An analysis of the readings of cultural indicators embedded in children's literature texts
The thesis identifies cultural indicators of Englishness through an analysis of readings of children's literature texts. These were taught on a children's literature course to Czech student-teachers at the Pedagogical Faculty, Brno in the Czech Republic from 1992 to 1995. The aim has been to identify cultural indicators of Englishness embedded in the texts and to reveal myths of national identity. This has been achieved by using a cross-cultural perspective whereby the Czech readings have been used to identify taken-for-granted aspects of English culture. The outcome has been to provide a paradigm for the exploration of culture in and through children's literature texts and to argue that children's literature should be incorporated into the Teaching of English as a Foreign Language and cultural studies for non-native speakers of English. In addition the methodological implications for the teaching of children's literature texts in the EFL classroom are discussed. The theoretical position which underpins the work is phenomenological in that it is an investigation of meanings. The readings by the Czech students and then the researcher were considered from two theoretical positions. An ethnographic perspective has been employed using the work of Geerz and Cohen to investigate the readings of three cohorts of Czech students who are outsiders to English culture. The reactions of the Czech students to the texts significantly reveal the legacy of the totalitarian system which began to end with the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989. Literary theory has been applied by the researcher to investigate the texts from an insider's perspective. Reader response theories involving the notion of the implied reader (Iser) and horizons of expectations (Jauss) are adopted to reveal and interrogate a culture's notions of childhood. It is established in the thesis that hitherto a sociological perspective has been taken with children's literature texts in the investigation of ideology with reference to class, race and gender. These have been oppositional readings which locate English children's literature as a site for the socialisation of children into the norms, values and beliefs of dominant society. It is argued in this thesis that by a careful investigation of the texts from a literary perspective and using the cross-cultural information gained, another view might be taken which is that English children's literature texts are less than normalising.