Meaning making and cultural difference: teaching English literatures in the Brazilian context – Roberto Bezerra da Silva
Teaching literatures in English in Brazil has traditionally been the domain and practice of undergraduate courses which for the most part prepare pre-service teachers to work with the language, not literature. The fact that the discipline is not included in the official curriculum and the absence of guidelines or policies to that end can only partially explain the virtual effacement of the literary text in secondary schools. At least two other reasons may account for this vacuum: a) the widespread perception of an incompatibility between literary texts and the needs or possibilities of inexperienced learners who are still making sense of simple statements in English; b) a pervasive distrust of literary literacy that has been waning even the reading of Brazilian texts on the premise that teaching the language is more important, tenable and urgent for the job market.
The current policy for language and literature teaching in secondary schools was presented by the Ministry of Education through the national guidelines for the curriculum (OCEM) published in 2006, a document that became the primary reference for the designing of undergraduate curricula in dialogue with the official parameters. Considering that both the chapter on literature and the one dedicated to foreign languages reveal a clear intent to steer away from the pedagogical principles that had been previously upheld (PCN, 1999; PCN+, 2002), this presentation offers a comparative analysis of the revisions introduced in those subject areas, particularly in relation to the centrality of meaning making in both proposals. On doing so, I come to produce an interpretation of my own practice as a response to the tensions that underline such dialogue in its attempt to articulate a methodological frame for meaning making grounded on the notion of cultural difference (BHABHA, 1988).