Functions of the literary Reading between High School and University Studies
|Literary Theory & Criticism; Literature
|WALTER DE GRUYTER GMBH
|JOURNAL OF LITERARY THEORY
The goal of this study is to demonstrate the current status quo of reading functions that are imputed to literary reading between the ages of sixteen and twenty-five. Of particular interest are such reading functions that claim validity in the context of teaching situations in schools and universities. To this end, the study defines in the first part the term ``reading function'' and distinguishes classifications in literary studies from those that operate in the interest of empirical social sciences and literary didactics. In the process, it becomes apparent that the classifications of literary studies as a rule presuppose ideal reception situations and recipients, whereas empirical social science studies are interested in the real process of reading. The results of empirical research have identified reading functions such as entertainment, fantasy development, the development of aesthetic sensibility, reinforcement of empathy, moral consciousness, and identity formation. Werner Graf formulated seven ``modes of literary reception competency'' that are likewise closely related to reading functions, including instrumental reading, intimate reading, reading as participation or aesthetic reading. In light of some criticisms of Graf's method, but above all in light of the temporal distance (Graf's interviews were conducted before the so-called ``digital turn''), Graf's approach is confronted with prognoses regarding the transformation of reading functions from the last ten years. The latter state that reading for information would increase at the expense of literary-aesthetic reading, that the emotional stakes of literary reading would largely be supplanted by media consumption, and that a class-based differentiation would take place. The testing of these prognoses proceeds using the example of a few recent studies with youths from the generation of ``digital natives''. (1) Reading functions for schoolchildren in the senior grade level: According to recent data, a student body revels itself here that is motivated extrinsically and in terms of performance, which is reflected in particular in the mode of ``competitive reading''. This study is based on forty-two narrative interviews with senior class pupils in advanced German courses, in the year 2014, who were asked about their reading biography. Around two thirds of these pupils do not identify any functions of literary reading or locate reading solely in the context of school learning. One third identifies primarily functions of entertainment and personality formation in literary reading. The relatedness to performance is explicit in the mode of ``competitive reading'' in which literary reading is embedded in a competition that promises economic advantages for the top performer. (2) Reading functions for students studying to become German teachers: They separate private from professional reading; they regard entertainment functions as hardly important for the latter. These reading functions were inferred from a survey of students throughout Germany (600 questionnaires). The tendency of the survey of school students was thereby confirmed: Literary reading for school or education primarily served the teaching of competency and the increase in education. The clear separation between a private and professional mode of reading as the main result of the study is to be understood as the consequence of different ascriptions of function: Private reading serves entertainment and relaxation, professional reading does not. (3) Reading functions of German teachers: They display a clear connection with teaching activities, as a single case study can prove. The teacher studied here likewise clearly separates private and professional reading attitudes; her interview is thus to be seen in continuity with those of the students. The added value arises from the studied flanking instruction in an advanced German course: With respect to the goals of instruction, conducting of conversation, and the targeted consensus, the analyses point to a dominance of the professional reading functions of learning and communicating competency. As a whole, the prognoses prove to be confirmed according to the recent studies presented here: reading functions are located more in relation to education and information, are in this way more extrinsically motivated and part of the (educational) performance mentality. In the private realm, media presumably offer a low-threshold alternative to obtain gratification in the field of entertainment and relaxation.
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checked on Mar 4, 2024