Teaching the joys of reading
Dr Mark-Oliver Carl has been appointed to the professorship of “Didactics of German Literature including Media Didactics” at the Institute for German Studies. The literature education researcher uses empirical methods to investigate how school pupils access the meaning of literary texts.
Welcome to the University of Oldenburg! What brought you here?
The University of Oldenburg has been known for many years as a centre of empirical research in literature education, so when the professorship was advertised, I didn't hesitate for long.
What does your research focus on?
I’m investigating how students approach literary texts – what they think of when they read them, what they expect from them, what knowledge they use. I’m currently planning a joint empirical study with Swiss partners from the St. Gallen University of Education: we’re trying to understand why some learners read literary texts without engaging their own powers of imagination or judgement, without identification, emotion or empathy, as if it were just a matter of taking in factual information. If we can gain a better understanding of the causes of this phenomenon, we can give teachers more precise guidance about how to expand the repertoire of such pupils more effectively, so that they come to enjoy reading, participate in the creation of cultural meaning and broaden their horizons.
What do you like about your subject?
Our students genuinely expect literary didactics to help them – that's motivating! In addition, as an empirical science we are still a young discipline that is developing rapidly – there are lots of exciting things going on. Last but not least: if you work with literature, you know that when you’re sitting on a train reading a good book, you're actually doing your job.
What are your plans for your first few months at our university?
First of all, I want to gain a better understanding of how our institute works. I also want to get to know the people who research and teach here better so that we can function well as a team.
Who or what made a big impression on you during your studies?
My stay at the University of Manchester, where we all had to read a lot more in much smaller seminars than here in Germany. From the somewhat different perspective of international German studies, I finally saw a lot more extraordinary and surprising things about German literature.
Your advice for surviving on campus?
Stick to the people who know their way around here. And always have a reusable cup at hand for your next cup of tea.