Posts Tagged ‘Intersubjectivity’

Rereading the Text

Sunday, March 16th, 2014

Rereading is underrated. Why do you think all those coupon clippers keep looking back over their pages; because college savings and college discounts will only show themselves to you when you realize you need them, not when they’re just there.

The rereading of a text is one of the most important, and yet most overlooked, part of reading. Not only is the text read differently each time, but the reader also reinterprets one’s previous interpretation of the text. Rereading will not only produce a different understanding of the text, but will always have a different effect on the reader. Rather than being a repetitive action, rereading provides a new construction of the text, resulting in practically a new text. This is why a text cannot be given an objective definition; with what reading does one define a text? The text itself is different in every reading not because the text itself changes, but because the reader’s constructs and mental rules of construction have changed, along with the reader’s lifeworld. The lifeword, originally Lebenswelt in German, is the universe for what is self-evident or given.

During my rereading of War and Peace, I had to force myself to read more slowly and allow the world to be exposed to me bit by bit. Many of the same things that had struck me during my first reading stood out to me again; I fell in love with Andrei all over again, the scene at the opera made me nauseous once more. But other sections, which my eyes hadn’t even noticed the first time, captivated me this time around. Words such as ‘form’ and ‘content’ stand out with a newfound meaning for me, and when I looked at my first copy, I found that I hadn’t even bothered to underline sections which now struck me as undeniably important. As my understanding and associations with language changed, so did my construction of the text. And since my mentality has changed since the first reading, I am no longer stuck revolving around the most individuated being in the novel; instead I become focused on understanding the balance between freedom and inevitability.

Not to say that one should constantly doubt everything that has come to be understood, but it is important to keep in mind that everything you have learned from the world was understood in a specific moment in time, under a specific context. Nothing in the world remains stagnant, so allowing your opinions to remain so would be an inadequate image of the world. Your opinions are the images that you’ve created of the world. If the world is changing but the images you’ve created don’t change, you will be acting upon incomplete grounds.

In order for the act of reading to be accurately represented, the dichotomy of subject/object[1] must be left behind in favor of an intersubjective frame of reference so that the plurality of subjectivity and value judgments can be accorded into the understanding of reading. The different constructions of a text are all like a gestalt picture; only one picture can be seen at a time, and when one sees a picture, all other pictures appear nonexistent and absurd to even consider. A text can have multiple possibilities of gestalts[2]. The reader selects a gestalt, excluding all the others, based on one’s disposition, point of view, and experiences. Gestalts in the text work similarly to the gestalt of the picture of the old woman and the young woman. One can only see either the old woman or the young woman at one time, unable to see the transition from one to the other. And without the viewer, it’s neither an old woman nor a young woman; it’s just lines on a page.



[1] The Act of Reading, 25
[2] The Act of Reading, 123



Marina Manoukian, Sarah Lawrence College

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