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Editors’ Introduction: The Politics of Teaching Literature

Metalepsis in Elementary Students’ Multimodal Narrative Representations

Two of the main purposes of the classroom-based research featured in this article were to develop nine-year-old students’ visual meaning-making skills and competences by focusing specifically on elements of visual art and design in picturebooks, and to extend their narrative competence through a focus on metafictive literature. One predominant device in metafictive narrative representations is metalepsis, a narrative structural device that creates ambiguity and increases complexity through the transgression of conventional “relationships and hierarchies between characters, texts, authors, illustrators and readers” (McCallum, 2008, p. 181). As well as reading, discussing, and writing about a selection of picturebooks during the case study research, the grade 4 students were afforded the opportunity to apply their knowledge and understanding of the concepts under study, and design and create their own narrative representations that included metaleptic devices. Content analysis of the students’ work, which focused specifically on the nature and direction of each metalepsis in their multimodal narrative representations, revealed how the students created complex narrative structures by using various techniques to transgress storyworld boundaries. Discussion of the potential effects and interpretations of the students’ multifaceted use of metalepses is followed by a consideration of the findings with respect to metalepsis and multimodality, the development of student narrative competence, and the ubiquitous nature of metalepsis in contemporary society.

A Century of Change in High School English Assessments: An Analysis of 110 New York State Regents Exams, 1900–2018

Those interested in English education have long debated the role and value of literature in high school students’ education and lives, developing a range of visions about what and how students should read. This study provides a historical perspective on the visions and values of educators and test-makers by analyzing a century’s worth of standardized New York State English Language Arts exams (now known as Regents Exams), with a focus on questions about literature. The study introduces a data set of 110 Regents English exams and explores the results of a content analysis of the exams’ literature questions. The study’s analysis finds significant changes over time in some of the most controversial aspects of English language arts. Specifically, the analysis shows an increase in racial and gender diversity of the authors of exam passages; a decrease in literal comprehension questions and a corresponding increase in interpretive questions; and a diminishing number of questions that ask for students’ individual responses to literary texts. These findings act as a valuable lens through which to track the history of changing visions of literary education in US high schools.

Queer Ruptures of Normative Literacy Practices: Toward Visualizing, Hypothesizing, and Empathizing

This project focuses on the co-teaching and co-researching of a high school LGBTQ-themed literature course with particular attention to the reading and discussion of a queer-themed young adult novel, Brezenoff ’s Brooklyn, Burning. In blending teacher inquiry and ethnographic methodologies, we found that students and teachers encountered ruptures to normative literacy practices of seeing, understanding, and connecting. When the class collectively treated these disruptions as excesses and problems, they disengaged with these ruptures such that dialogue was destabilized and sporadic. Without sustained dialogue, the class reproduced dominant literacy practices of seeing, understanding, and connecting, which in turn contributed to reifying normativities around sexuality, gender, race, and epistemologies. In contrast, when students and teachers stayed with disruptions and continued to dialogue about them across time, they took them up as opportunities for learning. Collectively they co-constructed alternative enactments of literacy practices, centered around visualizing and hypothesizing, which in turn facilitated empathizing. Through these alternatives, they contested normativities around sexuality, gender, addiction, and epistemologies, although not race and whiteness. Ultimately, we argue that with ruptures as obstacles, readers may or may not be able to see, understand, or connect with characters; but with ruptures as opportunities, readers can visualize, hypothesize about, and more deeply empathize with characters and their circumstances. Therefore, reading with ruptures is a risk worth taking.

IN DIALOGUE: Literature

For this issue’s In Dialogue, we invited several literacy scholars who focus on the teaching of literature to contribute to an invited forum about the political dimensions of contemporary literary research and pedagogy in the United States. Deborah Appleman, E. Sybil Durand, Patricia Enciso, and Angel Daniel Matos provide rich intergenerational insight into current challenges in the field, from social media’s “call out culture,” to trigger warnings contesting the very content that enters K–16 classrooms, to spotlighting the activist work that young people are engaged in around narrative, to noting the identities and social subjectivities of K–12 literature teachers and faculty. We welcome their perspectives.