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ERIC Number: EJ1002948
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2012-Sep
Pages: 6
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 5
ISSN: ISSN-0013-8274
Making Characters Come Alive: Using Characters for Identification and Engagement
Chadwick, Jocelyn A.
English Journal, v102 n1 p34-39 Sep 2012
How do English teachers, with their amazing gift, empower students to see and experience literature not as a burden that must be endured and memorized for the test and then mercifully forgotten, but as a vehicle for self-discovery and reflection? One effective way to help students experience and discover literature is through the characters. For today's students, English teachers must contextualize literary works in such a way as to allow them to discover just how relevant characters are. While many English teachers approach teaching literature from a historical timeline, approaching literature and characters thematically offers greater opportunities allowing students real-world "identification." In Kenneth Burke's "A Rhetoric of Motives," he defines "identification" as symbolic ways for marking consubstantiality, upon which rhetorical action is based. In other words, according to Burke, to achieve identification, a character may persuade a person by speaking her or his language through speech, gesture, tonality, order, image, attitude, or idea, thereby "identifying" the individual's personality with hers or his in such a way as to create a genuine rapport. If English teachers accept Burke's notion of identification and consubstantiation, great characters in fiction are indeed those who allow students to enter into and discover not only the characters but also the students themselves. Hence, great characters "persuade" students to hear and see themselves in like situations. This article describes several classroom activities for making characters from the following works relevant to contemporary students' lives: "The Joy Luck Club," "Woman Hollering Creek," "The Great Gatsby," "Heart of Darkness," and Zora Neale Hurston's "Sweat." (Contains 1 figure.)
National Council of Teachers of English. 1111 West Kenyon Road, Urbana, IL 61801-1096. Tel: 877-369-6283; Tel: 217-328-3870; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A