The Effect of Employing Cultural Criticism in the Teaching of British Literature for Chinese Undergraduate English Majors

Yu Zhang, Florida International University


The traditional literature teaching methods for Chinese English majors are formalism and biographical criticism. These criticisms use an objective approach focused on details about the author, historical context and literary mechanics to analyze literature. These methods neglect the fact that literature comprehension involves readers’ active participation. Cultural criticism, as a critical approach, considers influences that readers bring to their engagement with a given literary text. This approach is supposed to fit the classroom settings for cross-cultural literature teaching and learning. This study was conducted to examine the effect of utilizing cultural criticism to teach British literature among Chinese undergraduate English majors. The effect of employing cultural criticism was reflected in two aspects: students’ cultural understandings of literary texts and their literature comprehension. In this study, students’ awareness of cultural influences in literary texts from cultural perspectives was evaluated as their cultural understandings; literature comprehension was assessed from students’ understanding in context, themes, and textual meaning of literary texts. In this study a pedagogy of cultural criticism was developed and implemented in the teaching of a British literature course. Students received instruction through cultural criticism lens for two hours per week over a period of 14 weeks. The instruments included two essay tests concerning the cultural analysis of literary works, and three literature comprehension tests. A quasi-experimental design and a repeated measure mixed-design were used to compare the performance for students in two experimental groups (cultural criticism approach) and one control group (formalist and biographical approach). Various statistical models were applied to data analysis. The experimental results showed that the cultural criticism approach resulted in better cultural understandings of literary texts and better literature comprehension than the traditional formalist and biographical approach. Another finding is the different performance in cultural understandings of literary texts between the two experimental groups, as the instructor had different proficiency levels in using the cultural criticism approach. This study has provided evidence that cultural criticism could be a valuable approach to help Chinese undergraduate English majors bridge cultural gaps in their understandings of literature and facilitate literature comprehension.

Subject Area

Education|Language|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Zhang, Yu, "The Effect of Employing Cultural Criticism in the Teaching of British Literature for Chinese Undergraduate English Majors" (2017). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI10744836.