LITERATURE TRANSACTION THEORY

Founded by Louise Rosenblatt, Literature Transaction Theory (LTT) warrants that people have unique transactions with all texts they encounter. So, in terms of Identity Based Education (IBE), LTT holds a place in how educators teach texts to students. By recognizing that all students have unique transactions with a text, it validates the existence of diverse thought in the classroom.

Literary texts are the vessel to generate an educational environment that is globally-based and contingent upon students in the classroom. And, they are the linchpin of Identity Based Education. For IBE to succeed requires an educational environment that supports students’ interactions with the texts they study. Literature Transaction Theory is most clearly articulated by the late Louise Rosenblatt (1956), who argued,  “Literature provides a living through, not simply knowledge about” ( p. 66). By living through, Rosenblatt means, “we grow into the moral dimensions appropriate for viewing that world” (p. 264). This living through assists with self-awareness and empathy, as students who live through the world built in texts experience the situations within the plot that demand these skills. In her seminal work, Literature as Exploration (1938), Rosenblatt writes, “literature makes comprehensible the myriad of ways in which human beings meet the infinite possibilities that life offers” (p. 6). Thus, we see that literature offers an insight into the infinite possibilities of life and there exists a potential for students to actively live through these experiences to develop skills like empathy and awareness.

When considering Identity Based Education, Literature Transaction Theory offers an opportunity for students to transact with a diverse text while also experiencing a “living through” where students can practice global learning. In the IBE classroom, the transaction between the reader and the text can take two forms. First, if a student is represented by the texts they are reading, they are empowered through their transaction with a text that reflects their identities in authentic ways. Students live through the experiences of others who may be like them or may be vastly different from them. Through this transaction, they learn as much about their own identity as they do the various identities of those around them. However, if not represented by the text, students still retain an essential transaction. Whether the texts include a race, ability, gender, sexuality, nationality, class, or faith different than theirs, students still live through the experiences of populations different than them. This type of transaction illustrates the circumstances of the respective diverse population, which offers the opportunity to practice global skills and understandings such as awareness, diversity, and empathy (Livingston, Birrell, Boles).

"Literature makes comprehensible the myriad of ways in which human beings meet the infinite possibilities that life offers."

The basis of LTT in IBE is informed by two main texts, both by Rosenblatt: 

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Literature as Exploration
by: Louise M. Rosenblatt
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