Questioning texts I

Subject: Scandinavian Languages and Literature. Course: Literary Analysis 1 and Reading Literature. Study level: Bachelor 1st semester. Class size: approx. 35

Motivation for the activity

As a lecturer, I found that the still inexperienced students were too unfocused in their preparation for the lectures. I therefore started to formulate questions to the text material which I distributed in sufficient time prior to each lesson.

Central learning outcomes for the activity

  • To use the questions as a point of departure for the work on the texts in the study groups
  • To get students to reflect on why I asked the questions in the way I did
  • The answers to specific questions may require knowledge of specific concepts or a specific terminology - or even apply to a particular theoretical field.

Description of the activity

Model 1: The lecturer formulates questions for primary texts

The questions were not formulated so much for secondary texts, but almost exclusively for the literary texts that we worked with. A good analysis of a literary text is of course largely based on you being able to ask the right questions, which then opens up and establishes productive perspectives on the text.

Model 2: The students ask questions about the texts

As a lecturer in Studium Generale; General Studies 1 (during the second semester), I made use of the variation that prior to a lesson the students had to formulate questions to the text or texts that we would be working with. It turned out to be very conducive in relation to getting the students tuned in to the type of texts they are working with in this module.

This work was explicitly assigned to the study groups in order for the students to identify the questions which were important for them to be able to answer when discussing any given text.

Other variations

  • You may, as with presentations, use opponent groups.
  • You may let an individual group prepare questions for one lesson, or you can let all groups do this (the questions must, in any circumstances, be distributed beforehand to allow everyone to work with them as part of the preparation for the individual lesson).
  • You may set a relatively narrow limit on the number of questions, so that the question of prioritising can lead to additional reflection.
  • Or you can make a point out of whether too few or (not least) too many questions have been formulated.

The prerequisites are that the students become aware why they ask precisely those questions that they do and realise that different types of texts give rise to different types of questions.

There is a clear progression in relation to whether it is the lecturer or the students who formulate questions to a text. It will therefore be possible to use the aforementioned model in Study of texts and the latter in Theories and Methodologies of Literature.

Outcome of the activity

In Literary Analysis the students become increasingly aware of the fact that the discipline is not a question of you choosing a theoretical position, which you then apply to all kinds of literary texts, but that it is about formulating the relevant generative questions, which various concepts and theories can then help you to answer in a qualified manner.

In Studium Generale; General Studies, being able to prepare questions is a help for the students to discover which questions are actually important and relevant in relation to a more philosophically or theoretically oriented kind of text which they are not used to working with.


Jacob Bøggild