Transforming readings : literary interpretation in a book group

PEPLOW, David (2016). Transforming readings : literary interpretation in a book group. In: BURKE, Michael, FIALHO, Olivia and ZYGNIER, Sonia, (eds.) Scientific Approaches to Literature in Learning Environments. John Benjamins. (In Press)

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Book groups are an increasingly popular way for people outside university walls to engage in literary reading. Recordings and observations of these groups can offer us access to naturally-occurring reading ‘on the hoof’, and the analysis of talk produced in groups’ meetings is emerging as an area of study in its own right. In this chapter, book group discourse is analysed, with the view of considering how literary interpretation happens across short extracts of talk. The book group is seen as a learning environment, a community of practice in which the ‘private’ readings that readers bring to meetings can be transformed through discussing the text with others. The specific readings articulated within the group are analysed in terms of Allan Bell’s interpretative arc, as this model provides a way of seeing the incremental nature of literary interpretation; in other words, the way that readings are constructed across time. Extracts from one particular reading group meeting are considered and the transcript data is approached in a qualitative, sociolinguistic fashion. On a micro-level, a discourse analysis is applied to the talk while on a macro-level the reading groups are considered as communities of practice. The analysis focuses on specific acts of learning that occur in the discussions: occasions when groups collaboratively piece together textual interpretation where there is individual difficulty, and other times when readers attempt to understand or account for a fictional character’s actions. Analysis of extracts shows that participation in the group changes the interpretations that readers bring to the meetings. The co-reading considered in this chapter demonstrates that interpretation in this context is more than the sum of its parts, so that what is produced in the talk is group reading rather than isolated, individual action.

Item Type: Book Section
Research Institute, Centre or Group: Humanities Research Centre
Depositing User: David Peplow
Date Deposited: 12 May 2016 10:54
Last Modified: 12 May 2016 10:54

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