This paper presents the two of the four main reading approaches to
reading a text. In this paper, Jane Austen’s novel Emma will be used
to demonstrate these approaches; providing a detailed description into
both reading practice, including reader-centred and author-centred. As
it is now widely acknowledged that no text is neutral, these practices
are one way of conceptualising changes in the theories and practices
of literary study that have occurred during the twentieth century.
Each approach is characterised by particular assumptions and values
and therefore places greater or lesser emphasis on the interactions
that occur between both the author and the reader as we read. To
justify these approaches, I have also used defenses.
Since its release in the early years of the nineteenth century, the
novel Emma has never ceased to impress and intrigue. While being
criticised for its lack of action and development, the novel, I found,
provides the reader with a remarkably accurate and surprisingly
hilarious portrayal of life in the upper middle class during the
Victorian period. With the ability to one minute have me ready to pull
out my hair and the next be in hysterics as Jane Austen repeatedly
pokes fun at the characters and their unanticipated antics and
imperfections, this book is a work of art. Events are miscalculated,
actions are misinterpreted and emotions are toiled with, but as with
many of Jane’s novels, a neatly tied (even teary) ending is produced
and all that should live happily ever after do. In the end, what I had
presumed to be both dull and strenuous turned out quite the opposite,
and my immense appreciation for the novel, as you will no-doubt
discover, clearly demonstrate this.
After reluctantly sitting through the movie Pride and Prejudice, my
preconceptions of Jane Austen’s work, as I gazed down at page one of
Emma, were of an exceptionally low standard. By the final page
however, my liking of the story had dramatically improved.
It is said that in order to enjoy Emma, one must descend deeper into
the story, beyond what I saw as petty nonsense. As Reginald Ferrar
(Website 1) displays, ”until you know the story, you are apt to find
the movement dense, slow and obscure, difficult to follow, and not
very obviously worth the following.” On the surface, Emma basically
consists of scheming, gossip and trivial, over exaggerated quarreling.
In hindsight, I now see the genius of it all. After a more thorough
examination of the text, I realised that Jane Austen is actually
making fun of the characters and their day-to-day experiences and
habits. In collaboration with a most impressive array of characters,
the story is undoubtedly one of a kind, as so many readers have
Having long been praised for its thorough and extraordinary portrayal
of characters in the novel, the comical yet insightful emphasis that
is placed upon each individual...