A Turn Toward Empathy: A Pedagogy for Developing Emotional Literacy with Multicultural Coming-of-AgeNovels

Author: ORCID icon orcid.org/0009-0009-1404-0621
Boivin, Amanda, English - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Carey, Tamika, University of Virginia

Coming-of-age novels reflect social and cultural priorities about adulthood and maturity. By portraying an adolescent’s journey to maturity, these novels define and reinforce what it means to grow up or come of age. In the secondary and post-secondary classroom, coming-of-age literature offers entry points for students to reflect on their own development. But how can instructors guide their students toward deeper literary and emotional analysis? By reading a selection of multicultural coming-of-age novels, I suggest that these texts illuminate the importance of developing emotional awareness and empathy as the characters come of age. This project highlights how the adolescent protagonist’s journey toward emotional literacy in three novels, I am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika Sánchez, Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, and The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett, functions as an avenue to develop empathy and emotional awareness in the classroom. After closely reading the empathetic arcs in the novels, I develop a turning-point pedagogical intervention, which utilizes Jerome Bruner’s idea of turning points in autobiographies to identify pivotal moments of development in texts. The project concludes with a set of lesson plans for each novel, highlighting how instructors can practically apply the turning-point pedagogical framework to develop their students’ emotional literacy and empathy.

MA (Master of Arts)
multicultural literature, inclusive pedagogy, coming-of-age novel, emotional literacy, empathy
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