Characterizing Johnnieruth: High-school students, “tomboy” characters, and ideological becoming

Barbara G. Pace, Angela Browning


This research was focused on how minority characters are constructed in school-based readings of literature. Using microethnographic discourse analyses of a post-reading discussion, we examined how a small group of high-school students characterized a minority protagonist in a short story. We focused on the intercontextual processes for reading literature, the recognition work done in the group, and the themes that emerged as students described the character. We found that students drew on patterns and processes established in the class, but that these practices were disrupted when students began to describe a protagonist that challenged gender-role expectations. These insights can inform efforts to develop critical literacy in literature classes.


literacy; high school; minority characters; microethnographic discourse analyses; gender-roles; critical literacy

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