Title: Framing Expectations for Literary Study
Discipline/Field: English, Literary Study, Literature
Authors: Susan Crutchfield, Natalie Eschenbaum, Bryan Kopp, Kelly Sultzbach (alphabetical listing), Department of English, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
Abstract: Students frequently think about general education and foundational literature courses simply as requirements to fulfill. Our broader goal was to scaffold student thinking about the purpose, value, and necessity of literary study. We focused on three more specific goals: 1) to help students understand that both a “right answer” approach to interpretation and an “anything goes” approach are problematic; 2) to help students appreciate the positive value of ambiguity as something that invites multiple persuasive interpretations; and 3) to help them recognize that literary modes of thinking can be applicable to non-literary texts as well. Our observations revealed that some teams arrived quickly at single, closed interpretations whereas others generated new, persuasive readings of the poem. During the large group conversation, individuals generally were good at providing valid textual support for their interpretations. In subsequent classes students seemed more willing to entertain multiple interpretations and to challenge one another. Students seemed to have made progress with our first and second goals. We saw evidence for our third goal when students at the end of class started asking the question, what makes a text “literature” or not?