Friday, April 6, 2007

Reader Centred Defense

My reading of Emma is primarily based on a reader centred approach because I, being the reader, produce meaning by applying prior knowledge and experience to the text. (QSA, pg 18) My personal transaction of Austen’s “classic” is dominated by textual and experiential perspectives, however, all five of Richard Beach’s (1993) reader perspectives are so intimately related that it is possible I utilised each of them at some point during my reading. These five perspectives are textual, experiential, social, cultural and psychological.

My knowledge of language and narrative conventions influenced my response; (Beach, 1993, pg 15) Beach’s textual perspective is evident in my reading. It is applied when I discuss my initial “dispirited” attitude towards the novel as well as my negative reaction to the implied themes of marriage and courtship. When I refer to 21st century forms of ‘courtship’: “dating…is just like a recreation sport”, my opinion on the stupidity of courtship is easily conveyed. The textual perspective is also evident due to my misunderstanding of the conventions and structure of Austen’s style (Jauss, 1982). I failed at first to “immerse myself due to the form of writing” for example, Austen’s forever shifting narration, in direct speech and drawn out scenarios.

An experiential perspective is also predominately evident in my reader centred approach. In order to take on such a perspective the reader must have some form of involvement with the text as proposed in Rosenblatt’s (1968) transactional theory. This theory is based around the interactions a reader has with a text and what they experienced whilst reading the novel and the after effect. The focus of my reading is based on the narrative plot and the characters. The mention of my relationship with certain characters in the novel and their situations reflect my personal involvement with the text. The paragraph in my response where I mention the similarities (and differences) between the characters and myself, I identify and relate my own personal experiences to the text: “I understand Emma’s desire to improve the lives of the people around her (as well as herself through this process)”. Having been compelled to read Emma as apposed to relaxed comprehension, I judged the novel whilst under an efferent mode which limited my ability to obtain certain facts (Beach, pg 51). The introduction to my response depicts my initial judgement of the book; therefore expressing not only my past experiences with ‘books with bad covers’ but also my alternative opinion. My connection with the ideals of a ‘classed society’ and ‘status based marriages’ – as apposed to love based relationships – saw me depicting an ‘alternative reading’ to the text (Johnson, 1992). In order to be classified an alternative reader you must obtain an attitude of neither total acceptance nor rejection.

Other theoretical perspectives are noticeable in my response including Beach’s (1993) social and cultural perspectives. When I express my objections to marriage being the only opportunity to gain happiness, I am applying a cultural perspective by bringing my own cultural values and beliefs to the text. Modern day romance, being so dissimilar to Austen’s style, has caused me to disagree with her ideas. Women today are able to marry for love without their father’s consent and have a choice they are capable to make. This perspective is supported by my statement, “I can accurately communicate that happiness can be found between people without marriage.” A social perspective is established, when I state my reason for reading the novel. By constantly acknowledging and studying my interpretations of the novel for class, I am under the influence of Extension English as apposed to my own true interest. If I was reading the novel out of personal curiosity, I wouldn’t draw such a strong and arguable view. I would simply accept that times have changed. “I began to search the novel for useful discussion topics” shows my motive for gaining a debatable opinion.

Through my reader centred approach I have applied personal knowledge and experience to the text and successfully constructed a meaning. My reading of Emma is mostly dominated by textual and experiential perspectives, however, after realising how intimately related all five of Beach’s (1993) perspectives are it is probable that I employed some of each in my reading. I have veiled my disagreement with the implied discourses and ideologies of the text, whilst maintaining a medium level of acceptance of the overall invited reading. Assuming I was a young woman living in the 19th century I may have been able to open up more freely to the novel and become the ‘implied reader’ therefore, giving a different response all together.

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