(photo by M. A. Al Awaid)
Risse, M. “Frosty Cliffs, Frosty Aunt and Sandy Beaches: Teaching Aurora Leigh in Oman,” Ariel: A Review of International English Literature, 43.4 (2013): 123-145.
“Frosty Cliffs, Frosty Aunt and Sandy Beaches: Teaching ‘Aurora Leigh’ in Oman” describes the reception of the canonical poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning by a class of university students in a small town on the Arabian Peninsula. The essay conveys details of a typical Middle Eastern college classroom and demonstrates how literary meanings are constructed out of local values. The author discusses, in fine-grained detail, how words, phrases, situations and characters from Browning’s poem are interpreted within the value-system of Muslim students; these elements combine to highlight how Western and Middle Eastern perceptions differ over, for example, the personality of a character. Risse then addresses the question of whether, given that the difference in perception is based on cultural differences, the students’ understanding be ‘corrected.’ Using Stanley Fish’s concept of interpretative communities and Paulo Freire’s concept of liberation pedagogy Risse demonstrates how to navigate situations in which the teacher’s and students’ cultural frameworks produce opposing ‘readings’ of a literary text.