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Thursday, July 4 • 9:00am - 10:15am
Knower-building: Developing axiological constellations in the humanities

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Recent years have seen a rapid growth in studies of knowledge-building. Amongst other things, these studies have revealed the principles underpinning cumulative knowledge-building and the discourse that is used to organise it across a range of fields. Moreover, this focus has driven developments in practice where tools such as semantic waves have been put to work in the classroom. Much of this work has centred on explicit knowledge-building such as we tend to find in knowledge codes. It has looked in detail at how fine-grained technical knowledge is pieced together in classrooms, textbooks and across a range of semiotic resources. It has also given a sense as to how vast networks of meaning are pulled together to form an integrated whole. In contrast, less focus has been directed toward knower-building – how dispositions, values, and moral and aesthetic stances are developed – such as often found in the knower codes. For fields underpinned by stronger social relations, such knower-building is essential. For students to be successful in such fields, they must be progressively cultivated into nuanced ways of seeing the world that offer subtle stances and interpretations of an expanding range of phenomena. This regularly leads to elaborated networks of meaning known in Legitimation Code Theory as ‘axiological constellations’ to form. For those already well integrated into the field, these meanings will be clear. But for those new to a field or who have not had such cultivation, they may be obscured. As such meanings are essential to the uncommon-sense ways of seeing the world across a wide range of fields, if we are to develop a pedagogical approach to teach more effectively these meanings, we first need to be able see these axiological constellations and understand how they develop in discourse.

In this paper I explore knower-building in humanities disciplines such as poetics and literature. I will show how axiological constellations can be analysed step-by-step in a cumulative way. This is important for our understanding of knower-building as axiological constellations offer unique insights into the intricate configurations of meaning that underpin conceptual development oriented to values, stances and dispositions but also offer means for understanding the different readings of these meanings that are tied to alternate perspectives. To see how these develop in discourse, we will step through a selection of rhetorical strategies used to build axiological constellations. These include where texts position certain meanings as being from a particular perspective; where particular meanings or perspectives are opposed to each other; where meanings, positions or oppositions are likened to other meanings, positions or oppositions; and when all of these are charged with value. Through these rhetorical strategies we will see the highly nuanced, yet consistent building of meaning that occurs in many fields, and develop a way of seeing how knowers are cultivated to view the world in particular ways.


Thursday July 4, 2019 9:00am - 10:15am SAST