Literature and Aesthetic Reading as Means of Promoting Nonviolence

Literature and Aesthetic Reading as Means of Promoting Nonviolence

Diana Presadă (Petroleum-Gas University of Ploiesti, Romania)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2960-6.ch006
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Abstract

In an increasingly violent world, reading literary works and the teaching of literature in school may play an important part in shaping students' personality as human beings. Turning literature classes into an effective way of cultivating ethical values in learners should be an educational goal of the curriculum irrespective of the level of study. Starting from the data provided by a focus group organized with Philology students within the Petroleum-Gas University of Ploiesti, the present chapter aims to highlight how literature classes may increase their moral awareness and develop their ethical skills. More precisely, the study investigates students' perceptions of literature and its role in developing mutual respect and non-violent behavior inside and outside the academic environment.
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Background

Numerous studies point out that school violence is a common phenomenon in educational institutions all over the world. In the Preface to the Encyclopedia of School Crime and Violence, Laura Finley states that “certain types of crime and violence in and around school and university campuses occur with regularity” (2011, p. xxiii), while Blanchfield and Ladd argue that, although most students do not commit violent acts, “common forms of violence do happen in schools, usually in the form of physical and emotional abuse” (2013, p. 135). Perhaps the most frequent forms of emotional violence occurring in schools are “insults, gossiping and intolerance for individual differences” (Blanchfield & Ladd, 2013, p. 141), but a number of researchers also speak of cyberbullying, or victimization through electronic media, which has flourished today due to the use of mobile phones and the internet. Their studies show that cyberbullying is a new form of violence whose effects on the victims are extremely pernicious as aggressors usually remain unknown (Cowie & Dawn, 2007). Moreover, educational institutions have to cope with violent behavior related to drug and alcohol use, clique or gang conflicts, sexual harassment or abuse, gender or race discrimination, and even extreme forms of violence such as mass killing and shooting. For instance, what happened at Columbine High School in 1999 remained in the collective consciousness as a horrible and atrocious event which cannot be understood or explained.

In all these cases it is students who direct their aggression towards their fellows or sometimes towards their teachers, but it should equally be admitted that teachers themselves exhibit violent behavior sometimes. As Ingrid Rose has phrased it, teachers may resort to “some type of emotional attack on a student, a denigration of a student’s work, a particularly harsh attitude, singling out of particular students for negative attention” and, depending on the culture, even to physical punishment (Rose, 2009, p. 15). It should be noted that violence and crime may happen no matter the level of schooling, the country or geographical region. The consequences are generally disastrous as violent acts committed regularly in educational institutions change them from a safe place into a pernicious and even life-threatening environment, as testified by the school or college shooting incidents that have taken place in the United States and around the world in recent years.

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