Teaching Rivers. Environmental Learning with Alice Oswald’s poem Dart in a Green EFL-Poetry Classroom
Keywords:Subject-object-dichotomy, fragmentary perception of the world, poetry beyond the human, participatory approach, Alice Oswald
Since environmental issues have been recognised to be of great relevance globally, dealing with such topical areas has undergone a change in EFL classrooms. Environmentally based topics, however, are often merely touched on a linguistic level which leads to frustration among students, especially as the same area is also explored in other subjects. In addition, these issues are not only frequently associated with a morally reproachful undertone and societal norms but also rarely connected to direct personal experience. Current developments have pointed out the potential of environmental issues for the inter- and transcultural foreign language classroom, but also show that nature is still seen as an object, and more precisely put, as a research object only. This traditional approach emphasizes a perception of nature that can be traced back, at the least, to the Age of Enlightenment where nature is perceived not as something that we are part of but rather as an extraneous object which can be investigated objectively, protected or exploited.
As a supplement to existing sustainability topics and (de-)constructive types of investigations of nature in the context of intercultural awareness, students should be to given access to the ‘outside world’. Therefore a participatory level is presented in this research paper. It focuses on the concept of ‘reading with the world.’ Approaches from Material Ecocriticism, phenomenology and anthropology inspire this new approach, even if they unravel the subject-object-separation from completely different perspectives.
The central component of this participatory approach is working with poetry which can reveal alternative manners of speaking and new images of nature. Through poetry boundaries and categories can be destabilised. The long poem Dart by Alice Oswald (2002) is at the heart of this research project. It focuses on the mutual relationship between humans and rivers and offers an alternative view of rivers. As a rational text analysis is not deemed to be sufficient to give students access to this concept, this particular participatory approach will operate on various levels which encompasses emotional and sensomotoric pathways additional to the more conventional rational analysis and interpretation.
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