Reviewed by Crina Herteg, 1 Decembrie 1918 University of Alba Iulia
The book A Stylistic Approach to Canon Breaking Texts authored by Alcina Sousa and Ingrid Cíbiková is a very useful teaching tool which addresses to non-native university students who learn the English language. It can equally be used in the EFL and ESL class by teachers who promote guided learning and by students who have enough instruments for learning English autonomously. The book is rather motivational and inspirational and it fosters the idea that mastering good reading skills can, on the one hand, lead to a comprehensive understanding of a text from multiple perspectives, and on the other hand, improve students`understanding of literary and non-literary texts. The main aim of the book is to develop reading strategies with students who learn English as a foreign language. Besides equipping readers with valuable tools which facilitate their reading and understanding processes, the authors also test students` linguistic knowledge.
Reading is seen as one of the most important skills laying the foundations of the teaching/learning process. The authors consider reading offers a key to efficient learning as it facilitates the learning of a foreign language. The authors propose groundbreaking strategies which are aimed at arousing students` interest in reading, improving their teaching skills, teaching them how to process texts.
The novelty and the originality of the book lies in the fact that the methods and strategies proposed by the authors promote the multiple processing of texts. The learners are taught (how) to interact and process diverse texts. The authors raise students`awareness of the multiple dimensions of language and of the literary texts. Students are taught how to interact and explore literary texts from multiple perspectives pertaining to the stylistic, linguistic, lexical and semantic levels of language.
The texts are carefully selected by the authors so as to attract and inspire readers. They are accompanied by a large array of drills, ranging from grammar-based drills, lexical drills and writing taks to developing critical thinking. The drills which the two authors propose deal with the pragmatic, sociolinguistic aspects of a literary text. The tasks proposed both develop readers`productive skills (writing, speaking) and they also activate knowledge of layers of meaning (phonetics, semantics, syntax, pragmatics, register use and variation).
The book consists of 21 chapters, all having a similar structure. Each chapter is designed to build up and develop certain aspects. In every chapter the authors state the general and specific aims they follow as well as the strategies to be applied in order to successfully meet the objectives established. The chapters are balanced both in length and in content and the tasks they propose are adequate to the types of texts selected by the authors.
Chapter I Ways Out: Checking Students`Set Text Readings aims at building students`confidence in their reading of a text. Chapter I proposes both literary and non-literary texts: political speeches, British journalese. After reading the texts suggested by the authors in Chapter I, students should be ready to grasp stylistic particularities of a literary text. These particularities pertain to differentiating literary language from everyday language, identifying figures of speech: metaphors and similes. Students are also guided towards understanding and identifying aspects which characterise literary theory: plot, characters, narrative techniques, points of view. The tasks joining the texts are arranged in a logical order; they encourage collaborative learning through group and pair activities; students are also encouraged to state their point of view. In order to facilitate the productive activities, the authors provide valuable inputs at the end of the chapter: expressing opinions, taking the floor, concluding, summing up an idea.
Chapter II Ways In:Previewing Guidelines aims at encouraging students to read for pleasure and at fostering language development. The specific aim of the chapter ist o promote readers`autonomous selection of familiar and unfamiliar texts. The text selection in this chapter mainly includes literary texts. At the end of the chapter the authors provide readers with specific formulae which help students organise ideas and points, speculate about possible interpretations of a text, and rephrase.
Chapter III Characters. Understanding Characters and their Relationships mainly relies on literary texts, introduces elements of narratology and resorts to rhetorical techniques as speech and thought which develop readers` ability to predict characters` change, traits, complexity. Readers are taught to see beyond the action presented in the extracts proposed; two important aspects come at play: readers` imagination and their understanding of the text.
Chapter IV Context. Understanding the Setting/Social Milieu stresses the importance of context and setting and its components (time, place, environment) in reading a text. The sources are literary texts and British journalese.
Chapter V Plot. Understanding the Plot introduces the notion of plot and has as general aim to promote understanding of the inner world of self, present consciousness and unconsciousness and its relevance to the understanding of plot.
In Chapter VI Main Themes. Understanding Main Themes of the Text readers are taught how to approach a text and which ways to resort to in order to enter the text world. The chapter brings together a large array of activities based on the texts selected by the authors ranging from lexical, speaking activities to creative and critical writing, turning poetry into prose. For the lexical drills the authors apply methods pertaining to corpus linguistics, identifying collocations with the help of concordancing programs. The authors propose an interesting experiment: the students are required to identify the changes occurring during the shift from poetry to prose.
Chapter VII Genre. Understanding the Genre of the Text has among specific aims making students aware of the differences between genres and sub-genres, with special focus on autobiographical texts. In order to be able to operate this selection, the authors equip students with the necessary instruments in identifying genres: points of view and voice. Students are asked to distinguish from different categories of prose fiction: narrative, romance, novel, and diary novel. Among the inputs students receive, there are the lists of diary novels as well as journal novels which the authors list and which are offered as point of departure to raise their interest in reading.
In chapter VIII Diary Entries. Understanding Different Modes of Vindicating Subjectivity the readers`attention is directed towards accounting for a sequence of events as well as towards looking for coherence and unity throughout the entries. The specific strategy suggested by the authors relies on comparing different texts in diary entries. The shift in narrative techniques is explored in the texts proposed which belong to poetry and prose.
The tasks proposed in chapter IX Letters. Understanding the Epistolary Genre (Fictional and Non-Fictional Writing) raise students`awareness of text varieties as well as of the features of Critical Discourse Analysis. The illustrative texts the authors resort to are literary and non-literary letters.
Chapter X Radio Talk. Understanding point of view and ideology has the specific aim of developing readers` ability to identify tone, mood, tenor and register.
Chapter XI Drama Sketch. Understanding Creativity in Prose Fiction and Performance has a focus on the importance of cultural contexts, emphasising cultural and historical aspects. The authors encourage computer-mediated tasks; students` feedback is also encouraged; students are required to search websites and account for their choice and for their reliability.
Chapter XII Postcards and Christmas Card. Understanding Everday Home/Family/ Social Literacy Practices concentrates on everyday home/family/social text types/ genres.
Chapter XIII Telegraphic Language. Reading between the Lines: Understanding Humour raises students`awareness of cross-cultural differences in humour and fosters collaborative work.
Chapter XIV Multimedia Messages. Deciding about Register and Language Purpose in Everyday Social/ Professional Domains resorts to fax messages retrieved from literary texts.
Chapter XV Personal Narratives: Understanding Voice and Register encourages students to express their emotions upon reading a text. With reference to the sources the authors resort to, this chapter brings a novelty, an excerpt retrieved from Charles Dickens.
Chapter XVI Personal Notes. Understanding Subjectivity in Everday Literary Practices develops readers’ social skills from creative literature to experience. The emails offered as source by the authors are retrieved from literary texts.
Chapter XVII Poems. Understanding Language and Literariness across Genres focuses on the idea that the same thing can be expressed in different ways.
Chapter XVIII Essays. Understanding Critical Language and its Creative Use is oriented towards writing tasks.
Chapter XIX Memos. Understanding Short Messages develops students` interpretive skills across communicative events.
Chapter XX Messages. Understanding Creativity in Everyday Communication Events: Science and Technology enhances students` strategic reading.
Chapter XXI Recipes. Understanding the Language of Instuctions develops students` knowledge of language usage and use.
The selection of texts, the encompassing tasks devised by the authors single the book out from other similar existing books which promote learning a foreign language through reading. The authors bring together receptive and production skills as well as linguistic and literary knowledge and they propose original and attractive pre- and post-reading activities which are very different from what traditional approaches offer.
Cíbiková, I. (2015). Traps of terminology. In I. Cíbiková (Ed.). Terminology Forum V (1st ed.). Trnava: Faculty of Arts, University of Ss. Cyril and Methodius.
McRae, J. (1991). Literature with a small "l". London: Macmillan.
McRae, J. (1992). Wordplay. London: Macmillan.
Sousa, A., & Cíbiková, I. (2016). A stylistic approach to canon breaking texts. Univerzita sv. Cyrila a Metoda v Trnave.
Sousa, A. (2009). Intercultural exchanges in a foreign language dimension in retrospect: a corpus analysis of respondents’ perceptions. JoLIE, 2(1), 153-178. DOI:
Sousa, A. (2009). Adrian strikes back with style and humour. JoLIE, 2(2), 277-292. DOI:
How to cite this review: Herteg, C. (2016). Alcina Sousa and Ingrid Cíbiková, A Stylistic Approach to Canon Breaking Texts, Univerzita sv. Cyrila a Metoda v Trnave, 2016, pp. 1-197. ISBN 978-80-8105-800-4. Journal of Linguistic and Intercultural Education – JoLIE, 9(1), 151-154. DOI:
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