Associate professor and co-founder of Nordic Bakhtin Dialogue Atle Skaftun at the University of Stavanger, Norway has written the new book Litteraturens nytteverdi (Literature’s utility value) issued at Fagbokbokforlaget just before Christmas. On the cover we read (my translation):
“Does fiction have utility value in today’s school? In what way is it in that case useful? […] Reading and relating to fiction involves engaging in a world of voices, points of views, values and attitudes. Literature work in such a perspective is authorizing and a preparation to participation in democracy – useful and valuable and at the same time a new and sober way to legitimize fiction’s place in school.”
The book particularly enters current school debates in Norway, but the discussions most likely have transfer value beyond Norway, and particularly to corresponding school debates on literature and language in the other Nordic countries.
Dialogical discourse analysis
Mikhail Bakhtin is the central reference behind the book: “This book is anchored in a dialogical understanding of language, literature and culture, with the Russian literature critic Mikhail Bakhtin (1895-1975) as the key supplier of terms. Dialogical discourse analysis is what I will term the way of reading texts that is practiced in this book. Reading texts arranged towards such relational terms on different levels opens up to reading from the inside out; we establish an understanding of the text as a micro universe that may be tied to the world outside the text – from the text’s current time to our own time. All texts may hold things that are not immediately obvious. Texts change sense and meaning as the world around and frames of understanding for the text change. That means on the one hand that texts invite to be understood anew by still new readers. On the other hand it means that we as readers may find traces of the time and the cultural context from which the text has emerged; we may see the contours of great social and historical contexts in the text’s micro universe.” (from the Introduction to the book, p. 22, my translation)
You may read more about the book here, at The National Centre for Reading Education and Research, University of Stavanger’s home page – and you may order the book for instance here or here.