One of the greatest challenges teachers face in literature classes is encouraging students to go beyond the easy answers. That is especially true when students are studying literature in a second language. In their lower-division classes, they have become accustomed to providing the "right" answer applying the language they are learning. Therefore, when they enter a more advanced language class with a literature focus, they feel cheated when the instructor fails to tell them what the right answer is ... even if the issues involved are extremely complex. Students must learn that most literary works pose questions that have no easy answers, both within their own culture and in others. They should also learn that symbolism and many other aspects of a literary text in another cultural context take on a completely new set of meanings. Although it is difficult to persuade students to consider complicated issues and to reconsider them in light of a different value system, it is important to move students beyond memorizing isolated facts "for the test." This is the challenge I faced when teaching The House of Bernarda Alba, a well-known play by the Spanish poet and playwright Federico Garcia Lorca. Ironically, the stage directions for this play call for a set in which the walls are completely white and all the characters are dressed in black. It is a set that suggests a "black-and-white" environment, where values and behaviors are clearly stipulated and there is no room for "shades of gray." This is the situation of the nine women in this drama, and this is precisely the type of world-view that Lorca deconstructs in his play. However, the students had difficulties with the interpretation of such a symbolic/poetic view of reality.
South Dakota State University
Copyright 2004 South Dakota State University
Ramos-Garcia, Maria T., "Avoiding Binary Thinking: Using Multiperspectivism as a Classroom Tool" (2004). Bush Project Anthology. 1.