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Multiliteracy and Critical Lenses

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Beth Wilson

on 8 October 2013

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Transcript of Multiliteracy and Critical Lenses

Why? What? How? Teaching Literary Theory
in High School Multiliteracy, 21st Century Skills,
and Critical Lenses Use literary theory as a tool. Early on, introduce a set of theories. Then make use of them as appropriate during literature units all year. Try this or Design a unit or course around a set of theories. Introduce theories one by one. Apply them to sections of a novel or a series of works, layering as you go. this Multiliteracy Curriculum
literacy Critical literacy "school subject areas have their own characteristic language forms and hence entail distinctive literacy practices" (Unsworth 10) To provide students with the language of theory is to offer them greater access to the Discourse (in Gee's terms) of English studies. Reveal the man behind the curtain. Make literary analysis less mysterious, more achievable. "critical literacy...can be distinguished from routine decoding of textual information and from compliantly participating in the established, institutionalized textual practices of a culture" (Unsworth 14) To teach critical lenses explicitly is to offer the tools for reflecting critically on messages sent through textual form and content. Provide the tools, support the thinking New London Group argues for multiliteracies that include "the ability to critique a system and its relations to other systems...In this sense, people become aware of, and are able to articulate, the cultural locatedness of practices" (85).
The tools of literary theory provide
scaffolds for this kind of critique. Critical literacy Critical thinking Media literacy Critical literacy
21st century skills Why not? There are too many new texts to read and compose already. Why add more traditional content, too? The beauty of English studies: the 'new' competencies are translations of those that have been in our purview for decades. (and the reason we all secretly believe our subject is the most valuable) The skills of literary theory lay the groundwork for social critique, media literacy, non-literary textual analysis and other new skills students must acquire. High school students aren't ready for literary theory Large, complex concepts often spur exciting advances in the students whose age or performance might invite low expectations. Dewey:
the defining characteristic of immaturity is the potential for growth (42) Unsworth: "quite young learners can engage productively in reflection literacies" but "reflection literacy presupposes reproduction literacy, which presupposes recognition literacy" (15) Students' readiness depends on acquisition of prior literacies, not age or developmental level & Unit introducing several critical
lenses during a study of Jane Eyre I. Introducing the concept of literary theory
II. The Lens of Reader Response
a. What is reader response?
b. Gateshead (chapters 1-4)
III. The Social-class Lens
a. What is Marxist theory?
b. Lowood (chapters 5-10) and beginning of Thornfield (chapter 11)
IV. The Lens of Gender
a. Begin reading Thornfield (chapters 12-27)
b. What is gender theory?
i. Apply to Thornfield section thus far
ii. Carry forward in remaining chapters
c. Continue Thornfield (chapters 12-27)
V. The Postcolonial Lens
a. What is postcolonial theory?
b. Revisit Thornfield, Bertha chapters (15, 20, 25-27)
VI. The Biographical Lens and what we know so far
a. What is biographical theory?
b. Charlotte Bronte—life experiences, personality, values
c. Gateshead through Thornfield
d. Student review of theories
e. Moor House (chapters 28-35)
VII. The Deconstructionist Lens
a. What is deconstructionism?
b. Ferndean (chapters 36-38)
VIII. Multiplicity in Theories
a. What makes a theory useful (or not) to our reading of a text? Lenses: An Introductory Lesson Provide several colored, transparent materials (sunglasses, quilter's value finder, stained glass)
Have students view posters, vistas, photos in textbooks, or other subjects through these 'lenses'
Students write: "If the same object is viewed through a few different lenses, what parts draw more or less attention to themselves?"
Discuss: When might applying a different lens be a valuable step? How do you know if applying a particular lens is a value-adding step or a distracting one?
Help students see that lenses don’t change the painting or vista, but they help us notice patterns or parts that we didn’t pay attention to before. Follow this lesson with a second one that provides basic information about several theories and asks students to consider the same piece of literature through these varied lenses. See Appleman's Critical Encounters for an example using Sylvia Plath's "Mushrooms." Students free write for five minutes: "Recall what you know about literary theory from earlier this year"
Students read all or part of Bonnycastle's chapter "Post-Colonial Criticism and Multiculturalism" in In Search of Authority
Students use the questions Bonnycastle outlines to conduct small-group discussions. They identify three sections of the play that are illuminated by these questions, making notes of their discussion.
Students act as directors, deciding how they might use casting, costuming, set design, and (most importantly) direction to stage these sections in a modern-day production of The Tempest that takes into account a post-colonial reading.
Students present their decisions to the larger group through a brief skit, sketch, or other appropriate form. Lesson Applying Postcolonial Theory During study of The Tempest Teaching theory allows the lesson to rest more squarely in students' hands. “How did the culture of the colonizer affect that of the natives?
How did exploitation occur, and what reparations are in order?
How open were the people in power to the experience of the natives?
How does a person form a solid identity when he or she is part of a group which is consistently viewed as vicious, irrational or subhuman by the dominant forces in society?" (Bonnycastle 207-8) More on this under How? First, let's consider Why? The teacher cannot think for her students, nor can she impose her thought on them.
(Freire 104) "Students need to develop the capacity to speak up, to negotiate, and...to engage critically with the conditions of their working lives" (67). And yet, "there are still real deficits, such as a lack of access to social power, wealth, and symbols of recognition. Literary Theory Tools for Today's Literacy The role of pedagogy is to develop an epistemology of pluralism that provides access without people having to erase or leave behind different subjectivities. This has to be the basis of a new norm." (72). Appleman, Deborah. Critical Encounters in High School English: Teaching Literary Theory to Adolescents. 2nd Ed. New York: Teachers College Press, 2009.
Bartholomae, David. “Inventing the University.” When Writer's Can't Write: Studies in Writer's Block and Other Composing-Process Problems. Ed. Mike Rose. New York: The Guilford Press, 1985.
Bonnycastle, Stephen. In Search of Authority: An Introductory Guide to Literary Theory. 3rd ed. Petersborough, Ontario: Broadview Press, 2007.
Culler, Jonathan. Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1997.
Dewey, John. Democracy and Education: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education. New York: The Free Press, 1916.
Freire, Paulo. “The Banking Concept of Education.” Educational Foundations : An Anthology of Critical Readings. Ed. Alan S. Canestrari and Bruce A. Marlowe. 4th Ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2003.
Gee, James Paul. "Literacy, Discourse, and Linguistics: Introduction." Journal of Education 171.1 (1989): 5-17.
Gee, James Paul. "What Is Literacy?." Journal of Education 171.1 (1989): 18-25.
Richter, David H. Falling Into Theory: Conflicting Views on Reading Literature. Boston: Bedford Books, 1994.
The New London Group. "A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies." Harvard Educational Review 66.1 (Spring 1996): 60-92.
Unsworth, Len. Teaching Multiliteracies Across the Curriculum: Changing Contyexts of Text and Image in Classroom Practice. Buckingham: Open UP, 2001. Works Cited and Consulted Recommended Resources Deborah Appleman
Critical Encounters in High School English: Teaching Literary Theory to Adolescents

Stephen Bonnycastle
In Search of Authority: An Introductory Guide to Literary Theory
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