Puzzle Solving & Modding

Sean Connors asked me to join him in writing a piece on close reading and New Criticism related to the Common Core Standards for the journal Reader: Essays in Reader-Oriented Theory, Criticism, and Pedagogy. What resulted from a couple days of writing when our respective universities were closed because of snow storms was a piece in which we offer two metaphors to consider the practice of Close Reading: puzzle solving and modding.

In an effort to invite you to consider the pre-print version of the manuscript, I share the following excerpt and chart below (that doesn’t appear in the article). Sean and I see this piece as experimental and exploratory, and we’d love to hear what understandings this piece mediates for you.

In the puzzle metaphor, meaning is primarily located in the text, embedded within its many facets and waiting to be unlocked, or solved, by the reader. Like a puzzle, the text has particular solutions that have been worked out in advance by teachers (expert puzzle solvers). Within this frame, teaching reading involves a patient process of helping students arrive at a pre-determined meaning in the interest of solving increasingly more difficult puzzles. The modding metaphor disrupts the puzzle solving metaphor in some productive ways. In the modding metaphor, the text mediates meaning making. That is, a text represents meaning making potential in relationship to a constellation of considerations, including the ongoing development of genres (e.g., Bakhtin), the social processes of establishing relationships among texts (e.g., Bloome and Egan-Robertson), the literacy practices brought to bear on the text (e.g., Barton and Hamilton; Street), and the sanctioned and unsanctioned interpretations of a text within a given group of people (e.g., Fish) or affinity space (e.g., Gee). (Connors & Rish 14)

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 Works Cited

Connors, Sean P., and Rish, Ryan M. Puzzle Solving and Modding: Two Metaphors for Examining the Politics of Close Reading” Reader: Essays in Reader-Oriented Theory, Criticism, and Pedagogy 67 (2014): xx-xx. Print.



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