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A thematic focus on identity has for years been a mainstay of secondary school literature curricula. Typical curricular units engage students in questions related to what…
A thematic focus on identity has for years been a mainstay of secondary school literature curricula. Typical curricular units engage students in questions related to what it means to come of age and to develop an integrated sense of individual identity in the face of societal pressures toward conformity. This common thematic focus relies on conventional theories of identity as static, located in the individual, and linked to an autonomous self. Further, this focus positions adolescents as incomplete people, lacking fully formed identities. Current sociocultural theories of identity, however, understand identity as multiple, fluid, performed, and shaped by cultural histories and social contexts. Identity, in this view is always in process. Adolescents are fully formed people with identities that are no more or less complete than those of anyone else. Such a view of identity requires a more complex and nuanced conceptualization of adolescents, their capabilities, and their interactions with texts than does an individual view of identity. In this chapter, we outline a framework for identity focused literature instruction that relies on sociocultural understandings of identity, then draw on illustrations from classroom research to explore three key ways that an identity-focused approach challenges current approaches to pre-service teacher education related to literature instruction. Specifically, we explore challenges to the ways that we teach teachers to select and evaluate literary texts, plan literature instruction, and engage in inquiry and dialogue with students.