Bohlin, K. (2020). Educando a través de la literatura: despertando la imaginación moral en las aulas de secundaria [Teaching Character Education through Literature. Awakening the Moral Imagination in Secondary Classrooms]. (Verónica Fernández Espinosa).

Bohlin, K. (2020).

Educando a través de la literatura: desper-tando la imaginación moral en las aulas de secundaria [Teaching Character Educa­tion through Literature. Awakening the Moral Imagination in Secondary Classrooms].

Editorial Didaskalos. 286 pp.


This book, mainly geared towards secondary school and further education (bachillerato) teachers, takes us inside the field of character education, using literature as a means to help us in this task. Its value mainly lies in helping us to lay foundations on which to develop a teaching approach for using stories in the classroom. In the book, the author establishes two clearly differentiated parts that help said teaching. We have, on the one hand, a theoretical part in which the importance of and need for character education is explained and, on the other, a more practical part in which she discusses her experience in the field through four stories in English that she uses in class.

In the first part, the author, with agile and descriptive language, reveals step by step how we can awaken desire and develop moral imagination in youths through literature and the greatest sto­ries with which said literature provides us, and how these stories become a tool that can help us to see how we can lead a truly fulfilling life. This part compri­ses three chapters. In the first, Bohlin explains what character education is and how it is understood, describing it as tea­ching mainly desire and imagination. As such, she seeks to cover topics that are currently being revived in the education field, such as education on character and virtues, suffering, the importance of re­lationships and reflection, all of which are elements that help to educate the desire and means that equip people with the power to lead a moral life. In the se­cond chapter, the author goes to the core of the stories, showing how they can help to teach, above all, moral imagination. This is where the literature acquires a special role within the educational field, as imagination helps to shape desire. Bo­hlin illustrates that the narratives are kinds of moral experiments that we con­duct within ourselves, given that, throu gh them, we can identify with the cha­racters. It is in this identification where we can desire something or reject some­thing, choose it or not. On this point, the author stresses that youths can be helped to grow in moral education, given that the stories help us to choose, with the characters, so as to later implement such aspects in our own lives. Lastly, in the third chapter, another important part of the stories is discussed. These normally entail a story with a complete plot, which allows us to identify with greater clarity what she calls moral ‘inflections’. The­se become the choices that lead to the characters changing their moral objecti­ves and paths. Furthermore, within the stories, a few challenges arise that are moments in time in which the characters experience a crisis in their life project or way of life, and have to change or further adjust their moral life in view of the goal chosen.

The second part comprises an analy­sis of the four different literary wor­ks through which the author seeks to awaken the moral imagination of stu­dents, guiding them towards an ethical reflection on the motivations, aspira­tions and choices of their protagonists. These protagonists are none other than, firstly, Elizabeth Bennet, the main cha­racter in Jane Austen’s Pride and Pre­judice, who discovers throughout the story how deluded she has been and the path she has to follow to start lea­ding a real life. Secondly, we have Ja­nie Crawford, the female protagonist of Zora Neale Hurston’s novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God. This novel is not as well known, but it has great fineness in depicting the life of the protagonist who gradually, through many difficulties, discovers the role that love has in her life. Thirdly, we have Sydney Carton, the redeemed man in Charles Dickens’ novel, A Tale of Two Cities, with whom we discover the keys to overcoming vi­ces and mediocrity. Lastly, as a counter­balance, we have Jay Gatsby, the hero in Francis Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby, who demonstrates the road to ruin, blinded by dreams that are not grounded to reality. The latter case, a character presented to us as a counterexample, is also of great help, as it demonstrates where the choices and decisions we make can take us.

The approach used by the author may be applied to other literary works that are included in curriculums.

As such, Karen Bohlin shares with us her experience in the educational field, to which she has dedicated a lar­ge part of her life, teaching secondary school students through literature, and she shows us how the approach she uses can be applied to other literary works within curriculums. It is, therefore, a book that gives teachers new light in which to work with literature in class and helps to put students on the path to further discover the joys of reading.

Verónica Fernández Espinosa