Neo-appreciation pedagogy: the pragmatics of reading aesthetic affect in the undergraduate classroom
Burchenal, William Kennedy
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This dissertation offers collegiate literary instructors a theoretical foundation and pedagogical method for teaching their students how to analyze aesthetic affect: a theory and practice termed here "neo-appreciation pedagogy." While the dissertation outlines a general theory of literary reading, it only does so to provide the basis for classroom methods that directly confront archaic, text-immanent models of meaning production. While preserving much of the method and terminology of the traditional literary classroom, neo- appreciation pedagogy offers students an overt admission that literary study is at least partially a transmission of particular cultural biases; however, it also teaches them ways to critique those cultural biases, beginning with their own responses to "great" literature. In other words, neo-literary appreciation pedagogy seeks to teach students why certain cultural artifacts have been valued in the past (particularly works which they themselves typically do not value) by expanding their repertoire of reading or "lectical" strategies. In pursuit of this goal, this dissertation outlines a taxonomy of conventional reading strategies simple enough to teach to undergraduate students. This taxonomy is articulated into a heuristic - "the lectical triangle" - used to teach students first how to analyze the lectical strategies they already use then how to deploy those and other lectical strategies (with which they may be less familiar) in increasingly sophisticated - i.e. academic - ways. Building upon post-structuralist, linguistic theory and American Pragmatism in general (along with significant elaboration s upon the work of Wolfgang Iser and Wayne Booth in particular), lectical analysis helps students explore how different textual patterns can "invite" certain lectical responses and only "tolerate" or even "resist" others while never requiring any particular response. Neo-appreciation pedagogy, therefore, does not seek to reinforce conventional or canonical readings of literary works, much less reproduce any particular aesthetic affect; instead, it seeks to give students the tools to understand the lectical conventions by which such works have been valued in the past, while giving them more lectical resources for readings they might perform in the future.