Jane Austen: Smart Reading
If you are here it’s because the Jane Austen in the title tweaked your interest, right? Well, beyond being one of THE best writers in the literary canonical group of authors listed in the universal TBR list, she is actually a teacher. Actually, Stanford neurobiologists and English professor Natalie Phillips picked her book Mansfield Park to determine a connection between critical reading and brain activation patterns. (source: Luminosity)
The procedure went like this: an MRI scanned the brains of 18 participants as they read MP. These weren’t ordinary students, no struggling juniors or seniors assigned Janey as an honors read; no, these were PhD candidates. The reason being the researchers wanted to make sure close reading, the reading for analysis, was properly done. Going for a doctorate would probably ensure smarter reading practices. Participants read for “fun,” that is, casually read and then they were asked to close read.
Results: critical reading increased bloodflow throughout the brain, especially to the prefrontal cortex, which is considered to be the center of thoughts and actions and our social behavior.
Implications: close reading, the method of critically studying a text, indicates a connection between shaping and shifting cognition
My Understanding: Sheesh! I’ve been doing this for years. “Hey kids, read this and let’s figure out what it means.” Oh yea, this is what Common Core State Standards is all about–we give students higher level reading material and ask them to think about what they are reading. Like I said *I’ve been doing this for years*.
Okay, do I get my honorary PhD now?
- This is your brain on Jane Austen. (teachingcollegeenglish.com)
I guess the difference is that you still do it while most people feel immense relief when they don’t *have* to read anymore. In so doing they obviously miss out on one of the great joys of life. But I’m always glad for more information that points to reading being oh so good for me!
She is so clearly the very best. I’m actually re-reading Emma right now. Reading Austen gets better every time.