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Drama and Literary Interpretation: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Praxis
Perley, Mary-Ellen (2001). Drama and Literary Interpretation: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Praxis.
My research explores the application of a procedure of oral communication proposed by D. Davidson to Secondary English literature instruction. Participants begin with prior theories of understanding and engage in a continuing adjustment that leads to a passing theory if they access the shared domain of understanding. I applied this procedure to the teaching of literature, suggesting if we wanted to really engage students in literature we needed to set up the opportunity in the class to access the world of the literature, the author, the students' individual understanding and a shared world of experience. In this way, students move beyond a Reader's Response to a deeper understanding of the literature - an understanding that is internal and visceral and thus long lasting. To do this requires the use of multiple sign systems provided by process drama strategies. Through these strategies the students can access the shared world and the world of the test and create a text' through the drama.
My research demonstrates how meaning making is enhanced and enriched in an experiential environment. This paper outlines how process drama can be used as an instructional methodology for English literature. Not only does this approach demonstrate a concrete method to facilitate the representational strand of the Western Canadian Protocol for the four Western Provinces and two Territories (1996), it also exemplifies the concept of praxis in this interdisciplinary context.
This paper was presented at the May 2001 conference of the American Society of Cybernetics. The conference theme centered on The Praxis of Cybernetics and the Cybernetics of Praxis. I believe the discussion in this paper speaks to a very basic premise of second order cybernetics as espoused by Humberto Maturana when he defines cybernetics as "the science and art of understanding". Human understanding and indeed the essence of humanness may be said to reside in the art and science of communication. It was my concern about understanding that prompted my research. I found I was dissatisfied with the current reader response practices that framed the interaction of students with literature. The more I examined this instructional methodology the more I was convinced there was a level of understanding missing, a level of human connectedness that needed to be addressed. Thus I proposed an approach to the study of literature which used the multi-symbol system of drama communication to engage students with the single system of literature as an avenue to a richer interaction and deeper understanding of the literature. This study elaborated the manner in which students communicated with each other, the text and the world of the text. The convergence of these three through the use of drama lead to a unique and enriched understanding of the literature based on the experience of humanness, the humanness of student and character.
The present approach to literary interpretation has been epitomized by the reader-response theory promoted by such thinkers as Iser (1978), Fish (1980), and Rosenblatt (1991). This approach to interpretation is framed subjectively and is fine as far as it goes. However, there are literary theorists who suggest that reader-response does not go far enough in addressing the complexity of literary interpretation. Further, because it is subjective, it cannot build a world of contextual experience in which the students can engage the literature.
As an English and drama teacher, I felt there was something missing in the instruction of English, something that could move the students to become more empathetically engaged with the literature before them. After attending a summer course taught be Jonothan Neelands, I believed I could enliven my English class by accessing certain process drama conventions. Through these process drama conventions I believed I could create an environment in which the students could experience literature through all their senses and thus live the humanness of the text and its world.
My primary research question became "In what ways can process drama conventions be integrated into the English curriculum to enrich meaning-making in the study of literature and in the area of writing?" Before embarking on my research, I grounded my ideas with the theories of several thinkers in the area of literature and drama. The literary foundation of my work comes from Donald Davidson (1986), as adopted and adapted by Thomas Kent (1993). These theorists, amongst others, suggest a reconfiguration for approaching an understanding of literature. The possibilities of such a reconfiguration suggest significant meaning-making for students. The drama foundation for my work comes from such people as Dorothy Heathcote (1995), Cecily O'Neill (1995), B.J. Wagner (1998), Jonothan Neelands (1995) and Ken Byron (1986). These thinkers and practitioners of process drama provide the means to realize the possibilities of a reconfiguration. The resulting interactions will make articulate the potential of the interplay of process drama and English.
The Voices of Literary Theorists
The basis for a new literary theory comes from the thinking of Donald Davidson (1986), an analytical philosopher. Davidson posits a theory of "communicative interaction" (Kent, 1993, p. 37). Davidson suggests there is a triangulation in human communication among the speakers and a shared world. In order to begin the interaction each participant must come with a "prior theory" (Davidson, 1986, p. 442) in other words a predisposition to interpret and a belief that the other is using an appropriate interpretive framework. Any initial encounter requires what Davidson terms "interpretative charity" (Dasenbrock, 1992, p. 40). This interpretative charity presumes a "backdrop of similarity" (p. 40). As the interaction progresses differences are encountered requiring the prior theories to be transformed. A constant readjustment of prior theories leads ultimately to the "passing theory" (Davidson, 1986, p. 442). The passing theory relies on what is intended and what does take place as a result of the ongoing subtle adjustments in interpretation. These continued adjustments rely in turn on the acceptance and access of a shared world. With the convergence of the participants' passing theories triangulation has been completed. Therefore Davidson's communicative interaction can be characterized as the situation where the best possible agreement of meaning has occurred.
Other literary theorists have adopted and adapted Davidson's idea. One such theorist is Thomas Kent, who believes Davidson's philosophy of communicative interaction is critical for an understanding of literary interpretation. Kent positions the reader, the text and the shared world on the three apices of the triangle. (see Fig. 1) Further, he believes that Davidson's notions are an excellent "critique of the reader-oriented hermeneutic theory" (Kent, 1993, p.37).
Thomas Kent's Theory: Adopting and adapting Davidson's theory (Figure 1)
Kent does not deny the reader-response theory of such thinkers as Rosenblatt (1991), Iser (1978), and Fish (1980), but suggests this approach does not adequately address the complexity of literary interpretation. In the reader-oriented hermeneutic theory, the reader views the text through "his own subjective conceptual framework" (Kent, 1993, p. 40). This subjective conceptual framework belongs to Fish's "interpretive community" (Iser as cited in Kent, 1993, p. 40). All that is knowable is contained within the interpretive community. The conceptual framework of that community clearly separates the community members from others and the world. Metaphorically speaking the reader response approach becomes a straight line, the reader is point A and the text is point B; interpretation is limited to these two points. Kent suggests there must be a third point that exists outside the individual and the text. This third point is the shared world of human experience from which both reader and text draw their understanding and meaning.
Reed Way Dasenbrock, a literary theorist in the study of multicultural literature, has applied the work of Davidson and Kent to his studies. A discussion of Dasenbrock's theory is applicable if multicultural literature is ANY literature that is separated from the reader in space and time. Dasenbrock (1992) begins with the idea that the present teaching of English operates within the confines of "the position of possession, the position of the expert" (1992, p. 39). He maintains that this position is not the approach that should be taken. Rather, he postulates that literary interpretation must move from "a scene of possession" (p.39) where possession of knowledge or the lack of such possession is demonstrated, to "a scene of learning" (p.39). The scene of learning presupposes that neither teacher nor student will be expert'. What needs to be understood is that "knowledge does not come first and control the experience of the work of art; the experience of the work comes first and leads the experiencer towards knowledge" (p.39-40). We become experts as we experience. We approach literature with the sense that there is a meaning given it by the author and that the experience of interpreting this meaning moves from "an assumption of similitude to a location of and understanding of difference" (p. 41). This movement from prior theory to passing theory causes change in the interpreter. Accessing the shared world permits the possibility of change. The scene of learning suggested by Dasenbrock is not one of certainty or correct interpretation but of change.
Michael Smith (1998) lends his voice to this discussion when he suggests that in approaching any multicultural text, (any text remote in time and space), it is not sufficient to rely on the subjectivist response. Smith suggests that every author creates his work for an audience. The author relies "on prior assumptions about precisely what values, experiences, habits, and familiarity with artistic conventions his or her readers will bring to the text" (p. 5). This hypothetical audience is Smith's "authorial audience" (p. 5). In order for the reader to understand the text s/he must come to some understanding of the traits of the authorial audience. This understanding will primarily reside in the shared world, the third apex of Davidson's triangle. When a reader completes this triangulation then literature may be said to have helped move the reader to "develop an ethical respect for others" (p.120) and to have achieved the perspective of the "authorial reader" (p. 120). It is inadequate in Smith's estimation to work within a relativistic hermeneutic framework. "The notion of authorial audience challenges the pedagogy of personal relevance by establishing the importance of seeing things through a lens of an other's making" (p.128). In order to achieve this perspective a certain environment is required.
At this point let us turn to those who posit a means to create the requisite environment. Dorothy Heathcote, a drama theorist and practitioner, suggests that educational drama sets the scene for walking a mile in an other's shoes. The experience is more than intellectual; process drama permits students to see' with all seven intelligences (Gardner as cited in Smagorinsky, 1995, p.20-21). The richness of creating the as if' world of the drama facilitates deeper understandings. By encouraging students "to imagine the lives of the characters or enact the sensibilities of the author" (p. 137) drama can promote ethical respect through direct experience. The text is no longer a foreign object; it is integral to the reader's life.
In addition to Dorothy Heathcote, Cecily O'Neill (1995, a), Peter Smagorinsky (1995), and Michael Smith (1998) have also posited examples of a new approach. All of these thinkers suggest the need for actively engaging the reader through new interpretive strategies. These strategies allow for the transformation of interpretation through "transmediation" (Smagorinsky, 1995, p. 25), the process of meaning-making which results from interpreting one kind of text through another. Process drama affords students the means to this transmediation.
Process drama provides students and teachers with a base for framing a new creative learning experience through the concept of liminal space. The term liminal (limen is Latin for threshold) is borrowed from the work of anthropologist Victor Turner (1982). It refers to a social state of initiation or rite of passage. In this situation the individual is in a state of being not what he was, nor what he will become; he is literally on the threshold; he is in the process of transforming. O'Neill (1995), a drama theorist and practitioner, articulates this idea in relation to the creative process. "Liminal defines a space and time betwixt and between' one context of meaning and action and another" (O'Neill, 1995, p. 32). This liminal space allows a world of play where the participants reconfigure the familiar as different. This de-familiarization leads on to new perspectives of the world through "separation, transition and transformation" (p. 32). The concept of liminality also applies to the teacher's role within the creative space. McLaren (1988) coined the term liminal servant' in reference to the teacher's role in facilitating the dramatic process and creating an environment of educational exploration. "Liminal servants do not see themselves as instructors or transmitters of knowledge, but allow students to embody or incarnate' knowledge". They cast off authority as speakers so that the students can claim some authority of their own" (O'Neill, 1989, p. 155). The procedure of embodying understanding within the liminal space situates process drama as the progressive instructional approach requested by literary theorists such as Smith, and Dasenbrock.
Within the liminal space process drama may well provide the creative strategy to engage the shared world necessary for communicative interaction. O'Neill (1995) and Byron (1986) are two thinkers who recognize the exciting possibilities of the dramatic liminal space as a new creative learning process. Each has a particular lens with which to focus their discussion. O'Neill explicates the theory of process drama and its practical application in the teaching of drama, while Byron applies process drama strategies directly to the English curriculum. Both illuminate engagement in learning through the liminal in different ways. Both also refer to text, but the meanings are glossed differently. For O'Neill the text is the drama as it evolves, while for Byron text is the written word that is being engaged by the students through the drama process.
A Voice for Process Drama
The term "process drama" is the signifier for a specific approach to drama, which entails the sense of on-going, continuing development as opposed to the product' nature of improvisation and the entailing sense of finality (O'Neill, 1995, p. xv). "Like theatre, the primary purpose of process drama is to establish an imagined world, a dramatic "elsewhere" created by the participants as they discover, articulate, and sustain fictional roles and situations" (p. xvi). Process drama, unlike improvisation, is a "series of episodes or scenic units" (p. xvi). These in turn are composed, rehearsed, and revised as they emerge from the ongoing meaning- making. As the students work within the classroom setting collaborative negotiation is an integral ingredient to the process. This ingredient permits the participants to alter the episode at will, as well as their relation to it and within it. The resulting process encompasses a very human interplay with meaning developing even as it does in the world outside the drama.
Unlike improvisation, process drama allows all people to work simultaneously; this includes the teacher in the capacity of playwright, director or participant. In these roles the teacher can subtly shape the dramatic context. The teacher as the liminal servant functions as co-creator rather than as authority with the right' answer. The result is a collaborative student-centered environment, where students experience a shared world and transform their experiences, prior theories, into significant understandings, passing theories. This teaching strategy effectively removes the concern Applebee (1992) had with the teacher-centered classroom.
Accessing the shared world and creating significant understandings requires a foundation, something O'Neill calls pre-text, "the source or impulse for the drama". It is the reason of the work" (O'Neill, p. xv). This pre-text is important because it carries the meaning of the text to be created. This is the tissue of reality, the underlying essence of the entity to be'. In a drama setting the pre-text may be an article in a newspaper, an artifact (prop), a theme from a piece of literature, a poem, a painting.
A Voice Suggesting Integration
Ken Byron (1986), an English educator, delineates the need to use process drama strategies to assist students in accessing the shared world and engaging the authorial audience with texts that are remote in time and space. In his book, Byron (1986) examines the epistemological underpinnings for combining drama and English and its practical application. First it is necessary to understand where the two disciplines are situated regarding the presentation and acquisition of knowledge. " English is about working on the knowledge we have acquired from the unsystematic processes of living, about giving expression to it and making it into a firmer and more conscious kind of living" (Medway as cited in Byron, 1986, p.19). "Drama enables children to understand what they know, but do not yet know they know" (Heathcote as cited in Byron, 1986, p.19). Byron concludes, "Both can (as Heathcote and Medway indicate) bring into consciousness our implicit, intuitive and affective understandings, so that we can examine them, employ them and link them with our intellectual understandings in a holistic way of knowing ourselves and the world. Both mediate these understandings through fictional forms, in which language occupies a central place" (p. 20). Ultimately process drama can give expression to the fictional literary form by creating an avenue to the shared world thereby ensuring the communicative triangulation is completed.
Narration uses a single sign system, the written text. Drama uses multiple sign systems in combination. Narration accesses a different use of time, which tends to be linear, sequential, and onward moving. Drama dwells in the present (p. 74).
Drama allows students to move beyond the single sign system of the written word. It utilizes a multiple sign system: written, verbal, silence, movement, stillness, spatial relationship, lighting, and costume (Byron, 1986, p. 77). Therefore, through its multiple sign system "Drama mode allows us to elaborate the narrative and to expand our apprehensions of the entire pattern of events, attitudes, behaviours and interactions which the narrative represents selectively" (p. 75). The literary text is not irrevocably altered by the elaboration but the meaning of the text is illuminated through the interactional experience.
This approach allows for different methods of processing information and many ways of engaging and synthesizing information. All these are available to the students and each sign system provides another dimension for meaning making. Taken together these sign systems allow a transmediation from one art form to another. Such transformation enhances the interpretation of the literature by requiring a close attention to the essence of the material. During the transformation students make the text their own, not peripheral to their world, but integral to their world. The text is informed and re-created by the reader/participant and in turn it informs and re-creates the reader/participant's perceptions, enlivening meaning and deepening awareness.
Voices Articulating an Integrated Approach
The voices reviewed here speak towards a more integrated teaching model of drama and English. Based on Davidson's (1986) philosophy of communicative interaction, the literary theories of Dasenbrock (1993) and Kent (1993) affirm that, for communication to be complete there must be triangulation. This communication structure can only happen with the interaction of a reader, a text and the shared world. When connection is made with the other', the shared world, the prior theories readers have brought to their understanding of the text are reconfigured and will ultimately evolve into a passing theory. Process drama provides the linking mechanism that moves the reader from prior theory to passing theory. Further, process drama affords the reader the opportunity to achieve the position of the authorial reader because it permits a way of knowing a remote time and space through an affective medium. Therefore the teaching of literature through the strategies of process drama integrates the latest thinking in literary criticism.
Within one class there exist multiple ways of knowing and synthesizing knowledge. Therefore we need a structure which accommodates and celebrates this multiplicity. Process drama does this; it accommodates the seven intelligences, and provides "validation of these ways of knowing not otherwise available" (O'Neill, 1995.p.16) in an English classroom. When students are able to synthesize their passing theory through writing the responses demonstrate deeper awareness and sensitivity to the original text. Process drama in the English classroom is in essence the construction of a text from a text and generating other texts.
We have seen that English and drama require "the deliberate setting up of conditions in which significant experiences occur"(O'Neill, 1995, p. 23). A valid question for educators is: "Do these significant experiences have cognitive content?" The fact is that there are aspects of drama that clearly demonstrate the demanding and sophisticated cognitive process inherent in the art form. Not only does drama operate in multiple sign systems; it requires the ability to use imagination and sensibility, to recognize the possibilities and limitation within the medium. In addition, it demands the need for attention to detail, nuance and implication. It also fosters the willingness to seize upon the unexpected during learning and actualize it. Besides these, the cognitive elements are present in the readiness to change the intended goal, in the cooperative nature of the process and in the use of each other's ideas to foster the creative process. Clearly, then, multi-leveled cognition operates in this approach.
In sum, if Davidson (1986), Dasenbrock (1993), Kent (1993), and Smith (1998) provide the theoretical grounding for this thesis regarding the discipline of English, then the theories and applications of O'Neill (1995) and Byron (1986) clearly underpin and demonstrate the benefits of integrating process drama and literature. By placing students in a creative or liminal situation, they can be freed from many of the restraints that hamper their educational achievements today. This process drama approach can lead to enriched learning experiences and meaning-making in the study of literature.
Putting Theory into Practice
I wished to see first hand how the integration of process drama and English literature instruction could work. My initial question centered on what ways process drama conventions could be integrated into the English classroom to enrich meaning-making in the study of literature and enhance writing. Therefore, I devised a research project in which I had the dual roles of teacher and researcher. I taught the play Antigone by Sophocles from the text The Three Theban Plays translated by R. Fagles to an English 20 class using several different process drama strategies to create the other text' and assist the students in connecting with and understanding the shared world.
This research covered a time frame of 13 one hour periods. The play was divided into 7 discrete units on which the students were tested and answered questions in groups. The process drama conventions were accessed roughly on every second day so that the students were working with at least two units at a time.
In order to set some level of trust and introduce the students to the use of drama conventions on as low-level a threat threshold as possible, I began the work with the use of tableau or still image. This drama conventions helps to builds a context for the as if' world which will continue to develop along side the world of the text. In addition, this drama convention gets the students interest. After explaining the how of tableau the students were divided into prearranged groups and asked to present in tableau form of either the beginning, middle or end of the struggle of individual vs. state. After each presentation the class went through the process of debriefing. This allowed the class to say what and who they saw and explain why they interpreted the image in the way that they did. Following this, the group spoke about what they were doing and a discussion ensued regarding what was and was not communicated and why.
Once the students had all gone through this first process drama convention, I added outer and inner dialogue or as Jonothan Neelands calls it thought tracking. These two dialogue situations create the concept of sub-text. For this work each student in the group was responsible for speaking both the inner and outer dialogue while frozen in the tableau. However, it is possible to do this work with two actors per character; one speaks the inner thoughts while the other speaks the outer dialogue. The use of outer and inner dialogue continues to develop the narrative and deepen student commitment. After each presentation the class debriefed what they saw and heard.
I took the next drama work from the pre-text' of the opening scene of Antigone. Antigone is asking her sister, Ismene to help her bury the body of their brother, Polynieces. The students brainstormed situations where one individual could be asking a friend or family member to help in what might be considered an act of social conscience. The students chose one of these and showed the situation first in tableau alone and then redid their scene with inner and outer dialogue. Each time these moments were rehearsed, presented, and debriefed.
As we read through the sections into which I had divided the play, I would bring in large, line drawings of masks to depict the characters which were in that particular section of the play. These representations became the basis for another process drama convention called role on the wall. These images became the repository of words and/or phrases which the students either took directly from the play or chose themselves and then wrote on the images. The students were asked to keep in mind such aspects as colour, shape, size, and placement when putting their choices up. This convention was on going and a new mask was added when a new character entered the play. It was important to always debrief the choices made by the groups for the role on the wall convention. The students needed to be able to articulate why they had chosen the word or phrase that they had, why they had presented it in the manner they had and why they had placed it where they had on the mask. This way the class was able to share their evolving understanding of the characters and their response to those characters. The role on the wall convention continues to build context and interest.
The next process drama convention I introduced to the students was the use of role cards. This convention presents the student with additional characters not in the play but suggested by the play. I created such roles as the guards who were set to watch over the body of Polynieces to make sure no one tried to bury it. Other role cards included such groups of people as the citizens of Thebes, the palace servants, the friends of Haemon or the friends and relatives of the Chorus. The role cards were always related to the particular sections we were dealing with in class. I presented these characters to the class and then introduced new process drama conventions which allowed the students to create more complex as if' worlds. Each new convention presented the group who chose it with a new challenge in exploring the concepts of the play and their understanding of that concept. With the first set of role cards, I introduced hot-seating, overheard conversations, and this way/that way. Each of the new conventions played its role in engaging the students with the original text. Hot-seating built context, overheard conversations developed narrative, and this way/that way developed reflection and analysis. Once the students chose their role cards and the convention they discussed, rehearsed and presented their scenes. Following each presentation, the performing group and the class debriefed what was done and understood.
I should note here that I made sure the students knew they could use the original convention of tableau with inner and outer-dialogue as this convention was a comfort threshold for some groups.
After reading the next two sections of the play, writing a quiz and working in groups on specific questions the students were ready to undertake the next roles cards and process drama conventions. The groups presented their perspective on the sections using the same drama conventions as before plus one new one called slide show. Slide show developed the evolving and parallel narrative and deepened the students' commitment to the text and their own creation. The same process of discussion, rehearsal, presentation, and debriefing was followed.
For the final paired sections of the play I introduced two new groups of role cards and two new drama conventions, giving witness and interviews/interrogations. Giving witness developed refection and analysis, while interviews/interrogations developed the student generated narrative and deepened their commitment to the text. At this point, I felt the students could handle and benefit from the addition of some very simple costumes. The students did indeed enjoy this aspect and it also became another method of demonstrating who they were portraying.
The last section of the play became the prompt for the last set of role cards and the dramatis personae for the trial scene. The dramatis personae included the gods cited in the play, the characters of the play and the roles that were developed beyond the ancient text. One group member randomly picked a coloured paper from a hat thus providing the defendant for the trial scene. If they picked pink, they defended Antigone, if blue, they defended Creon.
The trial scene was used as the moment of truth that provided a final episode for the work and encouraged analysis, synthesis and reflection. The students had available to them any of the drama conventions that had been used before. They were encouraged to prepare ideas and dialogue at home before discussing, rehearsing and presenting the following day. At the end of each scene the students debriefed what they had seen and heard and recorded any pertinent comments made by characters. These comments would become material to be used in their final written assignment. We also held a general discussion of what the students believed to be the greatest crime and why. Was it the crime of disobeying the law of the ruler or was it the crime of disobeying the laws of the gods?
The students called on their experiences as various characters, what they had heard about the situation at the Theban court, and what was said at the trial scenes to construct their arguments. They wrote in role as a lawyer defending either Antigone's action or Creon's action. This final assignment was written as a summation to the jury comprised of gods and humans. The students wrote in class, but were encouraged to prepare at home.
Conclusions Drawn from the Research
As I watched the students work with and through the process drama conventions I believe I witnessed the triangulation which Davidson, Kent, Dasenbrock and Smith claim are essential for understanding literature which is distant to students in time and space. Clearly, while in the as if' world of the drama the students were re-creating at some level the world of the text. This world is Sophocle's and it is the students', indeed it is the shared world. They were able to explore within the safety of the classroom feelings and situations that were perhaps quite foreign to them, yet built upon the foundation of human strengths and weaknesses, human conflicts of values, and of age. The students moved from their prior theories to passing theories thus enacting Davidson's communicative interaction where the best possible agreement of meaning occurred. As the students achieved the communicative interaction they were also as Michael Smith maintains, approaching the position of the "authorial reader".
The free movement from one apex of the Kentian' triangle to another was made possible by the use of the process drama conventions. It was through this experiential mode that the students were able to see the world of the text through another's eyes or as Dorothy Heathcote would have it walking a mile in another's shoes. The affective understanding that follows from this kind of engagement takes the text off the page and puts it into the student's heart. The main characters of Antigone and Creon are no longer simply characters in a play, but real people, real people with whom the students have talked and talked as, about whom the students have talked not as themselves but as members of the Theban society. These characters and their world are now integral to the student's world. The empathy engendered for either Antigone or Creon, as articulated in their summations, moves the students to Michael Smith's ethical respect for others.
In all honesty, I cannot say that every student was equally responsive to every activity I presented in class. However, I can say that the overriding response was a positive one to the use of process drama conventions to teach literature.
"However, the way I see it is, it was something new and something to get used to and at first it seemed like a pain, but I found that as we kept it up and got familiar people, including myself, got used to it and I do think it could have a very positive effect on the learning process."
My research indicates that the students were engaged with the drama and came away from this involvement with a sound understanding of the play Antigone.
"" especially when we had those skits, they were "DA BOMBEST", they were fun and we learned the play from different perspectives, thus enhancing our opinion towards characters".I wish it could have been longer because I've never had as much fun in this English class."
They were able to relate the work we had done to the written assignment. This was most clearly shown in the voice' the students used to speak' to the jury in the summations they wrote.
"Antigone is a very strong and caring individual who will do what she knows is right even though others may think she is wrong. Members of the jury just think your brother is killed and is just left as a corpse to rot without anyone giving it a proper burial. How could anyone just sit and watch and not take any action over such a crime? I have heard from Haemon and all of Antigone's friends and they tell me what a wonderful person she truly was. Now how can you let such an innocent and caring person die for taking action on what is right?"
I was concerned throughout the research that I had perhaps thrown too many new conventions at the students and too many role cards. However, they continually surprised me with their eagerness and adaptability.
"This new way of learning and teaching made me more perceptive and interested in English."
Once the role cards and conventions were introduced and discussed briefly, the students were ready to start into their group discussion and rehearsal. Of particular note was the fact that very soon into the drama work groups were asking to be allowed to work in the hallway where they had more room and privacy to develop their scenes. When I checked on these groups I found that indeed they were working consistently on their scenes.
The debriefing and student journal entries revealed that they had developed a clear understanding of the issues of the play and strong feelings for the major characters in the play. This was also evident for the most in the summations that they wrote.
"I think Creon did what best he could. Put yourself in his place for a moment. Would you act differently? No. That's why Creon's family have always led Thebes. They are great leaders and make the hard decisions when they are needed, even if it means punishing your own flesh and blood for the good of the state. I believe Creon is an exceptional leader and should be honoured not accused."
I feel safe in saying that the students demonstrated flexibility in approaching and working with the process drama conventions, indicated a growth in their understanding of the play and its issues and transferred their experiential knowledge to the summations they wrote. All these observations point to a richer engagement with the text through the transmediation of interpreting one text through another. By applying this new interactive interpretive mode to the study of literature students were able to blend their intuitive, implicit and affective understanding with their intellectual understanding. This blending led to a more enriched appreciation of their understanding, the text and the shared world.
The opportunity that the use of process drama afforded students in accessing the shared world, the world of the text and their personal world of understanding permitted an occasion for the exploration of humanness. In this learning endeavour the multiple symbol system of drama supported and enriched the written word of the literary text while deepening the student understanding of the text and their relation to that text. The students through the imaginative play of drama were released from the strictures of traditional learning codes and experienced the text of study and the text' of their own creation. This tacit means of experiencing through the imaginative, intuitive and affective domains of play made real for the students the very humanness that is the original stimulus for the literature they studied and led to a more intimate understanding of what it means to be human. They experienced what it means to be human and shared that with each other. They engaged in a system of communication through art to human understanding.
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