Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Ruminating on Literature as Exploration

I am starting to regret having so much coursework this semester. Although I am getting good grades, the amount of work I have has prevented any semblance of a routine from evolving this semester. There are stacks of books everywhere, dishes piled high in the sink, an overflowing basket of dirty clothes, and about a hundred half-finished papers in word documents open on my computer.

My cat is content to just sit at the window and wait for the bird to reappear that often taunts him by flying into the window repeatedly. While he is there I am just sitting her listening to jazz and reading Louise Rosenblatt's Literature as Exploration. It's nice to read this book because Rosenblatt states a lot of things that I have thought about the teaching of literature for a long time. I am reading this book in order to gain a small base of knowledge on transactional theory so I am able to piece together an adequate presentation at WPCTE in a few weeks.

The first chapter is somewhat of an overview but has some really good points that I think are important to discuss here. If you are at all familiar with Rosenblatt's theories then you realize that her statement, "The human element cannot be banished" essentially sums up her ideas (6). She spends a lot of time discussing how the idea that in the classroom students should be encouraged to seek the one correct interpretation is a harmful idea placing the focus, of the literature classroom and the literature itself, on the teacher as the one who has all the answers.

Another interesting point that she makes in the first chapter is that teaching literature inevitably leads to a need for at least a cursory knowledge of other subjects. Thankfully she does point out that it is almost impossible for us, with all our other coursework (and the responsibilities of teaching when we are teachers) to become extremely familiar with too many other areas of academia (22).

Lastly, Rosenblatt makes a good point about teachers wanting to be unbiased in their discussions. There is this idea that if we take away the importance of diversity of response and a student's transaction with the text in the classroom, then we will be able to impose a "correct" interpretation preventing conflict or the imposition of one student's worldview on another. Rosenblatt says:

"The teacher will do neither literature nor students a service if he tries to evade ethical issues. He will be exerting some kind of influence, positive or negative, through his success or failure in helping the student develop habits of thoughtful ethical judgement... He [the teacher] should not foist his own bias on students, but objectivity should not create the impression that value judgements are unimportant." (17)

As I understand this, the job of the teacher is not so much to eliminate bias, but allow everyones bias to have an equal say. Earlier in the chapter Rosenblatt discussed that there should be certain boundaries for student response even though they should be free to have their own interpretation. Student responses should obviously relate to the text, for instance. I presume that Rosenblatt will expound further on the criteria for assessing student responses.

1 comment:

  1. Tim,

    I am glad that you are enjoying Rosenblatt and I look forward to your presentation. I think you are gaining a solid understanding of her work and I would agree with your understanding of how she attends to bias. It really amazes me that her texts are taught more so at the graduate level than the undergraduate level.

    I don't know if you wrote down the educational theorists that I had in my Power Point on Friday, but I truly believe that as an undergrad ELA student, one should be exposed to Rosenblat, Vygotsky and Dewey for sure. Maybe even Freire.

    I'm wondering from you or others....what types of theory have you read about in other ed courses, if any?

    On an unrelated note...we too, have a cat, and as I work he watches the birds and it is very enjoyable!