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Although there is abundant theoretical matter concerning the critical role that various interpretive communities play in making meanings of literary texts, most scholars do not take up the matter of the composition of these interpretive groups in their university classrooms. How may the interpretive strategies of groups of students change over the course of a 16-week semester? Education is a matter of fostering change, particularly changes in the skills with which individual students--and groups of students--navigate literary texts and provide useful and illuminating readings. Stanley Fish has suggested that there is no a priori or "correct" reading of a literary text, but that interpretive communities who share a single strategy of reading over time, tend to "agree" on interpretations. A 7-year study examined whether students could be organized to become aware of the interpretive communities to which they belong. Third-year students in a modern fiction course at the University of Louisiana (Lafayette) and at Bowling Green State University (Ohio) were familiarized with 13 different models of critical analysis and wrote 2-page papers describing a viable critical approach to reading the text. They were then randomly selected and put into six collaborative work groups of about five members each and asked to read all the two-page essays written by one another. Finally, each group was asked to create a list of the various claims each member made about the text and corresponding critical approach. Each group shared the list with the class and the various approaches and merits of each were discussed. Findings suggest that collaborative contexts for the interpretation of literature can be an effective way to broaden students' interpretive skills. (NKA)

Descriptors: Classroom Research, Cooperative Learning, English Instruction, Higher Education, Interpretive Skills, Literary Criticism, Reader Response

Autor: Mayo, Wendell


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