In Search of Lessons: What Students Look for in Stories
Keywords:ethical criticism, efferent reading, aesthetic reading, lessons, invitations
This paper explored students’ search for lessons in stories. Using the generic label for narratives that students encounter, the inquiry focused on the question, what do you look for in stories? A total of one hundred forty-eight students from six sections responded. Coming from two World Literature and four Philippine Literature classes of undergraduate courses (out of the 10 first semester course offerings on introductory literature), these students were mostly in their sophomore year in college; their ages ranged from 17- 22, with a few aging up to 28 years old. Their answers explicitly revealed that indeed students look for lessons. Even when some students look forward to aesthetic pleasure, they also look for lessons. Interestingly, lessons for the students mean something that has a positive impact. In addition, a considerable number manifested their intention to “apply” the lessons and insights they learned as “guide” to live their lives. The results strongly suggest that students’ reading experience in stories may benefit from ethical inquiry as stories have powerful (ethical) invitations. To literature teachers, this study offers to (1) overcome the discomfort at dealing with lessons and to embrace the opportunity to help students develop an ethos that is in Wayne Booth’s words, ethical at its center; and (2) to teach students to read both efferently and aesthetically as Rosenblatt suggests. While the result of our students’ reading experiences may not be immediately detected, the aim is for teachers to constantly provide opportunities for instances of ethical engagement and confrontation.