- Presenting and synthesizing several paradigms for the teaching of literature in American colleges, I investigate how definitions of reading, readers, texts, interpretations, and knowledge affect student acts of reading and writing. In addition, I draw upon specific examples of text-based, reader-based, and social-cultural based models for the teaching of reading to demonstrate how particular pedagogical theories and practices emerge from and reflect larger ideological concepts and paradigms.
Cognitive-oriented models of reading that rely upon schema theory to explain comprehension and interpretation, for example, have been used by theorists who advocated a text-based approach to literary analysis. Even though cognitive models are based on scientific studies that focus on the mental faculties of individual readers, I classify it as a text-based model because when translated into classroom practice, interpretive emphasis has been placed on the text rather than the reader. Therefore, the reader is subordinated to the text in various ways.
Expressive and social-cultural theories presented by Louise Rosenblatt, Wolfgang Iser, Stanley Fish, and Kathleen McCormick are used to demonstrate how the rhetorical
emphasis of interpretation can be shifted away from the text and toward the reader. As a reader-based theorist, for example, Rosenblatt advocates personal response as the most rewarding form of textual interaction students can experience. McCormick declares that personal response should be analyzed more extensively than the expressive model suggests, however. Hence, she proposes a social-based model that asserts both the cultures of reception and production should be studied as a means for better understanding individual responses to texts.
But reading is not my only focus in this project. In each chapter, I extrapolate as to how theories of reading, when translated into classroom practice, affect both student writing and student participation in the making of meaning. Therefore, to enrich my theoretical discussions of pedagogy and its affects on students, I draw upon my experiences as both a teacher and a student to provide practical classroom examples of student acts of reading, interpretation, and writing. Moreover, the application chapters of this project present two extensive examples of how theory can be translated into practice-the first is a discussion of a recent composition course I taught, and the second is an example student paper that performs a McCormickean analysis of Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God. From theory to practice, then, this project presents and challenges what it means to be a teacher and a student of literature and composition.