Retracing Rosenblatt: A textual archaeology

Mark Dressman, Joan Parker Webster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this archaeological investigation of the work of Louise Rosenblatt, we read and highlighted all text-level differences between the 1st (1938) and 5th (1995) editions of Literature as Exploration. We categorized each type of revision, traced a sample of each to the edition in which the change was made, and then extended our analysis to 70 passages that were chosen at random from the first edition and compared to revisions, deletions, or additions to the 5th edition of the book. Beyond stylistic revisions our analysis suggested a shift in Rosenblatt's persona from 1st-person colleague to 3rd-person critic or expert; a substitution of the term transaction for interaction without extended explanation or revision; a reduction of the agency of authors and teachers; reductions in the description of the social context in which literary experiences occur and in the mention of literature's ideological function; and separations of the practical from the literary and of social scientific from literary understanding. To account for these changes, we considered the sociohistorical context in which Rosenblatt has worked and speculate that they were the result of a combination of factors such as editorial updating, changes in authorial purpose and influence on Rosenblatt's thinking, and a fundamental difference between Rosenblatt's understanding of the term transaction and the way in which the term was used by her primary theoretical influence, John Dewey. We conclude with a consideration of the implications of Rosenblatt's legacy for literature education in an increasingly pluralistic world.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)110-145
Number of pages36
JournalResearch in the Teaching of English
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language


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