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Reading about any culture foreign to one’s own tends to create a form of culture shock in the reader. In a world literature class, students frequently face texts that are completely unfamiliar to them, and the typical culture shock reactions set in. We tend not to like things that we do not understand, in part because we do not like the feeling of not knowing something. I have had students complain that they did not “like” a story before we discussed it in class, and then the same students decide after the class discussion that they now like it. Again, understanding and liking go hand in hand. Give the literature a chance; something that might not make sense at first may end up being one of your favorite stories after finding a way to approach it.
That being said, whether students like a story is not the point of reading that text in a literature class. We read literature in these classes to learn something. It is a nice addition to the experience if students like the works, but we can read and analyze texts that we do not enjoy just as effectively as the ones we do: In some cases, it is actually easier. Critical thinking comes from taking something that is unfamiliar, breaking it down into manageable chunks of information, fitting it back together, and using the experience to replicate the process in other situations in the future.
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