Literary hypertext in the foreign language classroom: a case study report

Critical Writing
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"Literary hypertext has often been acknowledged as the embodiment of poststructuralist literary theory (e.g. Coover, 1992; Landow, 1997; Bolter, 2001). The only literary medium that is produced, edited, published and received electronically, it encourages readings that defy the conventionally linear decoding process. With respect to text production, it opens up alternative ways of organising semantic structures in individualised, associative ways, which invites constructivist teaching approaches in the foreign language classroom. This article provides a general introduction to definitions, formal criteria, major theories and historical developments. It portrays a selection of existing structural and cognitive linguistic approaches, such as textuality, coherence, communication and learning psychology. A variety of teaching approaches are outlined to convey to what extent hypertext has entered the primary and secondary school syllabus.

At the heart of this investigation lies a case study report describing one possible method of implementing literary hypertext in the communicative foreign language classroom. An output-based approach was adopted, vindicating writing as a major tool for grammar and vocabulary learning. A group of post-A level undergraduate language students collaborated on literary hypertexts over a period of ten weeks. Learners were formally taught literary forms and techniques which they applied in a variety of creative writing activities, either individually or in small groups. The classroom environment was kept pressure-free, with the intention to stimulate creativity, collaborative learning and peer feedback. Linguistic performance data was obtained from written output as well as tape-recorded interviews and, following the habits of action research, videoed classroom activities. The data was analysed with regard to students' discourse and autonomous learning strategies, error frequency and distribution as well as eloquence in style and lexicon. Results show that collaborative, creative writing in hypertext format stimulates motivation, confidence, and autonomy, as well as helping to improve grammatical competence, particularly amongst intermediate and advanced learners. Student responses further suggest using literary hypertext receptively and productively at school level, as it combines linguistic, IT, and literary skills."

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Mathias Vetti O...