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d. Literary Studies


Aims. ‘Literary studies’ has been selected as an umbrella name for a diverse body of research whose illustrative types are delineated below. The use of ‘studies’ is important because neither of the more conventional categories of literary studies nor criticism encapsulate this broad-field domain. Studies, too, is meant to connect to but differentiate a body of research from a conventional use of literary devices in science-based research. Herein a literary-connection drives the research; it does not merely play a supportive role. All forms of literature—from narratives to poetics to dramatics—have potential use in literary studies. Like other kinds of humanities-oriented research, literary studies aim to exemplify, portray, and interpret elements of the human condition as they relate to education. In this domain, the significance of research ‘findings’ relates more so to evocation than to verisimilitude. For example, educational life is interrogated as a text with more or less ‘truthlike’ emphasis depending on the research purpose. Indeed, a fiction could be used or multiple texts could be played off against one another for educational purpose. In another formulation, methods of criticism are utilized and herein become a form of philosophy in which analysis and explanation predominate. Both studies could then be subjected to ‘criticism’ that applies typical standards of figurative or logical structure, coherence and the like.

Content. Contemporary literary studies employ processes of investigation that are comprised of pan-disciplinary, interdisciplinary, and new disciplinary formulations. Four principal types are these: (1) Applications of conventional literary analysis and literary criticism taken from the “modern language” tradition; an example is to describe the rhetorical structures in a piece of research. (2) Blurring of this tradition into modes of philosophical, historical, or social science inquiry; an example is to undertake a “history of ideas” for educational purposes from specific text documents. (3) Employment of text-based arts forms such as narratives, poetry, and dramatic scripts; an example is author creation of a short story to evoke educational meaning. (4) Textual products from the fields of cultural studies and “new literacies” in which language use is the focus; an example is analysis of the educational import of a media exemplar.

Methods. Literary studies are based in methodologies of writing and reading and use all of the forms and processes associated with literature and expressive texts. In literary studies, the role of language is central for meaning and exemplification. Further, as in much arts-based research, a marriage of language form and content is significant as much of what is said educationally occurs through how it is said; rhetorical form of the research ‘reporting’ is itself crucial.

As other forms of humanities-oriented research, the undertaking of a literary study also has much to say about educational research itself. The basic structure of this domain is a relationship established between the writer of the study and its reader. Arising from contemporary literary theory as its most important disciplinary source, literary studies shares with all forms of inquiry a degree of openness and indeterminancy. Ambiguity and tentativeness of interpretation are its strength. Undermined are research claims of strong certainty and of acceptance of anything taken for granted. Application of ‘results’ of this research domain are not in a ‘generalizable’ form but connect across particulars as a reader finds meaning for his or her own educational purposes from reading a study written by another.


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