First, we end up with paradoxes if we believe that we encounter difference and newness only or primarily intellectually, especially if we believe that the intellect is distinct from perception, sensations, passion, or embodiment in general….Second we end up with paradoxes if we believe that we are self-same and our identities are unified, especially if we conceive of identity in opposition to difference.
Reader response is a theoretical position which acknowledges how the identity of individuals informs their reading practices. When we encounter literatures we are confronted with not just a story but with ourselves, projecting our own cultural biases and embodied life experiences onto the text. This implies a richness and transformative process of reading a text. Noting this particularity becomes important when we think about how we read non-fiction, particularly historical documentation. We should ask ourselves how to reconcile our own identities with texts of ideological urgency. These reading practices can carry over into our engagement with civic participation, having direct impacts on our communities. Are we able to respond to texts with multiple lenses, to edify our immediate perceptions by considering social equity? Reading practices of self-awareness can precipitate activist encounters with literatures and in life. We therefore depend on what’s in the text and on what’s floating overhead in the intentions of the reader.
Our course will emphasize anti-racist, queer, and affective interpretations of texts. The additional position we will attempt is that of the reparative reading where we will ask how our reading practices alone can contribute to a concept as looming as restorative justice. We will take special interest in the activist group, The Movement for Black Lives, philosophy that in order to liberate all from oppression we must start with the most oppressed addressing anti-Black racism. We will also fundamentally question the way calcified positions in policy, historical representations, and popular culture are disseminated and digested uncritically.
As is only appropriate, starting in the second half of our course, we will conduct close readings of various sources (and mediums) and students will prepare a two paragraph reader response. The first paragraph will be a snap judgement reflection. The second paragraph will be a self-aware meditation on the reading.
To quote the poet Pat Rosal, “reading is a habit of attention.”
The works following will help us develop our theoretical reading lens.
- Audre Lorde, “An Open Letter to Mary Daly”
- Walter J. Ong, “The Writer’s Audience is Always a Fiction”
- The Movement for Black Lives, “Platform”
- R.F. Kuang, “How to Talk to Ghosts”
- Richard Dyer, “The matter of whiteness”
- Avery Gordon, Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological Imagination
- Kelly Oliver, Witnessing: Beyond Recognition
- Shoshana Felman and Dori Laub, Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis, and History
- Judith Butler, Touching Feeling
- Eckstein, Barbara. The Language of Fiction in a World of Pain: Reading Politics as Paradox
- Adrienne Maree Brown, Emergent Strategy
- Black Mirror: Bandersnatch
- The Stories We Tell
Mauve Perle Tahat has been a teacher in college classrooms for a decade and earned her M.A. and M.Ed. from Eastern Pennsylvania, where she is from. Currently her work as a PhD candidate in Northern Appalachia centers literature of incarceration and the first person account within the carceral apparatus. She is a teaching and professional development fellow at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and the executive editor of TERSE. Journal. Find Mauve on Twitter: @mauvelandscapes
featured image: from Alexandra Levasseur’s collection “Body of Land”