Using Ricoeur's mimetic process to examine the identities of struggling adolescent readers

Coombs, Dawan
May 2012
English Teaching: Practice & Critique (University of Waikato);May2012, Vol. 11 Issue 1, p82
Academic Journal
Building on the principles of philosophical hermeneutics, Ricoeur (1984) used the concept of narrative to explain how individuals interpret their experiences and make sense of seemingly disconnected elements of life by turning them into the stories. Narrative identities represent the coming together of the stories individuals tell, as well as those told about them by collectivities and by others (Bruner, 1986; Kearney, 2002). These ideas prove particularly relevant to literacy studies because identity influences how individuals make sense of their experiences, including their interactions with texts (McCarthey & Moje, 2000). Using the methodological framework of philosophical hermeneutics, this article discusses how examining elements that make up stories, what Ricoeur (1984) called pre-understandings, offered insights into the narrative identities of adolescent struggling readers. By examining stories shared by one student from a larger multiple-case study, the author demonstrates the way students emplot and interpret their narratives, ultimately acting as agents in the telling of their narratives and the authoring of their identities. Preliminary examinations of these narratives indicate extensive dialogues between adolescents and the pre-understandings they use to construct their narratives about themselves as readers. The significance of others -- particularly teachers -- becomes evident in the construction of students' narrative identities.


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