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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An investigation of the engagement of grade 12 students with a feminist reading of Romeo and Juliet Jones, Sylvia


The study analyses the patterns of engagement of grade twelve students when they are taught a feminist critique of Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. Using reader-response pedagogy in a classroom context of constructivism, the students attempted a feminist reading of the play. Their discussions, journals, essays and presentations were analysed, together with three questionnaires. Three patterns of engagement were discerned: conventional, feminist and inconsistent. Individual students showed all three patterns of engagement during the study. A conventional pattern of engagement was a response to the text which excluded any of the feminist critique. When students exhibited this pattern of engagement, they either did not see the feminism or rejected it. A feminist pattern of engagement was defined by an articulation of the feminist critique of Romeo and Juliet. Some of the characteristics of this engagement pattern were a sense of conviction about the critique and connections made between the critique and other aspects of life. An inconsistent pattern of engagement included some principles of feminist critique but not consistently, so that elements of the conventional pattern of engagement were also observed. Most students moved from a conventional pattern to a feminist or inconsistent pattern by the end of the study. In analysing these engagement patterns, it was found that when students engaged in a feminist pattern, they made a resistant reading of the text. It was also found that reader-response alone was not effective in producing this resistant reading. The students needed to be directed to the critique. Belief in an authoritative reading contributedto a conventional pattern of engagement. Attitudes towards feminism also influenced the pattern of engagement. The study raised the question of how to teach students to read resistantly so they become aware of the socially constructed meaning of the text.

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