Literature education for transformation : a critical pedagogy for literature teaching

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

As the new South African national ethos is borne, education assumes the inenviable role of reconciliator and liberator amidst the programme of the redressing of past imbalances. Stakeholders everywhere are looking to the field of education for national reconstruction and nation building through the development of young minds into productive, active and creative citizens. Indeed, the responsibility that education bears is a moral one. The broad field of this dissertation identifies Literature Education as a tool for transformation within the specific context of present post-apartheid South Africa. A paradigmatic analysis of literature teaching is provided to establish a theoretical framework for teachers to critically appreciate the underpinnings of their methodological practice, within which to locate their current literature teaching trends. Making a paradigmatic shift in literature teaching implies a change in our beliefs concerning knowledge and meaning; power and authority and learning and teaching in society. The thesis posits that Literature Education must necessarily be located within a critical paradigm of teaching, so that as a critical pedagogy, it may facilitate the self and social transformation of pupils and practitioners alike. Within the critical paradigm of literature teaching, reading is reconceptualised as an interactive process between reader and text. The reader's status is elevated to meaning-maker, without whom the act of reading would be void. Adequate literary theory is advanced on Schema Theory as a model of reading analyses of a reader's or pupil's Personal-Mental Schemata. The theory of Additive Schemata is proposed as the means to effect the transformation in pupils through Schema Refreshment or Schema Alteration. The critical teacher using Additive Schemata inputs, is in a position to maximise the potential that the learner has for transformation. Transformation, however is not guaranteed as it depends on a variety of factors such as a learner's flexibility, logical reasoning and a need to be transformed. In order to validate this proposal a research project was conducted in an English Literature class, the dynamics of which are detailed in Chapter Three in their entirety. The findings reveal that Additive Schemata have a positive influence on a learner's personal-mental Schemata leading in most cases to a transformation within pupils who engaged critically with the Additive Schemata approach. The research acknowledges that a learner's point of entry is not the same as the point of departure within the Additive Schemata approach. Learners are not being introduced to a new moral order; the Additive Schemata offers learner's a new moral choice. In so doing, literature teaching, following the Additive schemata approach, embodies the central tenets of a critical pedagogy offering pupils a process that is self-liberating and socially empowering.

Bibliography: pages 115-119.