Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Inspiring moral identity within the imaginal realm of classic literature
by Hopkins, Sandra Kay, Ph.D., Pacifica Graduate Institute, 2011, 417; 3475548
Abstract (Summary)

The World War II generation instilled a sense of duty and personal responsibility in Baby Boomer children in an era in which America viewed itself as a homogeneous community with similar values. The environment in which youth grow up today has undergone dramatic change, an example being a reduction in complex thinking in college classrooms by students presuming the right to be entertained, the result of decades of mass media and culture empty of content and purpose, according to Eric Larsen in A Nation Gone Blind. Multitasking has led to decreased opportunities to engage in discussions of complex issues that require face-to-face contact, resulting in moral lapses such as academic cheating becoming normative for a generation Robert Coles terms "morally illiterate."

The public school is positioned to provide the largest percentage of school-age children with opportunities to reflect critically on complex moral issues related to academic disciplines. The need is especially acute in the higher grades where the current emphasis is almost entirely focused on teaching subject matter knowledge, not competency in complex moral decision-making.

This dissertation argues that the poetic imagination transforms imaginal worlds in classic literature to a "felt sense" of life that reduces barriers between reader and text and creates a bond of compassion. In the imaginal realm, readers are able to suspend belief and form a heart connection with the complexities and uncertainties of the human condition. In imagining alternative possibilities for action, adolescent identity formation is stimulated through a process by which adolescents construct and re-vision images of an ideal moral self that transcends human experience across time. Incorporating structured techniques such as Socratic dialogue, active listening, and psychodrama deepens the experience of being a respectful, compassionate human being conscious of diverse perspectives.

The dissertation supports the approach of teaching complex moral decision-making in America's public schools with extensive theoretical evidence within moral philosophy; moral education; literary theory; archetypal psychology; and the moral psychologies of cognitive science, cognitive linguistics, affective neuroscience, and evolutionary biology. In addition, numerous exemplars are presented of awakening the moral imagination within the context of comic, tragic, and epic mythopoesis.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Odajnyk, Walter
School: Pacifica Graduate Institute
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 72/11, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Classical studies, Ethics, Education philosophy
Keywords: Archetype, Classic literature, Cognitive science, Moral education, Teaching ethics
Publication Number: 3475548
ISBN: 978-1-124-88453-0
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