R is for Reading

| April 1, 2014

Being in the English Ed program something we discuss a lot in my classes is the ways in which people read, and we deal with the big question of whether there is inherent meaning within a text itself or if the meaning is simply constructed by the reader and is fully based on their cognition, past experiences, and essentially just everything they are bringing to the text. I’m not going to bore everyone by getting really deep in any literary theory but just briefly, since the middle of the 20th century what’s known as new critical theory has been the dominant mode of teaching texts and its basis is that there is inherent meaning within a text that must be extracted and examined. But there are other schools of thought that are now becoming more popular as a way of teaching reading. Louise Rosenblatt was a pioneer in developing this idea that what the reader brings to the text is what’s actually important, and there isn’t some divine message within the text itself. This is clearly a huge philosophical debate, and in my opinion I don’t think you can really say it’s one way or the other. Obviously everyone is going to read something slightly differently, and a persons background is going to inform how they absorb a text, but you can’t say that an author didn’t set out without a purpose when writing something. As far as how text’s should be taught in an English classroom I think that you have to give the space for readers to bring their own experiences and develop their own interpretations but also set guidelines of how to examine something and derive meaning from it because that is an important skill to have in life.