The goal of this module is to provide students with a variety of humanistic texts that will help illuminate and expand their knowledge of the other culture. The Library Module provides, in some way, the culmination of the students’ work: there, they find access to founding texts as well as texts which authors from each culture working in different fields–history, literature, sociology–have written about the other culture. Those readings provide students with the opportunity to simultaneously gauge the insights they have developed until now against those of experts and expand their own knowledge.
This approach to culture is the opposite of the traditional one, where the first–and often only–task given to students is to read texts written by experts. Here students are doing the reverse: they have first formed their own impressions based upon the analysis of the questionnaires, polls, films, media, and interactions with their exchange partners. They have formulated their own hypotheses, checked them with their peers, and gauged them against other primary materials, such as opinion polls and news articles. Now they read what experts in different fields have written. The fact that these readings come at the end of the process allows students to approach them in a much more enlightened way, since they themselves have already become, to some extent, experts.
The texts students read allow them to access the historical roots of some phenomena and to discover new and different literary perspectives. These readings can help students strengthen the points of view they have formed since the beginning of the project or lead them to question some of their earlier assumptions and to reassess and refine their views.
In past exchanges, the content of the library module has included two basic kinds of texts:
- founding texts, such as the constitutions of both countries involved in the exchange
- texts written by authors from each culture about the other culture
Texts in the Library module should be arranged according to discipline. Disciplines represented so far include history, anthropology, literature, and philosphy.
There are two basic ways of working with this module, depending on the amount of time you plan to spend–either you assign a category of readings such as history or literature – or you may have students choose to work on the category of their choice. Below we suggest a few different types of activities.
Activities dealing with primary texts
Assign students readings that focus on similar topics, such as the constitution or other founding document from each country. Have students read both documents and come up with observations: in what way are they similar and where do they differ? What is emphasized in one document but not in the other? What is mentioned in one but never mentioned in the other? In the case of historical or even literary texts, make sure students are aware of the date and time when these texts were written: What could have informed the authors’ viewpoints? What, if anything, was going on politically at the time between the two countries? Was there any international issue (political or economic) on which the two countries were in disagreement? etc.
Activities dealing with secondary and tertiary texts
Ask your students to read the excerpts and select passages which either:
- explained, illuminated, or contradicted a fact, notion, or concept they had discovered before.
- connect to a particular fact, notion, or concept which they have found in any of the modules so far.
- brings new facts or information.
Have students share their findings in the next class. Elicit a discussion.