EFL and the literary canon: Attitudes and practices in Swedish classrooms
The teaching of English as a foreign language in upper secondary school classrooms across Sweden is as self-evident as the school system itself, the subject being mandatory to a different extent across all programs. According to the curriculum, the use of English literature should be part of the courses, with the purpose of exposing the students to different types of written texts. The history of English literature stretches back for more than a millennium, hence offering a plethora of poetry, drama and novels for teachers to choose from. From this old and vast treasure, what dainty morsels are brought to the modern-day classroom? What reasons do teachers cite for such choices? This study intends to shed some light on these questions. The study revealed the heritage of classic literature came from two primary sources, the exposure of classics during university studies and the books teachers read on their spare time. Both categories were integrated to various degrees in the classroom, in combination with course book contributions. Teachers generally found it challenging to engage students in reading older fiction, still the teachers considered literature to be a good tool when teaching English. Focus ranged from aesthetic qualities to critical analysis, but depended much on both what proficiency the student group possessed and what books were used. All teachers agreed that Swedish students’ reading skills have steadily declined during their years of practice.