Question: How help students understand that reading materials can be understood differently by different people?
Answer/Quote: “When I reflected on President Bush ending his speech on the fiftieth anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor with what I could only assume to be an aside, ‘America, the greatest country the world has ever seen,’ I couldn’t help musing on two possible but contradictory readings or interpretations of the comment. Some would no doubt read it as patriotic while others would condemn it as jingoistic or chauvinistic.” P. 25.
Quote: “A simple but major change in my teaching strategy has come with insights from recent theory. After playing Geldof’s song, instead of asking students, ‘What is this song about?’ or ‘What do you think this song means?’ I now ask, ‘What are possible readings of this song?’ ”
Quote: Dominant Reading. “A dominant reading can be defined as either ‘that made by the majority of people or by the most powerful people in a society.’ The dominant reading of the traditional version of ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ is probably something like this: The story ends happily with Little Red Riding Hood receiving a scare but learning a valuable lesson as a result of her terrible experience (Reading 1).”
Quote: Other Readings. “Some readers, however, will read the story in other ways by emphasizing different things in the text. For example, some will be very aware of the grandmother’s death and so read the ending as quite a grim one. This could produce Reading 2: The story ends rather grimly, because although Little Red Riding Hood is saved, her grandmother has been killed b the wolf—as a direct result of Little Red Riding Hood’s disobeying her mother by stopping in the woods and talking to a stranger’ (Reading 2).”
Quote: Resistant Reading. A resistant reading is one in which the reader rejects the position which the text appears to offer. With this version of “Little Red Riding Hood,’ a resistant reading would be ‘What Little Red Riding Hood does is beside the point. The Wolf is the one who should be criticized. It is his behavior that makes it unsafe for females to be out on their own’ (Reading 3).”
Comment: Interesting. Instead of rejecting possible interpretations as invalid, the author suggests “possible readings.” The “correct reading,” becomes the “dominant reading.” Still allows for alternative interpretations. I like the idea. RayS.
Title: “Re-Reading Reading.” Peter Forrestal. English Journal (November 1992), 25-29.