'What do you think?’ Let me tell you: discourse about texts and the literature classroom

Jessica Mason, Marcello Giovanelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article examines the practice of studying texts in secondary school English lessons as a particular type of reading experience. Through a critical stylistic analysis of a popular edition of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, the article explores how reading the text is framed by educational editions, and how this might present the purpose of studying fiction to students. The article draws on two cognitive linguistic concepts – figure/ground configuration and narrative schemas - in order to explore how ‘discourse about a text’ (Mason, 2016) can potentially influence how students read and engage with a text. Building on a previous article (Giovanelli and Mason, 2015), the notion of pre-figuring is developed to offer an account of how a reader’s attention can be directed to particular elements of a text, thus privileging some interpretations and downplaying others. The article then reflects more widely on the perceived purposes of studying fiction with young people, exploring in particular the recent rise of support within the profession in England for Hirsch’s (1988) ‘cultural literacy’ model, which sees knowledge about texts as more valuable than authentic reading and personal response.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)318-329
JournalChanging English
Issue number3
Early online date4 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - 4 Dec 2017

Bibliographical note

© 2017 Informa UK Limited, publishing as Taylor & Francis.


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