Comparing South Texas and Qatari readers’ responses to short stories from three cultures

Cathy Downs, LuAnne Ktiri-Idrissi

Abstract


Emotional and interpretive responses to three short stories were noted in two study populations of similar age: Qatari students in a post-highschool foundation program preparing to attend branch campuses of western universities located in Qatar, and American students, many of Mexican-American heritage, from a small college in a rural setting in South Texas. It has long been thought that reading literature from a foreign culture confers educational value on the reader; in this investigation the nature of that ‘value’ was placed under study. Written responses to quiz questions or assignments were used as data; responses critical of or affirming of character, setting, plot, and literary tropes were particularly noted. Our data show that readings from an author whose culture was similar to the reader’s created interest and urged both intellectual and affective types of understanding, such as remembering, grieving, healing, forgiving, and feeling pride. Readings from ‘classic’ literature presented in historical context strongly enabled critical discussion among students in a multicultural setting, since the author’s absence from the scene ‘allows’ free conversation about his or her work without fear of insulting the author’s culture. Readings by contemporary writers from outside the reader’s culture, or ‘multicultural literature’, may cause some readers to shy away from the challenge of understanding another culture or to voice stereotypes instead of seeking ideas. Readings from outsider cultures, however, and the affective distancing of ‘othering’, enable the well-prepared educator and student to discuss how culture patterns our lives.

Keywords


culture; Qatar; South Texas; multicultural literature; state-mandated outcomes; affect in learning; schemas in learning; othering; culture in learning

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18538/lthe.v11.n2.153