Your Guide to Multiple Reading Practices in Literature

It’s the most fundamental concept in dealing with any study of Literature or any art form for that matter, the concept of multiple reading practices is basically a taxonomy of the different methods with which you can obtain meaning from a text. Your natural reaction to anything in life is generally a judgment, a natural human urge to make sense of your surroundings…similarly when applied to a reader’s reaction to literature you can utilize different established approaches to making sense of texts.

Dominant Reading:

A Dominant Reading usually provides a reading of the text reflecting a broad consensus on what a text may mean, such a reading usually places a great deal of emphasis on how the reader believes the author has positioned them to respond. The reader usually reads the text in an ‘author friendly’ manner, although I’ve always been mystified as to how the reader determines what the intended meaning of a text was, on the part of an author, nevertheless this concept of a dominant reading persists as a type of reading which supposedly involves the reader traveling along the trajectory the author has designed to produce the meaning that the author intended. It is my personal opinion, that it is simply the ‘mainstream’ interpretation of a text which gains the de facto legitimacy of ‘author approved’ by sheer weight of numbers.

Alternative Reading

An Alternative Reading produces as the name might suggest, a meaning that is different from a dominant reading but nevertheless recognizes the purpose of the author in a text and does not ‘go against the grain’ of the text. The distinction between an Alternative Reading and a Resistant Reading, would probably be that an Alternative Reading is still heavily reliant on the text while a Resistant Reading implicitly requires to a greater extent ideological or contextual baggage which the reader uses to challenge the premise of a text.

Resistant Reading

A Resistant Reading ‘goes against the grain of the text’ and usually involves the reader being less reliant on the text and usually involves a much greater contextual influence; in terms of ideology, race, class or gender.

Feminist Reading

A Feminist reading foregrounds the representations of women: by that I mean the way key female characters are characterised and the values they hold, and the way the reader is positioned to respond to them.

Judith Fetterly author of ‘The Resisting Reader’ a seminal work in the area of Feminist and other recent developments in alternative readings, summarized the purpose of a feminist reading as “Feminist criticism is a political act whose aim is not simply to interpret the world but to change it by changing the consciousness of those who read and their relation to what they read.”

The underlying assumption of any Feminist Reading is an awareness or ‘consciousness’ on the part of the reader of a patriarchal hegemony reinforcing an oppressive set of roles and expectations for women, and literature as part of a dominant discourse for much of human history …