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ERIC Number: ED531607
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 207
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 0
ISBN: ISBN-978-1-1094-1711-1
Rereading Dis/Ability in Adolescent Literature: Textual Invitation & Repertoires in Reader Response
Walker, Valerie Struthers
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, Michigan State University
This dissertation draws on textual reader response theory and humanities-based Disability Studies theories to explores the ways in which preservice teachers participating in a course called "Issues of Diversity in Children's and Adolescent Literature" and their instructor, who is also the researcher, made sense of representations of disability in two pieces of adolescent literature: "Becoming Naomi Leon" (Ryan, 2004) and "Al Capone Does My Shirts" (Choldenko, 2004). For each text, the researcher considers the complexity of how preservice teachers' in her class responded to the text in small group discussion. The researcher then "rereads" each focal text through a Disability Studies framework to consider what alternative meanings are available in the text. Rather than positioning the latter reading as a corrective to the preservice teachers' readings of the literature, the researcher suggests the generative and educative value of considering multiple readings of the same text. This dissertation challenges a common assumption in educational literature that it is possible to clearly identify accurate or authentic representations of disability in children's literature. Rather, the researcher argues that the preservice teachers' readings of the focal texts for accuracy and authenticity can be better understood through Iser's concept of "literary work" in which authors draw on socially available resources to offer textual invitations to readers and readers mobilize repertoires of personal and professional knowledge to create meaning. The "literary work" of the preservice teachers in this study allowed them to explore their assumptions about what constitutes a "realistic" depiction of a character with a disability and challenge each other to define and clarify what they value in these representations. Rather than leading to clear-cut evaluations of the texts, the readers generated new questions and dilemmas that they related to their future work as professionals. Additionally, a small group's discussion of the use of metaphor in "Al Capone Does My Shirts" and the researcher's "rereadings" of the focal texts through a Disability Studies framework suggest an alternative way of reading "dis/ability" in children's literature which foregrounds the ways in which literary form and social meaning intersect. These readings suggest that dis/ability is produced both through literary tropes and in one's selective reading of a text. The small group's interest and frustration in pursuing this type of inquiry suggest the potential value of incorporating Disability Studies theories more formally into the curriculum and providing students with opportunities to develop reading strategies which would allow them to pursue this type of questioning. This study concludes that scholarship and teaching of literature which includes representations of dis/ability would be enhanced by continued efforts to explore the particular ways in which children's literature invites readers to understand dis/ability, readers respond creatively to those textual invitations, and students and teachers expand their literary repertoires to incorporate new ways of reading dis/ability. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
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Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A