Research on Experts’ and Novices’ literary reading processes. Teachers’ and Students’ Strategies of dealing with point of view.

Submitted by: Christiane Kirmse
Abstract: A main goal of teachers of German Language (L1) is to develop literary competence. One central issue for understanding narrative texts is dealing with point of view. In the special case of literary texts, mental models of readers depend on the narrators and the characters point of view. So, the question is how readers in school bring together individual perspectives with narrators and characters perspectives. This paper presents how teachers, as experts of literature in school, and 14- to 16-year-old school students deal with point of view in literary texts with internal focalization.

We know from studies of ANDRINGA (1996) that students had problems with understanding point of view. Thinking aloud transcripts of STARK also showed problems of ninth-grade-students with narrative texts when it is not clear who is speaking (STARK 2012).

Teachers should be able to guide the reading processes of their students. However, we do not know how teachers, as experts of literature in school, deal with point of view. Moreover, existing studies investigate only the reading processes of the students. This study focusses on students and teachers.

The concept of “Perspective structure”, which is used in English studies, offers a good theo-retical grounding for research on point of view (NÜNNING 2001). Internal focalization means that the perception of the fictional world is clear linked to a narrator, looking and speaking through the eyes of a character (GENETTE 1988). That’s typical for short stories in school. This qualitive study relies on approximately equal age student groups like the research of STARK. In contrast to other studies, I am using not one but two narrative German short stories. So, I can explain observations on text characteristics.

The texts were presented to the teachers of German language (N=12) and to the ninth- and tenth-grade-students (N=12). They thought aloud while and after reading. The individual in-terviews (N=24; Duration: 60-90 minutes) were evaluated with the help of methods of quali-tative content analysis. The idea is to describe types of dealing with point of view.

Keywords: literary understanding, point of view, internal focalization, think aloud method, qualitative analysis

ANDRINGA, Els (1996): Effects of 'narrative distance' on readers' emotional involvement and response. In: Poetics 23, pp. 431–452.
GENETTE, Gérard ([1983] 1988): Narrative Discourse Revisited. Ithaca: Cornell UP.
NÜNNING, Ansgar (2001): "On the Perspective Structure of Narrative Texts." W. van Peer & S. Chatman (eds.). New Perspectives on Narrative Perspective. Albany: SUNY, pp. 207-223.
STARK, Tobias (2012): Zum Perspektivverstehen beim Verstehen literarischer Texte: Ausge-wählte Ergebnisse einer qualitativen Untersuchung. In: I. PIEPER und D. WIESER (eds.). Fachliches Wissen und literarisches Verstehen. Studien zu einer brisanten Relation. Frankfurt a. M./ Bern: P. Lang, pp. 153-169.