language and provide even less human interest. Even at beginning levels, the complex, nuanced language of authentic textual forms is necessary to motivate students and draw them into real-world learning contexts.

With the right texts in the right way, students learn much more than just language. We continue to advocate the use of  ‘literary’ materials in the
English curriculum and want to investigate the diversity of why and how teachers accomplish this. This second annual LIBERLIT conference will focus on the criteria involved in selecting and the issues involved in teaching appropriate texts for Japanese learners of English at all levels.

2010 Inaugural Conference

Saturday 20 February, 2010, 10AM – 6PM
Meiji Gakuin University Shirokane Campus, Tokyo
THE PLACE FOR LITERATURE IN JAPAN’S ENGLISH CURRICULUM

This event will bring together those teachers who firmly believe that literature has an essential place in the university English classroom. By ‘literature’, we mean authentic texts that use language in creative and careful ways to tell stories, convey impressions, express original opinions, pose critical questions and demand more than simplistic, pragmatic responses. Those texts could include poetry, novels, plays, movies, songs, TV series, or thoughtful authentic writings on culture, society, or history. Teaching literature always means teaching much more than just language. This conference will address attitudes and approaches to ‘literary’ texts in English.

We lament the ongoing ‘dumbing down’ and ‘infantilisation’ of English education in Japan and the consequent marginalization of literature in the curriculum at all levels. Our conviction is that literature offers learners access to the kinds of creative, critical, and non-complacent views of the world that Japanese students sorely need and indeed, in many cases, crave. Literature has the power to engage and motivate second-language learners; its potential for multiple interpretations develops the minds of students who often believe that every question has but one answer, and the authenticity of literary texts respects them as intellectually maturing adults. Eye-opening materials and mind-widening methods should be an integral part of the education process at all levels, but are essential at university level before students go forth to live among the complexities of the ‘real’ world.

The conference will explore the idea that it is unkind and disingenuous to deprive students of the marvelously varied, meaningful, and challenging content that only great works of literature and thoughtful authentic writings on culture can offer. It will also explore techniques, methods, and ways that literary texts can foreground the roots of education, liberate English language into maturely creative uses and instigate a freer, bolder expression of original opinions. With your participation, we hope this conference will open up an active and collaborative community of thought, reflection, inquiry and discussion. We hope to make this conference the first step in an ongoing forum in which we can establish how, where, and why literature should rightly figure in Japan’s English curriculum.

LIBERLIT 2017 CONFERENCE HANDBOOK

Download the
pdf here

 

The Liberlit Journal of Teaching Literature

LIBERLIT