Negotiating and Oscillating: Exchanges of Power Within the Reading Process

Proceedings of The 7th International Conference on Future of Teaching and Education

Year: 2023



Negotiating and Oscillating: Exchanges of Power Within the Reading Process

Natalie Davis-Porada




This theory-driven article probes the relationship between reading agents—the reader and the text—suggested by Louise Rosenblatt’s concepts of efferent and aesthetic reading transactions, arguing that their relationship is neither perfectly reciprocal nor consistent across reading experiences. Examining two types of classroom exercises, personal and critical reading tasks, both of which I employ often in my high school English classroom, I parse the fluid power dynamics between agents, examining how readers consciously or unconsciously negotiate the relationship between their own personal agency and the text’s officiality and staticity. After establishing that reading transactions are neither power-neutral nor entirely controlled by one agent over the other, but always a dynamic oscillation between efferent and aesthetic tendencies, I recontextualize my claim into Maxine Greene’s Deweyan proclamation of the sensation of freedom as the destination of literary pursuits. I nuance her vocabulary, suggesting that such freedom comes neither from an attempt to eliminate reader-text hierarchies nor from a passive submission to their existence, but instead through the collective recognition of our processes of negotiating and oscillating between these changing hierarchies. I argue this complex collective endeavor is worthwhile both for its creation of a personally productive and textually faithful reading event and for its positive consequences of heightened readerly awareness and a reimagined literary community.

keywords: Greene, hierarchy, Rosenblatt, transaction