Theses Doctoral

"Doing" Close Reading: Investigating Text Complexity and Text Difficulty in the Secondary English Language Arts Context

Budd, Jonathan Stephen

This dissertation examines how the reading of complex literary texts is enacted by select tenth-grade students, and their teachers, both within and outside of the classroom context, with an aim toward deconstructing "close reading" as a preferred pedagogical choice with insufficient theorization or supporting research. First, utilizing an individual think-aloud protocol, the researcher solicited the responses of nine students, and one of their tenth-grade English teachers, as they read for the first time three short story texts selected based on their identification by the Common Core State Standards as texts of complexity for high school students: Chekhov's Home, Poe's The Cask of Amontillado, and Borges' The Garden of Forking Paths. Those case study students were then studied ethnographically via the researcher's participant observation in their tenth-grade English classes for all days over the period of time that a major literary text was taught: Golding's Lord of the Flies. Based on the principles of microethnographic discourse analysis, the research applied open coding to all artifacts: the think-aloud commentaries, the verbatim transcripts of the audiotaped classroom oral discourse, the documents of classroom written discourse, and the verbatim transcripts of ongoing semi-structured individual interviews with the student and teacher case study participants based on themselves as readers both within and outside of their English classroom contexts. Ultimately, the dissertation identifies themes related to text complexity - those elements inherent to the text itself as perceived by the individual reader during the reading act - and related to text difficulty - those elements situated within a contextualized environment of the reading act, including individual reader, text, classroom, tasks, peers, and teacher - to offer provisional conclusions with the intent of reconceptualizing Rosenblatt's transactional zone toward a stronger theory of how adolescents read literary texts.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
English and Comparative Literature
Thesis Advisors
Vinz, Ruth
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
April 28, 2015