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Symbolism and Subjectivity in Irish Fairy Tales: A Cultural-Historical English Project for Primary Schoolers

Cristielaine Aparecida Alves de Souza
Journal of Linguistics and Literature. 2017, 1(1), 16-20. DOI: 10.12691/jll-1-1-4
Published online: August 23, 2017

Abstract

The article has as subject the engagement of teaching and learning practice of tales and their present symbolism for Elementary Schoolers. The involved teaching and learning practice in the narrative enabled the children to coped with their fears through symbolic internal values of the Irish fairy tale ‘The golden pot’, and that was the reason to be chosen for the pedagogical intervention for a group of literacy children in a full-time public school. The results provided subjectivity according to children’s internalised values and their knowledge of the fairy tale during English project.

1. Introduction

The way we represent the emotions (imaginatively and fantastically) was called symbolism. Present in the narratives, the symbolism contributes to the child’s learning as a subject in the process of constant interaction between the physical and social environment and their emotions. It is a dramatic game, which enables the child to travel through the real world and the imagination, provided by the language and represented by the word.

The symbolism in Lacan’s view 1 was nothing more than the representation of the unconscious through language. The prior knowledge in certain concepts would be presented in this mental level and revived through signs and symbols. In her article, ‘Symbolic and the Psychoanalytic Clinic: The Beginning of Lacanian Theory’, Françoia 2 brings as principles of Lacanian psychoanalysis the symbolic and the reformulation of the notion of the unconscious, linked to the construction of subject through the language. From these ideas Lacan based his project on social environment as the place of the possibility for subjectivity, allowing the subject build himself through the other, providing an opportunity for the construction of a historical subject, at the same time that redefines personal experiences.

The desire to start the reading project of the fairy tale came from these ideas, mainly because it is carried out with children in the literacy period. According to Barone, Martins, and Castanho 3, in this stage, the child reaches a certain psychological maturity. He or she dominates the symbolic systems of language, gathering thought and language, called by Vygotsky 4, as higher mental functions, where the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) is critical for the study of children development. According to ZPD concept, it is considered that the child can do things with the help of an adult or another experienced person and able to produce something alone. The proposed activities follow these concepts in the expectation that the actions of the pedagogical practices kept the children’s attention for the 'to do' and for them recognise the elements of the Irish culture present in the fairy tale. Moreover to overcome the expectations regarding the fears and anguish related to the dark, losses, differences and more.

In order to understand the sense of the proposal of this project, it has been taken to the bases of the language process development. The process begins at an unconscious level since it has been rescued from cultural heritages symbolically formulated by human-being and structured by language, returning to a level of consciousness through the verbal or written word. In this process of language development, memorization has a fundamental role.

In ‘The Unconscious as Language: From Freud to Lacan,’ Castro 5 mention that repressed materials result from unconscious states of the mind. The language would start the process through external factors, from which it generates repressed materials. These repressed materials undergo a process of subjectivity when internalised, rescued at some period throughout the life of the human-being and placed on a conscious level. This process is better understood when compared with Lacan´s ideas, cited in Castro 5, ‘The unconscious is not lose memory; It is no remember what is known. It is a rescue of repressed materials in an unconscious level; it is a process of archiving knowledge whose Barbosa 6 mentions the importance of old experiences and the perception of those experiences that could help in the whole process.’

According to Dias and Azevedo at al. 6, the memory becomes a social process involving usage of the words, bringing them into semantic groups, and structuring verbal elements in ideas. In the mean time, the perception would imply in the selection, distinction, and comparison of objects, actions, properties and relations. In this operation, the stored information is fragmented, and when rescued it is decoded under the light of the acquired experiences represented by symbols, which constitute a fundamental unit of signification.

Besides the previously mentioned theoretical based references, the project has a theoretical framework the historical-cultural, a study initiated by Vygotsky 4 and continued by González Rey 7 with the theory of Subjectivity, which provides us with an overview of the complexity and continuous production of symbolism that is inseparable from emotion.

According to González Rey 7, 8, 9, imagination and fantasy link to subjectivity through concepts and representations of the emotional productions of each person’s life. Thereupon, subjectivity has an ontological origin and a cultural-historical representation of the psyche.

To understand why children like storytelling and especially to know why need to be read within the school context, it is necessary at first understand the people’s subjective nature, and that during their developmental phase require the relation with the other. According to Angelini, Castanho, and Martins 10, when living social relations the people have the notion of self, of the reality and provide sense to the acquired cultural experiences, then emerge the construction of the cultural and social subject. As a result, storytelling is an experimentation or a revival of cultural experiences, bringing something of character, value, and identity present in the language, for this reason, a cultural-historical approach anchored this project.

As mentioned by Lerner 11, reading is an object of instruction and must be present in the school to fulfil the function of social practice. Reading should represent something significant in the reader's / listener's life and should be working through the realisation of projects for more personal purposes.

For Amarilha 12, literature solely has value when accompanied by some teaching and learning purposes. From the beginning of the Children's Literature, this idea was presented, always having a serviceable facet, especially from a moral background.

Children's stories in schools, especially tales, transcend pedagogical teachings since the practice of storytelling has the function of socialising knowledge and culture, and teacher's task provides sense to the purpose of the reading.

The tale develops the capacity of children's fantasy. It is for children what is the most real of it. While it amuses the children, the tale clarifies them and provides them personality development; therefore, a short story works, for example, on the kindness and other psychological and cognitive aspects.

According to Bettelheim 13, telling and listening stories with optimistic ends enable children to experience good feelings and can be transported, unconsciously, into the real world. The happy end can strongly contribute building a positive belief in life, teaching the children to cope with their fears and have hope for the future.

2. Material and Method

This project had as a proposal the knowledge about Irish culture through the practice of reading and the symbolism present in the tale. All actions were carried out playfully. The target public were children from 06 to 07 years old of a full-time public school in and had as purpose enabling children, through the symbolism, to get in touch with their fears, their anguish, and be able to free them as the same way they internalised values. For this reason the Irish tale ‘The golden pot’ was chosen for a practice of reading and pedagogical intervention, because it is believed that brings itself beliefs and values to a subject. Despite that is believed the tale helps the child solve psychological issues.

The project had as instrument some questions asked by the teacher for warm up and rereads from what the children learned or internalised. Other materials were used such as drawing, clay modelling, ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) puzzle assembly, ‘Forest' mock-up and scene setting ‘The golden pot at the end of the rainbow.' The principles of the development of the activities and procedures were listed following the described analyses and the theory that concern the symbolism and sense of subjectivity.

Procedures

Step 1

Ask some questions of the theme of the project to check children's knowledge on the subject:

- What is a Leprechaun?

- Who is afraid of Leprechauns?

- Have you ever seen a Leprechaun?

- What do you think looks like a Leprechaun?

- Do you think it is ugly or handsome, good or bad?

Step 2

Talk about the legendary figure of the Leprechaun: where he came from, talk about what it looks like, what kind of mood it has and start to read the tale ‘The Golden Pot’.

Step 3

Ask children to draw a Leprechaun and represent it with model clay.

(if necessary help children take different Leprechaun's characters from the internet That may help children to identify the creature that resembles more their imagination. For body recognition EVA puppet assembly (bring related aspects of children's body and body feature of a creature ).

Step 4

Talk to children regarding the presented story.

- What is the name of the boy in the story?

- Why was he sad?

- What did his mother tell him to do?

- Where did he go?

- What did he see there?

- Was he afraid?

- What did the Leprechaun do?

- Why didn't the Leprechaun help?

- What did the boy's mother say to him to succeed in picking up the Leprechaun on the next opportunity?

- How does the story end?

Step 5

Create together with the children the representation of the forest: (ask some question of places that seems scary to them and which aspects must have it).

- Do you know where the Leprechauns live?

- Where did the boy find the Leprechaun?

- How was this place?

- What has the Leprechaun done to the boy sees the golden pot?

Then, present the colours of the rainbow through the song 'I can sing a rainbow '.

Step 6

Build a mock-up box for the exhibition with the children. Ask them to choose a scene that was more relevant (remember the children to think about the figure of Leprechaun and its characteristics).

- How does a Leprechaun dress up?

- Why do you think the Leprechaun wear green colour?

- What does green symbolise in our culture?

- Moreover, the four-leaf clover that the Leprechaun carries has any meaning?

Step 7

Start assembling the room for the exhibition of works produced by students.

3. Results and Discussion

Before starting the reading of the tale, Step1 was done. Questions were asked for students to check their knowledge of the elements of Irish culture. Questions like: Do you know what a Leprechaun is? Have you ever seen a Leprechaun? Do you think it is ugly or beautiful, good or bad?

In the face of these questions, the children were completely unawareness of what a Leprechaun culturally represented, but they already had ever seen it in little ornaments. In addition, some kids considered the gnomes ugly; others associated the gnomes to the goblins, like the seven dwarfs.

The teacher continued the warm-up explaining the significance of the Leprechauns saying they were mischievous little creatures who dressed in green and lived in the forests of Ireland.)

In Step 2, when asked if kids knew where Ireland was and what language is spoken in this country they were unanimous in saying that it was a distant place and the spoken language is English.

The Irish tale, the object of this study, deal with the topic of fear which will be intensified and at the end of the story will be overcome. The tale begins with the drama of a boy who loses his father causing the financial problem for the family. However, one day the boy’s mother asked him to fish so the family can be feed, for this reason, the boy has to face the dangers of the forest, a scared dark place through the river. When he hears a noise, in the groves, the boy sees a creature of scary appearance, but by being small, the boy grabs the creature, letting it escape immediately. When the boy arrives empty-handed, he tells his mother what he has seen. So then, his mother tells him whenever he sees a Leprechaun, a mischievous creature who protects the golden pot at the end of the rainbow; he must grab the creature vigorously and immediately order the golden pot.

The tale unfolds bringing to the plot several symbolic elements that go towards overcoming, but before that happens, there are times when fear is present, as the fear of the dark, since the character has to face the dangers of a dark forest. In addition to the loss of the father, the character must face another dilemma of his life.

When children hear a story and get involved with it, there is a process of identification with the characters and the plot. It makes the person to be projected to the plot, allowing through the internalisation of symbolic meanings the possibility of real transformation. Thus, the story provides the children with the opportunity to revive some histories, and indeed to live another experience 12. Facing with these findings, the psychological importance that the tale can provide for those who hear it or read it becomes relevant.

In Step 3, for this first stage of analysis after reading the story, the children were asked to draw a picture and to think and reproduce in the drawing how the story would be if they were replacing the characters. Drawing activities are part of the symbolic game, since at this age, six to seven, the child represents the world as thinks, perceives and feels as real, likewise traits that try to imitate reality.

The symbolic game allowed the children exercise a particular form of the thought that is named imagination. That it began through imitation about the representation of the history for that, the children had to draw on paper their understanding about the story. The draw allowed the children to develop their imagination and creativity from the real to a fantastic world enabling them to create the shape of the creatures similar to humans. Consequently, the symbolic game is an intermediary stage between children and what was objectively proposed as a task although this task is motivated by intimate processes such as imagination and desire; and social processes such as the socialisation of learning, language development, the possibility of expressing themselves and body recognition.

For the analysis of the drawings two categories of drawings were created: good end and the bad end. All drawings were classified as a good end. Thus, this is explained by the fact that the activity was performed after the end of the story. Then, It has been understood that the children were supposedly induced to this good end, according to the end of the character of the tale and the desire the kids had concerned to overcome their fears and to experience a good end, like the one experienced by the character.

For Bettelheim 13, the narratives stimulate thought and ideas which are why are important to be counted out loud to the children. Furthermore, the tale works on the imaginative sphere of those who listen and help them formulate images in their minds. Therefore, a representative symbol works like propagation (full of meanings), as an element of the revelation of the thought, which could be explored every single time when is rescued from the memory (through a freehand drawing for example) and as a disseminator of knowledge (overcoming fear). As we can see, the history had the symbolic imagery as the component of the taught of the culture.

In the midst of playful activities, motor skills were part of the tasks. It was also proposed the manual labour for children as a representation of the mythological figure of Leprechaun through modelling clay. That allowed exercises of fine motor skills since children had to model objects of small sizes and also to use their imagination for the creation of these little objects. The symbolism meaning was analysed for the Leprechaun’s figure represented by children, who had recognised it as a symbol of a creature similar to being-human. Noteworthy is the representation of the Leprechaun’s hat. At no moment the children were presented to the cone shape of it. There is also a greater concern with the image of the creature with the head larger than the other parts of the body. Consequently, the image resembled the human-being figure, however, elements of the fantastic have been presented with similar forms (hats were akin to the fairies hat and shoes were analogous to the Aladdin’s shoes).

In the second moment of acknowledgement of the Leprechaun’s figure, it became necessary the use of some pictures associated with the elements of the tale in order to rescue pre-internalized concepts. For example, the presentation of the pictures of the four-leaf clover, the pot with gold coins, the rainbow and other forms representing the Irish culture. The children were asked to choose the Leprechaun’s figure which resembled more than they had imagined. The previously doll prepared for the assembly activity of the Leprechaun´s puzzle was discarded at this time since it has not met an imaginative requirement (the cone-shaped hats). The ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) doll previously produced may be checked in Appendix.. From the figure chosen by the children, it was made the EVA doll that served as a puzzle.

Step 4. At another time the teacher asked new questions that stimulated the children to relive neatly what the main character experienced in the tale. This stage was pretty important so children could re-signify the sense that it might contain the problem, such as a loss of an esteemed person, an overcoming of fear of the dark, and an anguish of not having the financial condition to be sustained.

Step 5. The answers to the questions led the children to build a mock -up of the forest. The children represented a dark forest building small trees with tree top made of steel wool and a long road that conducted to the rainbow. At the end of the rainbow, they made a small pot, representing ‘The golden pot’ at the end of the rainbow.’ In midst of this activity words as light and dark were part of learning. Then, the children were able to test the meaning of the words through the room light switch, turning it on and off. The presentation of rainbow colours in English was also part of the learning process, and students were able to recognise the colours and sing the song ‘I can sing a rainbow.’ 14

Step 6. The children were proposed to create the final scene of the story. The kids decided to build a mock-up of the scene where the Leprechaun is taking care of the golden pot at the end of the rainbow. For the construction of the scene, the teacher asked more questions for children. Then they could think and represent the scene as truly as possible to their imagination. When enquired about the Leprechaun’s clothing the children answered that the creature should wear clothes in the green colour. When asked once more, why they thought the Leprechaun’s clothing should be green, they replied that it symbolised luck. Moreover, when asked what other elements could have the same meaning as luck, the answers were diverse such as knocking on wood, rabbit’s foot, four-leaf clover, crossing fingers and more.

The creation of the scene started with the representation of the rainbow. At this time it was taught for children the colours white, black, dark blue, light blue, dark green and light green as part of the colours of the coloured sheets used to the accomplishment of the work of rainbow. A small doll was used to represent the Leprechaun. The doll was dressed in a green cloth, along with a green cone-shaped hat. About the position of the doll at the scene, it was decided that it would be seated down and that should have a pot of gold coins giving an idea of happiness of the doll by taking care of the golden pot at the end of the rainbow. At the end of the story, as recommended by Bettelheim 13, positive facts led to the solution of the whole problems through the symbolic game. The playful activity was significant for children’s cognitive process because the game allows them to gain experience and learn to deal with conflicts that enhance during the activities.

For Vigotsky 4 the child creates and expresses the hypothetical situation in the symbolic game which is projected in the activities of interaction with another. The child acts internalising roles and values, going over to the internalised speech, logical memory, and abstract thought at school age. It is through the understanding of the theory framework that comes to the view of how playing helps in the intellectual development, and for this reason, the reading practice project relied on these thoughts.

4. Conclusion

The article suggests the practice of storytelling as part of the socialisation process. The narration provides children with a meaningful learning through ludic playful. The learning not only provides socialisation but also contributes to the symbolic resignification that each child has to lead when values are internalised to the real world experience.

The choice of the Irish tale takes into account the children´s stage of development and the psychological aspects. Due to children are in the literacy stage the English project was emphasised on pronunciation. It is important to highlight the introduction of a different culture based on pre-internalized concepts. Moreover, the development of activities takes into account the period of acquisition the children’s native language and what can be internalised for them through subjective senses. As a result, it is expected from the children the contact with the new culture and the exchange established with the other peers related to the problems of overcoming fears and other problems of life.

When teachers read tales in the classroom, the school assumes an important role as a socialising practice of reading. This interaction helps in the cognitive development of the child because it works in the sphere of emotions and re-signification of the senses and social interaction with the environment and something even more important, the rescue of culture and dissemination of this knowledge through language.

References

[1]  LACAN, J. Seminário XI: os quatro conceitos fundamentais da psicanálise. Rio de Janeiro: Jorge Zahar Editor, 1996.
In article      
 
[2]  FRANÇÓIA, C. R. O simbólico e a clínica Psicoanalítica: o início da teoria Lacaniana. Revista AdVerbum 2 (1) Jan a Jun de. 2007: pp. 87-101.
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[3]  BARONE, L.M.C; MARTINS, L. IC.B; CASTANHO, M.I.S. Psicopedagogia: teorias da aprendizagem. IN M.I.S CASTANHO. Sobre o sujeito que arende.São Paulo: Casa do Psicólogo. 2013: pp. 15-30.
In article      PubMed  PubMed
 
[4]  VYGOTSKY, L. S.. Pensamento e linguagem. (tradução de Jefferson Luiz Camargo). São Paulo: Martins Fontes. São Paulo: Martins Fontes. 1996.
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[5]  CASTRO, J.C.L. O inconsciente com linguagem: de Freud a Lacan. Cadernos de Semiótica Aplicada Vol. 7.n.1, julho de 2009.
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[6]  DIAS, E.T.D.M; AZEVEDO, L.P.L. (ORGS). Psicologia Escolar Educacional. IN L.M.G. BARBOSA. Processos de aprendizagem: contribuições da Psicologia sócio-histórica de Vigotzki e da Neuropsicologia de Luria. Jundiaí: Paco. 2014: pp. 169-188.
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[7]  GONZÁLEZ REY, F. A. A pesquisa e o tema da subjetividade. IN Psicologia da Educação (13), 2º sem, 2001: pp. 9-15.
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[8]  GONZÁLEZ REY, F. A. Historical relevance of Vygotsky's work: Its significance for a new approach to the problem of subjectivity in psychology. Outlines (Copenhagen. Online), v. 1, 2009: p. 59-73.
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[9]  GONZÁLEZ REY, F.A. Pesquisa Qualitativa e Subjetividade: os processos de construção da informação. Tradução de Marcel Aristides Ferrada Silva. São Paulo: Pioneira Thomson Learning, 2005.
In article      PubMed
 
[10]  ANGELINI, R.A.V.M; CASTANHO, M.I.S; MARTINS, L.C.B. 5 Psicologia Sócio-histórica e Psicopedagogia in Psicologia teorias de aprendizagem. 2011.
In article      
 
[11]  LERNER, D. Ler e escrever na escola: o real, o possível e o necessário. Tradução Ernani Rosa. Porto Alegre: Artmed, 2002: p.73-94.
In article      View Article
 
[12]  AMARILHA, M. Estão mortas as fadas? Petrópolis: Vozes, 6º.ed. 2004.
In article      
 
[13]  BETTELHEIM, B. A psicanálise dos contos de fada. Tradução de Arlene Caetano. Rio de Janeiro: Paz e Terra, 1980.
In article      PubMed
 
[14]  I CAN SING A RAINBOW. Recuperado de https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6aouC56MPOE em 14/10/2016.
In article      View Article
 

Appendix

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Cite this article:

Normal Style
Cristielaine Aparecida Alves de Souza. Symbolism and Subjectivity in Irish Fairy Tales: A Cultural-Historical English Project for Primary Schoolers. Journal of Linguistics and Literature. Vol. 1, No. 1, 2017, pp 16-20. http://pubs.sciepub.com/jll/1/1/4
MLA Style
Souza, Cristielaine Aparecida Alves de. "Symbolism and Subjectivity in Irish Fairy Tales: A Cultural-Historical English Project for Primary Schoolers." Journal of Linguistics and Literature 1.1 (2017): 16-20.
APA Style
Souza, C. A. A. D. (2017). Symbolism and Subjectivity in Irish Fairy Tales: A Cultural-Historical English Project for Primary Schoolers. Journal of Linguistics and Literature, 1(1), 16-20.
Chicago Style
Souza, Cristielaine Aparecida Alves de. "Symbolism and Subjectivity in Irish Fairy Tales: A Cultural-Historical English Project for Primary Schoolers." Journal of Linguistics and Literature 1, no. 1 (2017): 16-20.
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[1]  LACAN, J. Seminário XI: os quatro conceitos fundamentais da psicanálise. Rio de Janeiro: Jorge Zahar Editor, 1996.
In article      
 
[2]  FRANÇÓIA, C. R. O simbólico e a clínica Psicoanalítica: o início da teoria Lacaniana. Revista AdVerbum 2 (1) Jan a Jun de. 2007: pp. 87-101.
In article      View Article
 
[3]  BARONE, L.M.C; MARTINS, L. IC.B; CASTANHO, M.I.S. Psicopedagogia: teorias da aprendizagem. IN M.I.S CASTANHO. Sobre o sujeito que arende.São Paulo: Casa do Psicólogo. 2013: pp. 15-30.
In article      PubMed  PubMed
 
[4]  VYGOTSKY, L. S.. Pensamento e linguagem. (tradução de Jefferson Luiz Camargo). São Paulo: Martins Fontes. São Paulo: Martins Fontes. 1996.
In article      
 
[5]  CASTRO, J.C.L. O inconsciente com linguagem: de Freud a Lacan. Cadernos de Semiótica Aplicada Vol. 7.n.1, julho de 2009.
In article      View Article
 
[6]  DIAS, E.T.D.M; AZEVEDO, L.P.L. (ORGS). Psicologia Escolar Educacional. IN L.M.G. BARBOSA. Processos de aprendizagem: contribuições da Psicologia sócio-histórica de Vigotzki e da Neuropsicologia de Luria. Jundiaí: Paco. 2014: pp. 169-188.
In article      PubMed
 
[7]  GONZÁLEZ REY, F. A. A pesquisa e o tema da subjetividade. IN Psicologia da Educação (13), 2º sem, 2001: pp. 9-15.
In article      
 
[8]  GONZÁLEZ REY, F. A. Historical relevance of Vygotsky's work: Its significance for a new approach to the problem of subjectivity in psychology. Outlines (Copenhagen. Online), v. 1, 2009: p. 59-73.
In article      View Article
 
[9]  GONZÁLEZ REY, F.A. Pesquisa Qualitativa e Subjetividade: os processos de construção da informação. Tradução de Marcel Aristides Ferrada Silva. São Paulo: Pioneira Thomson Learning, 2005.
In article      PubMed
 
[10]  ANGELINI, R.A.V.M; CASTANHO, M.I.S; MARTINS, L.C.B. 5 Psicologia Sócio-histórica e Psicopedagogia in Psicologia teorias de aprendizagem. 2011.
In article      
 
[11]  LERNER, D. Ler e escrever na escola: o real, o possível e o necessário. Tradução Ernani Rosa. Porto Alegre: Artmed, 2002: p.73-94.
In article      View Article
 
[12]  AMARILHA, M. Estão mortas as fadas? Petrópolis: Vozes, 6º.ed. 2004.
In article      
 
[13]  BETTELHEIM, B. A psicanálise dos contos de fada. Tradução de Arlene Caetano. Rio de Janeiro: Paz e Terra, 1980.
In article      PubMed
 
[14]  I CAN SING A RAINBOW. Recuperado de https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6aouC56MPOE em 14/10/2016.
In article      View Article