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Volume 49, Issue 3
  • ISSN: 0034-527X
  • E-ISSN: 1943-2348


Current research suggests that emotional investment is essential for helping students critically engage in learning in the English language arts classroom. Yet, scholarship on the role of emotion in literary response has been limited, focusing chiefly on considerations of the merits of personal response—a focus that reflects dominant theories of emotion as located in the individual. Tethered to the personal, emotion has been conceptualized as a peripheral part of literary engagement—as something to be ignored, leveraged, or gotten beyond in an effort to move students toward more substantial textual engagement. This paper proposes that a sociocultural theory of emotion provides a new lens for considering how emotion engages students in literature learning. In this view, emotion is in the fabric of every classroom context, manifesting as “emotional rules” that have material implications for learning. Constructed using methods from Critical Discourse Analysis, the case study outlined in this paper demonstrates how emotional rules were perceived, taken up, and even transformed by one student, Nina, in two discussion contexts—a seminar circle and a literature circle—playing a central role in the work of literature learning in each context. Our findings advance scholarship on the relationship between response and emotion by suggesting that emotion cannot simply be invited in or left out of the literature classroom in the interest of moving students toward literary engagement, but instead is already fundamentally a part of literary engagement and must be noticed, interrogated, and sometimes disrupted in the interest of expanding interpretive possibilities.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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