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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Researching Chinese History and Culture through Poetry Writing in an EFL Composition Class

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This article describes a pedagogical project designed to optimize opportunities for individual, creative expression in L2 academic writing. Conducted in four EFL Composition classes in a university in mainland China, a writing project using poetry as a research methodology, first introduced by Hanauer (2010), was implemented and assessed for effectiveness. The writing activities for this project were designed to empower individual voices, advance L2 research writing skills, and provide “opportunities to construct deeply ‘local’ meanings” (Blommaert, 2005, p. 390). Following a genre-based approach to classic English poetry, students researched personal memory of Chinese history and culture through poetry writing. The second language writers/poets created a body of over 200 poems that both informed and individualized personal understandings and cultural identity. In this paper, I argue that the use of poetry as a research methodology is an effective tool for exploring personal memories and knowledge of national history and culture. I further argue that creative writing in L2 academic contexts equalizes linguistic inequities, establishes a unique space for personal identity negotiation, and promotes second language development.

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