Articulating Abstractions: Building Teacher-Student Connections in the Literature Classroom

Document Type


Publication Date



This chapter is an exploration of interpreting literary texts; of the meanings that teachers and students find in a specific text; such as a poem. As a literature teacher; guiding my students to discover what a text means is the key element of my classes. However; this is a difficult process as there is often the contrast between the meanings that students see in a text and what the teacher sees and expects (Rothery and Stenglin; 2000; Paran; 2010). Therefore; the literature teacher straddles the balance between openness to student responses while at the same time; maintaining a certain level of ‘correctness’. The problem with this is that engaging with literature can be a highly personal experience and ‘correct’ or ‘standard’ ways of viewing a text can discourage students from loving literature. This chapter then explores what meanings both students and teacher offer on a literary text in order to determine what commonalities between the two sides can be exploited to come to a truly empowering literature pedagogy; one that builds on the convergences of meanings from both sides. To fulfill its goals; this chapter will (1) present five interpretations of one text by three teachers and two students; (2) run these interpretations through grammatics (Macken-Horarick; 2006); (3) discuss what a close linguistic analysis of these interpretations tell us about the process of interpreting texts; and finally (4) offer personal accounts from the research participants on what literature means to them. The fourth step is meant to reveal that interpreting texts; just like loving literature; involves finding significance in the reading process; which is something literature teachers should closely consider in their classes.