Schweickart: Reading Ourselves – Toward a Feminist Theory of Reading

In her essay, Reading Ourselves: Toward a Feminist Theory of Reading,  Schweickart argues that in our reading of literary texts, gender plays a role in our experience an interpretation, especially for a woman reading texts written by men, as well as other women. Schweikart begins her argument by highlighting the arguments of interpretation of the other authors we have read, Fish and Iser. Schweikart notes that these theories, while addressing the differing role of reader and text in forming our intrepretation altogether ignore the issue of gender, and how this can also influence a reader’s interpretation. She begins her argument by outlining the ways in which women read texts by other men, namely that a woman reader is “immasculated by the text” (436) and therefore “reads the text both as a man and as a woman” (437). The second part of her argument outlines the ways in which a female reader reads a text authored by a female. In this second scenario, the female reader seeks to “connect … to women writers, to one another, to women readers and critics, and to the large community of women” (436).  Schweickart concludes her essay by stating that feminist writing such as hers is attempting to provide awareness of the theory of feminist reading, and is merely “grounded in the interest of producing a community of feminist readers and writers” (442).

In reading Schweikart’s essay, I found, to my initial surprise, that I agreed with many of her arguments. In particular, I found the section of her argument on the experience of female readers reading male literary texts to be especially interesting and true of my own experiences as a female reader. Her assertion that women must read theses texts “both as a man and as a woman” (437), was particularly interesting to me. Many of the texts that I have read have been written by male authors and primarily about male characters. As a woman, it is at times difficult to relate to these male characters and I often find myself approaching these texts differently in order to understand and relate to them. In addition, male authors often do not write about females, and so in reading a text written by a female, I tend to feel somewhat closer to the work, and I am able to more easily relate to the writing as I can approach the work as myself, a female reader.

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