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Watching from the shadows : transactional relations between intermediate readers and a polyfocal novel : a case study Philpot, Don K.

Abstract

This case study used an interdisciplinary research design to compare text-favored and reader-identified focalization for a multiperspectival children's novel. Focalization replaces the concept narrative point of view and refers to a two-part perceptual relationship in literary fictions (Rimmon-Kenan, 2002). One sixth-grade class from a K-12 school in a major Western Canadian city participated in this study. These 18 sixth-graders listened to the novel Salt River Times (Mayne, 1980) read aloud to them and completed a four-part written response set for selected chapters. Systemic-functional linguistics (Halliday & Matthiessen, 2004) was used to determine text- and reader-based focalization for focal text and participant response data. The study showed that reader-text relations for the polyfocal novel Salt River Times were narratororiented, an external (detached) orientation in a transactional model that restates Rosenblatt's (1978) transactional theory of reading in terms of a frame of narrative transaction (Stephens, 1992) and a typology of focalization (Rimmon-Kenan, 2002). Participant response data which included the verbal reports of focal participants did not support the conclusion that readers imaginatively became identified character-focalizers in intimate (participatory) transactional relations. A side finding in this study was that participants did engage with a polyfocal novel in terms of aesthetic response, the findings of two previous studies of unidentified polyfocal novels (Gustavson, 2000; Enciso, 1992). The present study points to the need for further research on the effects of polyfocalization to show whether readers benefit from specific instructional strategies that would help them identify polyfocalization.

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