Friday, June 8, 2012

Literature Discussions

Question: How does a literature discussion differ from a critique of the literary work?

Answer/Quote: “The title of this piece (‘Grand Conversations: An Exploration of Meaning Construction in Literature Study Groups’) comes from a remark Jim Higgins made to a group of teachers when he was at Arizona State University as a visiting scholar in the spring of 1985. He was describing how literature is used in American classrooms and he said something like ‘what you most often get are gentle inquisitions, when what you really want are grand conversations.’ Bryant Fillion (1981) echoed this theme with his remark that when he listened to tapes of literature classes—his own as well as others—he was struck by how often they sounded like inquisitions rather than real discussions.” P. 4.

Quote: “The fact that rich discussions occurred even with novice group leaders makes us wonder what sorts of discussions might occur when group leaders are experienced, knowledgeable about literature, and are also willing to become group discussion members who will share their own personal transactions with the text but will not insist that theirs is the only possible one.”

Quote: “If critics and teachers  can become, as Probst (1986) suggests, not authorities on meaning, explicators of text, or sources of answers, but simply other readers with whom to talk, the grand conversations about literature may indeed be possible.” P. 28.

Comment: The key is purpose. If the teacher wants discussion, not direction of interpretation, then this description of discussion fits. There’s a time for that. But also for critical analysis, which will probably lead to teacher direction or inquisition, if you will. RayS.

Title: “Grand Conversations: An Exploration of Meaning Construction in Literature Study Groups.” M Eeds and D Wells. Research in the Teaching of English (February 1989), 4-29.

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