The Ring of the Text

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What is a text and where is it located?


“The reading of any work of literature is, of necessity, an individual and unique occurrence involving the mind and emotions of a particular reader.”


For at least 20 years or so, I have waited to read such an assertion, having always believed that standardized tests of reading comprehension were, to put it bluntly, ridiculous. How could an individual be assessed based upon his transformation of a piece of literature from a set of printed symbols to a situation with meaning? It always seemed that questions such as “What is the author’s main point?” were rife with the possibility for the reader to impose his own take on the main point. Or perhaps what it all comes down to is that I’m the kind of reader who is apt to taking over a text and imposing himself on it. Fowles, god love him, writes, “A sentences or paragraph in a novel will evoke a different image in each reader. This necessary co-operation between writer and reader, the one to suggest, the other to make concrete, is a privilege of verbal form” (in Rosenblatt, p. 15). Thank you, Mr. Fowles.

I have always lived through reading, a process that – and as I’m sure so many will agree – allows the reader to evoke, create, and/or summon a world that hitherto had not so completely existed. This negotiation between the writer, the word, the reader, and (to go one-step further and bring in Dr. Jung) the collective unconscious and its archetypal imagery can be transformational (therapeutic, cathartic, catalytic…). I have long known this to be true, yet it is only today, in sitting down with Dr. Rosenblatt that I have truly understood the ramifications and validity of this claim. What is a text? The text is the message. Where is it located? It is within the circle of all who take part in the communication of the message.


About Marlen Harrison

Dr. Marlen Elliot Harrison has been teaching language, communication, composition, literature and gender/sexuality studies at universities in Asia, Europe and North America since 1997.
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