The 65th meeting of The English Literary Society of Japan, Chugoku-Shikoku Branch was held at Kochi University on 27-28 October 2012. On the second day a symposium was held under the title, “What can literary scholars do when methods of teaching reading are getting diversified?" I took part in it as one of the five lecturers and I spoke on the reading skills to be developed through literary texts. This paper is based on what I spoke then.
The target learners are 1st or 2nd year Japanese university students who study English not as their major but as one of the liberal arts subjects. To identify the communication skills that the target learners, who have just graduated from senior high school, are expected to develop, I first examined the new course of study for senior high schools to be implemented in April 2013. The subject area,“ Foreign Languages," consists of seven subjects. I paid particular attention to the two subjects, “English Communication Ⅰ" (ECⅠ) and “English Communication Ⅱ" (ECⅡ), because they are taught in most of the senior high schools. Among the reading skills that EC Ⅰ and EC Ⅱ require students to get, I insist the following four skills can be more effectively developed by literary texts than by non-literary ones (such as an explanation on cats' habits.)
1. Understand characters' words, acts, or feelings and the reasons for them from the context by reading stories, etc.
2. Enjoy the pleasure of reading by reading stories, etc.
3. Compare the writer's experiences and opinions with the reader's own by reading essays, etc.
4. Recite or read passages aloud so that the meaning of the content is expressed.
The four skills seen above are intended for senior high school students. The target learners in this paper (i.e. university students) are expected to use more advanced skills, so I referred to some theories of communication skills. Canale and Swain's theory of “communicative competence" has been the most influential one in Japan for more than 30 years. The problem is that“ communicative competence" seems to be irrelevant to literature reading. The skills that might be effectively developed through literary texts are to be found in Bachman and Palmer (1996), Brown (1994), and Jacobson (1960), that is, “knowledge of imaginative functions," ability to“ distinguish between literal and implied meanings," and due attention to“ message" respectively. Modifying these skills to make them more acceptable to our target learners, I would like to propose the following three skills in addition to the aforementioned four skills.
5. Understand humorous or figurative language by reading literary texts.
6. Distinguish between literal and implied meanings by reading literary texts.
7. By reading literary texts pay due attention to expression itself as well as the content expressed.
The seven skills discussed in this paper can be developed through non-literary texts as well. My claim is, however, that the skills are more effectively dealt with through literary texts.