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James Britton’s theory of language and learning and the recent ’affective’ literary critics

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Title: James Britton’s theory of language and learning and the recent ’affective’ literary critics
Author: McBurney, Robert Philip
Degree Master of Arts - MA
Program English
Copyright Date: 1976
Subject Keywords Children -- Language
Abstract: This thesis examines the theories of some recent affective* literary critics in the light of James Britton's theory of language and learning. Until recently, literary criticism generally has not been concerned with the relationship between the text and the reader; it has concerned itself either with the poem as a static verbal object, as in New Criticism, or with the writer-text relationship, as in biographical criticism. With the neglect of the text-reader relationship, the study of literature has also ignored a basic aesthetic principle -- that the relationship between a work of art and its percipient is a dynamic interaction where 'ordinary' experience cannot be separated from aesthetic experience. Chapter I delineates this principle proposed primarily by John Dewey, whose theory is complemented by those of R.G. Collingwood, Susanne Langer, and George Kelly. Chapter II identifies and examines the recent theories of seven literary critics who discuss the 'affective' relationship between the reader and the text -- Norman Holland, Standly Fish, Roland Barthes, Wolfgang Iser, Georges Poulet, Wayne Booth, and Walter Slatoff. Two ideas emerge which are related to the aesthetic principle espoused by John Dewey and others: 1) our aesthetic responses to literature are natural extensions of our mundane selves; and 2) literature as art is still a linguistic utterance, and as such is related to other ordinary kinds of language use. But these ideas are rudimentary and fragmented and there is a need for a more general theory to integrate them. James Britton's theory of language in Chapter III, contained mainly in his book Language and Learning, provides a structure which subsumes these fragmented ideas so that a perspective can be gained on this new criticism. Britton puts forth the view that literature is a manifestation of man's linguistic activity in what he calls the 'spectator role*. This theory integrates the critical ideas arising out of Chapter II and also places literature in a new perspective with other of man's spectator role activities, both linguistic (gossip, personal letter-writing) and non-linguistic (play, dream, fantasy, ritual). Britton points to the importance of spectator role activities in personal development.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2429/19959
Series/Report no. UBC Retrospective Theses Digitization Project [http://www.library.ubc.ca/archives/retro_theses/]

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