Monday, 28 March 2011

What do you see in a text?

Independent reading differs on many levels from academic study. In many ways, you are laying the groundwork for yourself, whereas reading fictional texts purely for academic purposes is a very different process.

Many academics, however, think that there is only one concrete way of reading texts: that an undergraduate - or even postgraduate - education is fundamental to derive meaning and understanding from them.

Others would bring the word 'subjective' to the fore. Literary texts convey different meanings to different people. Some people, for instance, may find reading Kafka a very funny and humorous experience whereas others may find it deadly serious.

When I read Jean-Paul Sartre's Nausea I saw my life in it on a very molecular level. Antoine Roquentin daily life strongly mirrored my own, in addition to his thoughts and insights. To any student studying the novel this is all a mere oversight - it is all about teasing out the existential dilemmas.

I read an interview with Michel Houllebecq and he stated that an "ordinary reader" puts a far greater emphasis on "characters" which, to literary critics, is something that is downplayed, with greater emphasis put on the themes and messages instead.

To an "ordinary reader" approaching literary material, the narrative is of greater importance than any element in the subtext. Who is to say that their perceptions aren't as valid as those of an academic critic?

The intent of the author can also be discounted if one is to take this into consideration. Any intent he or she may have wished to connote to the reader is irrelevant if the reader takes a different perspective to the text.

This perspective is, a lot of the time, completely incompatible with the parochial literary institutions in the UK. After spending so long in their ivory towers many of these courses shut themselves off from other methods of reading that differ from the established doctrine that has been practiced time and time again since the dawn of the 20th century.

No comments: