Kathleen Yancey contends that “[l]earning…requires scientific concepts, spontaneous concepts, and  interplay between them. As in the case of tying a knot, we use this dialogue to focus on the end-the knot-as well as on the processes enabling us to achieve the end” (14). Knots can metaphorically represent the areas in our thinking that we might need to work out, to untie and expand. Knots are also tangible objects, things we can physically create. We can tie them and untie them.

In the literature classroom we engage multiple voices: theorists, critics, authors, professors, and students. Often times we jump from concept to concept quickly as we attempt to “untie” narratives with the tools at our disposal. What happens if we slow down that process? How about an activity in which we can literally hand our students some knotted rope on which each knot corresponds with the central themes of the primary text or class. As the discussions progress, the knots can be untied, and create a physical and functioning metaphor for the process of engaging literature, the value of research, and demonstrate the way ideas can be expanded once they have been adequately explored. Whereas Yancey uses the knot to represent the process, why not represent the process with actual knots?

Yancey, Kathleen. “Teaching Literature as Reflective Practice: Context, Vocabulary, Curriculum” Teaching Literature as Reflective Practice. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English,2004. 1-19.

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