Some Factors Affecting/Effecting the Reading of Texts

Copyright 1996 by John Lye. This text may be freely used, with attribution, for non-profit purposes.
As are all of my posts for this course, this document is open to change. If you have any suggestions (additions, qualifications, arguments), mail me.

A: Matters to be brought to the text for use in the decoding of the text

accessibility of allusion, or reference
access to historical references, to cultural allusions, to literary allusions, and recognition of their relevance or meaningfulness in the text

conventions of reading
including 1) conventions of significance (raising the meaning to its most general application), of metaphorical coherence, and of thematic unity, which all help to create the meaningfulness of 'literature'; 2) conventions as to the way in which texts 'represent' 'reality'; and 3) conventions of interpretation, of how texts are read -- e.g. formally, ideologically, psychoanalytically, 'morally' , etc.

history of interpretation
knowledge of traditions of reading and of interpretation -- for instance, the Hamlet which we read (have been taught to read) has been interpreted before us and for us.

usage of genre
knowledge of the characteristics and conventions of various genre, of for instance irony in satire; and knowledge of the typical topics of the genre, e.g. heroism, romantic love etc.; historical knowledge of the same, i.e. what were the expectations of the various kinds of comedies held by Shakespeare's contemporaries

attunement to polysemy
to the multi-valence of words, to connotative force, to metaphor and metonymy and other rhetorical structures and devices; to historical uses of these

knowledge of the extensional world
judging inference, probability; attributing causality; assigning truth values


B: "THE TEXT" as a coded structure

The rhetorical, formal, linguistic, allusive strategies which guide -- or create, or evoke -- the readers' responses, including: association and interconnection of culturally empowered images, ideas, situations; the contextual loading of words, images, episodes and characters; plotting devices; genre markers; rhetorical structures; multi-valence; ambiguity.

C: Contexualizations of reading and meaning

the personal world
the realm of personal associations, experiences, ideals and images

the needs of persons
innate (or socialized) desires for freedom, happiness, connection and coherence; genuine, pervasive hopes and desires shared at some level of consciousness by all

the motive of the particular reading
explicit and implicit motives and norms -- reading for a course, reading to improve social status, reading for entertainment or understanding, etc.

the sociology of reading
who reads and why, with what social expectations and delimitations -- e.g. considerations of class, of social mobility and use, of relation of reading to social and political life; the distinctions between 'high' and 'popular', 'good' and 'bad' literature

socio-political perspective
the social and political situation and perspective from which the text will be read and from which the matter of the text will be viewed

socio-political references
references which the reader may apply to her or his social or political milieu -- e.g. in novels of manners, satires against corrupt governments, etc.

the world(s) of discourse
the use of language as it structures our understanding of social and power relations; the language and rhetoric of the text in relation to that of other arenas of social meaning and power; the (cultural) way in which we have learned to speak of (which our culture enables and permits us to speak of) our various experiences, ideas and desires

ideology & world-view
understandings of what is natural, how the world works -- particularly as these relate to the exercise of power and as they legitimate dominant interests; our understanding of the over-arching, or foundational, frame of things, the ontological and moral ground of being itself, of knowledge, and of the human

the world of fact
what is and is not the case, as we understand (know) it 'in reality' to be