What’s emotion got to do with it?
Falter, Michelle Marie
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This study examined how emotions were embedded within the planning, teaching, and discussion of literary texts within four secondary English teacher's classrooms in Northeast Georgia. To develop that understanding, this study drew upon portraiture methodology– a methodology that “appeals to intellect and emotion, and that seeks to inform and inspire and join the endeavors of documentation, interpretation, and intervention” (Lawrence-Lightfoot & Davis, 1997). This study made use of feminist (Ahmed, 2004; Boler, 1999) and transactional reading (Rosenblatt, 1994) theories to better illustrate the relation between learning, teaching, emotion, and literature study given patriarchal constructs that control, censor, marginalize, and silence emotions (DeSiato & O’Quinn, 2005; Fitzsimmons & Lanphar, 2011). Three questions frame this research: 1) What are English teachers’ understandings of emotion and its role in the classroom? 2)What curricular and instructional approaches do English teachers have and what decisions do they make to facilitate emotional responses to literature? 3) What happens when English teachers position students to have emotional responses? Four teachers, Jenna, Samantha, Claire, and Bobbi offer a unique perspective on the role of emotion in their classrooms, how they approached the study of literature, and the emotional responses that the students had. The study shows that teachers have varying understandings of how emotions work in their class. Yet, they were able to use nine different approaches to foster emotional responses to literature. These approaches include: book selection, making connections, humor, competition, choice and autonomy, videos, roleplaying, discussion, and writing. Additionally, there was preliminary evidence that showed when teachers position students to have emotional responses students may 1) share unexpected or unwanted emotions 2) empathize with characters and 3) feel engaged by the literature. This study illuminated three larger findings including that students need to feel cared for, that some emotions are valued over others, and doing emotion work is hard. Implications for a new theory of literature study that embraces an ontology of messy goodness, along with future recommendations for teachers, teacher educators, policy makers, and researchers are also presented.