The integration of English literature into the ESL curriculum aimed at offering educational rationale and pedagogical benefits due to its strong connection with culture. The cultural phenomenon involves the behaviors, beliefs, customs, social behaviors, and attitude that provide a distinct identity of different societal characteristics to which language is established. As such, literature acts as a reflection of the cultural diversities to make the individuals in adopting the societal beliefs, behaviors, history, culture, and values, as presented in literal forms.
In addition, reading the literal content shapes the learner to grow with sensible and sharp skills to approach the societal issues in political, social, or historical contexts. Such contexts create a favorable background for a specific literal content. This shows that divergent cultural rules play an important role in making a literal learner more effective in addition to absolute grammatical rules.
According to Radhika (1991), literature is among the few resources available for teaching language and has been on the use for several decades until the formulation of new educational theories and adoption of new learning methods, which has decreased its popularity. The learning framework used in 19th Century allowed the students to be taught foreign languages using the Grammar translation Method. In this method, the students could easily translate the foreign literal context to their native languages in order to simplify the complex classical content through translation methods. However, this method of learning helped the students to use much staple foreign language since they were expected to read the translated literal text of foreign cultures. In this regards, the literature was taught as a body of knowledge dominating the language curriculum but not as an integral component of learning language (Delanoy, 1997).
On the other hand, literature is widely used as a major component when attending an ESL (English as a Second Language) class. Literature helps in representing the authenticity of the target language. It is beneficial to the ESL students in various perspectives. For example, it is used to learn the English language due to its provision of meaningful and authentic contexts of language study. As such, literature helps the learners to improve various skills of language such as grammar, vocabulary usage, and reading comprehensions or passages. In addition, literature facilitates the integration of language skills and enhances the student’s morale of attending the ESL class. This creates the importance of using literature in the language-learning context, especially in the ESL classroom.
According to Rosenblatt (1995), some scholars have been opposing the usage of literature in language-learning context, especially for in the EFL classes. Instead, they claim that the teachers should continue advocating the usage of literature for its purpose. Fortunately, the critics fail to understand other benefits of using literature, other than using it in learning ESL. The usage of literature in ESL class has other benefits including its potential power of transforming or changing the students’ attitude to assist in eradicating the prejudice. This is achieved by fostering tolerance, empathy, and awareness of the problems facing the global society. In other words, literature has the power of developing empathy, resolution conflict, and attitude to the ESL students. Therefore, literature is capable of promoting the positive attitudes between the cultural diversities in the global society.
The achievement of tolerance through literature would contribute positive impacts to global stability that would help in avoiding conflicts and wars evidenced in the world. It is perceived that the existing difficulties in achieving understanding and tolerance among cultural diversities are the cause of the present wars and conflicts happening across the world. However, integrating literature in language learning curriculum would create cohesiveness and tolerance to the conflicting cultures. This is because literature helps the learners in understanding other cultural practices, besides their culture.
The understanding of other people’s culture would encourage the positive attitudes for the learners towards each other in the societal living. In other words, literature is an important channel through which understanding and tolerance among cultural diversities are encouraged and supported. It achieves this notion by focusing on different cultural aspects such as beliefs, values, and ways of living.
Literature shapes the learners perceptions and attitudes to appreciate the cultural practices and beliefs of other ethnicities. In this case, people should not perceive literature as a bad omen to their cultural diversities but should surface their differences of ethnicity and color. Moreover, literature can also act as a stereotyping and prejudice therapy as it allows the students to examine their attitudes and identify the feelings of other people. It can also be used for complementing and reinforcing the language skills.
Therefore, the integration of literature in EFL and ESL classes must take center stage of creating cultural awareness to avoid a negative attitude against its usage in language learning. One of the most reasons why literature is ignored or avoided by several learners and teachers is the feelings that literal contents are culturally charges that hinder its understanding. The difficulties in understanding literal contexts create negative attitudes to the learners rather than facilitating the understanding of other cultural practices. However, the impacts of learning literature including different attitudes and perceptions have prompted the researchers to study more about the students’ attitudes towards the study of English Literature.