ABSTRACT  Although methods of teaching foreign languages have greatly improved as a result of pedagogic and linguistic research, the teaching of literature has remained traditional, emphasizing exposure rather than achievement and directed to students of superior ability. Professional training has been virtually nonexistent. The vast amount of research in contemporary criticism and in linguistics opens a new perspective on methodology. Diminishing the importance of literary history and concentrating instead on the linguistic code of literature could help us to teach literature in a manner both more interesting and more likely to elicit the individual participation of students. Students who are often discouraged because of inadequate linguistic preparation to work with a literary text need preliterary exercises dealing with the lexical, syntactic, semantic, and cultural difficulties of the text to be studied. Such a forward build-up of the language as a means of communication, prior to the contact with the literary language, should serve as an instrument allowing teacher and class more time for a literary discussion, eliminating the need for verification of understanding. One example of teaching a poem in French illustrates this approach.