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The purpose of this study is to construct a conceptual framework for secondary literature education based on the individual reader's experience with a literary work. The defining characteristics of literature education theory are stipulated as follows: (a) Literature education theory is not scientific; (b) Literature education theory, like any educational theory, should be an open system; (c) Literature education theory provides justification for literature as a secondary school subject by specifying the educative value of literature; (d) Literature education theory should contain a concept of growth; (e) Literature education theory should provide general aims or goals for literature instruction; and, (f) Literature education theory should provide general criteria for making specific education decisions at the instructional level. This study recognizes that various contexts influence the nature, direction, and scope of a conceptual framework for literary study. First, literature is viewed in the context of all art and art activity and thereby provides a unique perspective on the potential educative value of literary study. Second, literary art is characterized in the social context governing the conditions of art in contemporary American society, critical relationships between the artist and the social context within which he creates as well as between the consumer or perceiver of art and the social context within which he seeks or chooses not to seek out opportunities to interact with art. The parameters of literary education are marked by recognizing and describing the dynamics of the autonomous individual, socially motivated, the multiple value of literary art to both the individual and society, the inherent limitations of literary art in the study of cultural content, and the stipulations posed by respecting the individual's freedom to choose cultural affiliation, taste and preference. The study concludes by specifying the aims for literature education as follows: (1) The individual aim of literature education at the secondary level is to enable the student to participate fully in a variety of literary arts and literary art publics and to empower the student with the freedom, authority, and ability to direct his or her own interactions with literary art; and (2) The social aim of literature education at the secondary level is to promote the social growth of the student. (Abstract shortened with permission of author.).