Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




In the last two decades, serious scholarly attention has been paid both to theories of teaching reading and to theories of literary interpretation. These potentially related fields have been treated as separate, focused either on teaching reading in the elementary grades or on teaching interpretation to advanced college literature students. Until very recently the relevance of either reading theory or literary theory to middle school or high school pedagogy has remained unexamined. My research, as a reflective practitioner, addresses this important gap. I focus on the teaching of literary theory in the high school English classroom as a strategy to develop students engaged reading o f literary texts, their interpretive strategies, and metacognitive awareness of the reading and interpretive process. I argue that it is logical and appropriate to emphasize the intersection of literary and reading theory in the secondary English classroom to form a comprehensive and powerful literacy pedagogy. I investigated student receptivity to and application of several theoretical approaches to literature to see if knowing about theory would help students become more effective readers and interpreters of text. My methods centered on the development of a progressive and systematic study of reader-response, archetypal, structural, biographical theories, as well as an extensive student inquiry project centering on post-modernist and ideological literary theory. In doing so, I also conducted extensive research into theories and theorists involved in the scholarly debate over teaching both reading and literature, tracing the developments of such theories since the 1970s, and their implications for the English Language Arts curriculum. This dissertation draws on classroom experience and practice in a suburban high school with academically diverse World Literature students; some of whom were preparing to go to college, some of whom had not taken an intensive literature course. The results indicate that students can readily engage in theoretical discussion, and in doing so make significant progress towards becoming more proficient and engaged readers and interpreters of textual material.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access