I remember vaguely from five months ago, sitting next to my adviser and picking classes. When discussing the required classes for my major, she firstly offered up “Reader and Text”. I remember asking her what the course entailed and after reading the description, still clueless as to the meaning behind “fluid readers and text” was, she offered little to no help on demystifying the course’s entails. When entering the class, the first assignment we received was to analyze the reader in the painting Young Girl Reading, by Jean-Honoré Fragonard. For the first time in my scholastic career, I was asked to analyze the anonymous “reader” behind the book. Over these fifteen weeks, the importance of the fluidity of readers became more and more obvious. It is important to have fluidity in a reader, for if not, the puzzle pieces of the narrative may go undetected. Even in class, the witness of how each person interprets a plot, or character decisions, and how a work affects someone is individual to each one of my peers.
“It is because we all live out narratives in our lives and because we understand our own lives in terms of the narratives that we live out that the form of narrative is appropriate for understanding the actions of others.”
This quote from MacIntyre’s essay reflects the point that I am trying to get across. That, to truly understand literature and all that it represents, you must have a narrative of your own. Readers have the ability to be fluid because one person is not identical to the next; thus, the interpretation of a text and the message derived from its narrative is distinctive to each person. In literature, there exists a symbiotic relationship between the reader and the text. This, in the sense that readers discover multiple interpretations of an individual piece through theory and literary criticism, is what gives literature fluidity.
Moving from fluid readers onto fluid texts, it’s important to understand that literature itself is fluid; in the fact that it is flexible in morphing itself into different forms, whilst also retaining its natural shape. Trying to interpret multiple texts leads readers to asking meta questions about the congruence between literary pieces. A well-off lady throwing parties, an activist’s trip to a cabin in the woods, a six year old girl with talking cats, and a mean old humbug. What do these stories have in common? and what meaning does that connection have? Like any art, each piece is a reflection of the authors/artists own beliefs, desires, and experiences. “Mrs. Dalloway” is a reflection of Virginia Woolf’s own opinions on the construct of society due to the nature of gender roles and identity. Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” reflects his own experiences of living a double life as the husband to Constance Lloyd and partner to Sir Arthur Doyle. “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” is a reflection of Lewis Carroll’s inner imagination and thoughts on the virtue of childhood. Thoreau’s novel “Walden” is a reflection of both his experiences and ideals he preaches. Even Hannah Gadsby reflects on her own personal narrative in an effort to educate and influence her audience. These distinct pieces each have a similar origin story; narrative. In relation to sculptures, the narrative would be the tin foil and wire and the individual work and its quirks are the Paper-mâché and paint that forms around it, differentiating it from the other works.
Literary criticism is theory of why the author came to write about the themes and how the theme is relevant in the scheme of understanding what literature is. Because of the large expanse of literary pieces, theory arises in the linking of each individual piece. Thus, the job is left to literature students and professionals to connect all the points with red thread until, ultimately, ending with a conclusion. However, new literature is produced constantly, so to make the effort in finalizing the definition of what literature is and should be would not be concrete. Like a form of art, literature is ever changing and cannot be contained to a specific person or definition.