The Basics

Simple yet profound, Pre-Texts is a pedagogical protocol that uses challenging texts as primary material for art-making. Between interpreting the material and reflecting on the process, creative and critical thinking develop together in a virtuous cycle. Among the results are enjoyment of diversity and admiration for other citizen/artists. Since pleasure is fundamental to cognitive and emotional growth, we can increase the scholastic and social capacity of young people by inviting them to use difficult texts – artistically, irreverently – just as great artists and thinkers have always done!

What is Pre-Texts?

An intentionally naughty word, it is an invitation to make something from material that had seemed useless or difficult. Pre-Texts plays the trick of “Stone Soup,” a story about a beggar who announces that his magic stone makes the best soup in the world. So someone brings a pot, another the chicken, still another vegetables, etc. Pre-Texts is a similar invitation to co-construct interpretations with local arts and from materials at hand, including a required text. Therefore, Pre-Texts lands organically in any environment. With an excuse to have your way with boring or difficult schoolwork, you can turn it into a rap, or a dance, or a fashion show, or a menu, and learn it better by using the text as raw material. Artists turn difficulty into challenges, fear into fun.


Since 2007, Professor Doris Sommer has followed Latin American models to promote holistic education through the arts. Pre-Texts combines popular Latin American practices with the pedagogy of Paulo Freire and Augusto Boal, along with Friedrich Schiller, Maria Montessori, and John Dewey. Having learned from Milagros Saldarriaga, of Lima's “Sarita Cartonera,” to recognize books as raw material, not sacred objects, Sommer and other Pre-Texts trainers have brought literary theory down to earth in under-resourced areas throughout Latin America, as well as in Boston, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Zimbabwe, and China.

Reports & Evaluations

These documents correspond to the reports and evaluations produced by Cultural Agents and different institutions in countries where Pre-Texts has been implemented. We invite you to download and read these forms, which demonstrate the positive results and great impact that Pre-Texts has had around the world.

Impact Evaluation - Universidad de Coahuila



NEACOL – Pre-texts in Chocó (Colombia)

Quibdó, Colombia


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