Using Literature to Help Troubled Teenagers Cope with Identity Issues

By Jeffrey S. Kaplan | Go to book overview

Introduction

THE SEARCH FOR IDENTITY

When Joan Kaywell approached me with the invitation to edit one of the six volumes in this series, I jumped at the chance immediately. Here was a splendid opportunity for me to blend my many interests--literature, teenagers, and psychology. Although I am not a student of psychology, I am a huge fan of "adolescent thinking" and how that peculiar brand of individual manages to make their way in the world. As a public school teacher for some ten years, and now a university professor, I have learned to look at teenagers as both a subject and an object. While I taught school in many counties in Florida, the youngsters I encountered were like teenagers everywhere--energetic, lazy, happy, sad, optimistic, confused, and just plain goofy. They were the kids who populated my English and drama classes, and became the daily wonders of my amusement and consternation. "Why is your notebook such a mess?" "Why do you write one day with your left hand and the next day with your right?" "Why do you always wear black clothing?" "Why do you only listen to that rock group?" "Why do you always giggle?" "Why don't you ever eat your lunch?" "And why, oh why, are you so quiet in class? What are you thinking?"

To be sure, they were perplexing creatures, silly and wise all at once. Yet, as I began to teach education courses on the university level, I began to see them more in a clinical light. They became objects of my professorial lens, and their many shapes and configurations became more de

-xvii-

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