Elise Seip Tønnessen
Elise Seip Tønnessen

Elise Seip Tønnessen has previous experience as a teacher and journalist, but for most of her working life she has been teaching literature and media in Teacher Education, and also teaching general courses in multimodal communication and semiotics. Her research interests include reading research and children's literature, as well as reception studies in contexts inside and out of school.

Professor Tønnessen has published widely on reading (Å lese I alle fag, with Eva Maagerø 2006/2015; Den andre leseopplæringa, with Agnes-Margrethe Bjorvand 2002/2012), on children and the media (Generasjon.com, 2007), children's literature (Inn i teksten - ut i livet, with Marianne Lillesvangstu and Hanne Dahll-Larssøn 2007; Jakten på fortellinger; barne- og ungdomslitteratur på tvers av medier 2014).

The literature classroom in a mediatized world


Throughout our educational history reading of literature has filled a number of functions: We read literature for the aesthetic experience, but also to expand our experience of the world around us. We read to be personally enlightened, but also to be part of a cultural community. In the classroom literature may represent reading practice, moral insights, cultural knowledge or entertainment, to mention but a few.

Modern society has been characterized as mediatized; we live in a culture where the logics and formats of the media set the standards for other areas of social life (Hjarvard 2008). For literature, the consequences may be seen in processes of convergence, a "flow of content across multiple media platforms" (Jenkins 2006). When the 'same' story is available in a book as well as on big and small screens, then how do we define the literary experience? What difference does it make whether the student reads the words, has an app read them to her, watches the movie, or plays the game? Or more likely - what may come out of a situation where students move between these media and access the literary story as a cultural package?

This situation raises several questions: Will mediatization lead to an increased gap between reading for education and reading/watching/playing for fun? Or can we develop literary didactics to bridge the gap and include the strong drive of fandom (Jenkins 2006) in educational engagement with literature? And how does the medium, and the processes of remediation (Bolter & Grusin 1999) and multimodal transformation influence the literary experience: Is the medium the message, as McLuhan claimed?

These questions will be discussed with examples from my empirical research on picture book reading, on working with remediations (book, film and app) in the classroom, and on children's media experiences outside school.

Working with literature across modes and media also invites rethinking literary didactics in terms of the social settings in which we read, understand and enjoy literature; including gender issues, social inequality and cultural variety.