Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Ann D. Thompson

Second Advisor

David B. Owen


Given the proliferation of theoretical discussions in literary criticism, teachers find it difficult to choose a practical approach that provides students with a meaningful literary experience. To put students back in touch with literature, however, their experience in the learning environment needs to be considered. In the exploration of experience, John Dewey's theory of experience, a literary theory known as reader-response, and Louise Rosenblatt's transactional theory will provide the framework. My thesis is that the literary "transaction" between the reader (student) and the text is limited when the reader uses only verbal symbols to express experience. For some students the transaction may involve other meaningful symbol systems;Arguments that point out that an important part of experience includes multiple perceptions of reality can be found in other fields, such as psychology, aesthetics, pedagogy, and Mathematics; In addition, my personal responses to literature add support to the legitimacy of multiple perception, particularly, in the area of visual response. The implication of developing this perspective for teachers is that by focusing on the variety of experiences that students meet in living, teachers can help students to become performers in the literary event;Based on the student as performer, an alternative approach may involve a variety of strategies: approaching the literary event as a risk-taking activity, encouraging students to express their own emotional and intellectual engagement through nonverbal symbols, using student/teacher time for conversations about literary experiences, creating an in-class environment that involves students in the conflicts that arise as a result of multiple experiences, and organizing student participation in activities that lead to making an art object. When applying these teaching techniques, testing and evaluation may also reflect the open-ended quality of student performance.



Digital Repository @ Iowa State University,

Copyright Owner

Sonja Pfister Darlington



Proquest ID


File Format


File Size

194 pages