In your study, you may have come across different reading practices or the phrase “alternative reading”.
This is a topic that is rarely covered in detail in class, but can be the difference between an average essay and an amazing essay.
SCSA WA defines reading and readings as the below:
The process of making meaning of text. This process draws on a repertoire of social, cultural and cognitive resources. Reading occurs in different ways, for different purposes, in a variety of public and domestic settings. Reading is therefore a cultural, economic, ideological, political and psychological act. The term applies to the act of reading print texts or the act of viewing a film or static image.
Readings are particular interpretations of a text. The classification of readings into alternative, resistant or dominant is quite arbitrary, depending on the ideology held by the reader. Alternative readings: readings that focus on the gaps and silences in texts to create meanings that vary from those meanings that seem to be foregrounded by the text. Dominant reading: is the reading that seems to be, for the majority of people in society, the natural or normal way to interpret a text. In a society where there are strongly competing discourses (i.e. most societies), the definition of what is a dominant reading depends on the ideology of the person making the decision. Resistant reading: a way of reading or making meaning from a text which challenges or questions the assumptions underlying the text. Resistant readings employ a discourse different from the discourse that produces the dominant reading
Source: SCSA WA
In simple terms, a reading is the way or the lens through which we interpret a certain text, be that novel, film, short story and everything in between.
Every text that you read can have multiple interpretations, depending on the reading you take. Many exams have used the term “readings” or “reading” in the responding section. Therefore, it’s wise for you to know how to conduct readings and write essays on readings.
Let’s take Harry Potter, for example.
A dominant reading of Harry Potter allows readers to understand that Harry is the traditional fantasy hero that saves the day. However, a resistant reading could be that minor characters are more fundamental to the plot line that J K Rowling intended, namely Luna Lovegood and Neville Longbottom. A gendered reading of Harry Potter could reveal that women should be values for their intelligence rather than for their beauty, as an indictment of society’s values. This has been demonstrated through the characters of Hermione Granger, Luna Lovegood and Cho Cheng. All three female characters are appreciated for their book and street smarts, as well as their abilities to do spells. This is a very simplistic demonstration of alternative readings designed to show you the basics.
Depending on the text you have studied, type into Google <text name> + alternative reading and see what comes up! This will help you plan an essay on a dominant, resistant or alternative reading of your text for the purpose of an essay.