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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Studying Fictional Representations of History in the L2 Classroom

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The article addresses the didactic questions of what, why and how aspects of culture and history can be—and should be, it is argued—an integral part of all foreign and second languageteaching and learning. In particular, it is argued that the study of literary fiction within tertiary foreign language education can function as a gateway for students to develop not only a stronger interest in and knowledge of cultural history, but also a better understanding of the complexity of historical representation, public memory and self-identity. Drawing on current theories of narrative discourse and historical representation, as well as the experience of having taught a foreign language course in Sweden dealing with fictional representations of culturally important periods in US history, the paper shows how a personal engagement with these “little narratives,” to use Lyotard’s term, can enhance foreign language students’ understanding of, not only important historical events and periods in the shaping of contemporary Americanculture, but also of the importance of textual representation and cultural “grand narratives” in the shaping of collective identities and personal subjectivities.

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