Hartman 2004 Deconstructing the Reader


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Hartman 2004 Deconstructing the Reader

  1. 1. CHAPTER 11 DECONSTRUCTING THE READER, THE TEXT, AND THE CONTEXT Intertextuality and Reading from a “Cognitive” Perspective Douglas K. Hartman University of Pittsburgh INTRODUCING/FRAMINGThis article is about intertextuality and reading. It focuses on how theidea of intertextuality has been appropriated in research related to read-ing, as well as how intertextuality has been rendered by the practice ofresearch itself. In its broadest sense, this article is about praxis—the trans-action of idea and practice. But the focus is really much narrower than praxis; it is on the intertex-tual renderings and counter-renderings of the text, the reader, the author,and the context. My ambitions are threefold. One is to look at how ourconception(s) of the text, the reader, the author, and the context havebeen altered by postmodern theories of intertextuality and by intertextu-Uses of Intertextuality in Classroom and Educational Research, 349–368Copyright © 2004 by Information Age PublishingAll rights of reproduction in any form reserved. 349
  2. 2. 350 D. K. HARTMANally-informed research. Another is to look at what the idea of intertextual-ity itself has come to mean as it has been appropriated and articulated bythis theorizing and research. And the final is to, in a modest sense, decon-struct reading. My means for achieving these ambitions are straightforward. I begin byexamining the findings of intertextually-informed research that have hadsome impact on our conception(s) of the text, the reader, the author, andthe context. These studies were selected because they: (a) expressedexplicit theoretical grounding in intertextuality, (b) were publishedrecently (in the last 6 years), and (c) reflected a variety of methodologiesfor data collection and analysis. In the process of discussing the implica-tions of the studies’ findings, I highlight the renderings of intertextualityacross the studies and in turn use intertextuality as a kind of “strategicdevice” for seeing the assumed meanings and views of the text, the reader,the author, and the context that we are not usually disposed to see. I con-clude by discussing the implications of wedding intertextuality and read-ing. The risk in undertaking this, or any other, venture is that when ambi-tion runs ahead of means, the result is often disaster. To keep my meansin stride with my ambitions, I have been mindful that I speak on behalf ofwhat others meant when they appropriated intertextuality in theirresearch, and in a very real sense I am reappropriating their appropria-tions of the text, the reader, the author, and the context, as well as theidea of intertextuality. The extent to which my reading of their readingsresonate, hinges on your reading of what follows. I have also been mind-ful that my ambition is not to totally and completely deconstruct readinginto a heap of rubble, but to dismantle reading to the extent that intertex-tuality as a “strategic device” allows. APPROPRIATING/ARTICULATINGTo a large extent our view of reading has been framed by a commonsensi-cal, as well as scholarly, vision of reading that goes something like this: Anauthor (in a context), writes a text, that is read by a reader (usually in adifferent context). I examine the effect that postmodern theories of inter-textuality and intertextually-based research have on this vision in the fol-lowing, beginning with the text.The Text: E Pluribus Plures The text has been rendered by intertextually-informed research in twoways. Both, influenced considerably by literary theory and semiotics,require an altered notion of what constitutes a text. Although we usually
  3. 3. Deconstructing the Reader, the Text, and the Context 351think of the text as the object one reads—a textbook, a section of a pas-sage, or the alphanumeric code printed on a page—it need not be con-fined to the boundaries of printed language. A text includes bothlinguistic and nonlinguistic signs. A text can be an utterance, a gesture, athought, a structure, a function, or a piece of art, music, or drama (Rowe,1987; Short, 1986; Siegel, 1984); in this more inclusive sense, a text is anysign that communicates meaning.1The Text as a Site of “Interior” Dialogue One rendering of the text has been to see it as a site where “interior”dialogue is represented; where an interplay of absorbed voices dialogi-cally “speak” within the text. Kamberelis and McGinley (1992) found thetexts written by five 4th-graders to represent this interior dialogue. Bysegmenting each child’s text into utterances (i.e., linguistic units markedoff by the boundaries of “who is speaking,” p. 206) and then tracing outthe source, type, and function of each utterance by using interview, obser-vational, and artifactual data, the view of textuality that emerged was onerampant with vectors to other texts, utterances, images, and motifs thatinformed its construction, not one of a unitary, monologic textual voice. From this perspective, the text is never an ex nihilo (i.e., out of noth-ing) creation; it presupposes other texts and has a multiplicity of sources.It is polyphonic and double-voiced; it is a multivocal field of play wheretexts are superimposed upon texts, upon still other texts. “Every text ech-oes another unto infinity” (Plottel, 1978, p. xv). And on this field, textualresources, utterances, and architectures are juxtaposed and in turn dis-persed into other texts. Even the Latin derivation of the word “text” (n. textus)—which meanswoven, as in a fabric or structure—further suggests that the compositionof any text is interwoven with previous resources that give it a particulartexture, pile, and grain. As an ideogram, the text is a kind of “textile,”with the threads of the warp trailing off in one direction and those of thewoof in another. And although the text itself is a woven network of codi-fied threads in progress that fill a particular time and space, the threadsare all anchored elsewhere. In this way, the text is not a unitary, seamlesswhole, but can be fragmented and atomized into constituent elements(e.g., utterances), and these elements represent a life of their own andthat of others.The Text as a Site for “Exterior” Dialogue with Other Texts Another rendering of the text has been to see it as a site in dialoguewith other textual sites; where an interplay of linked voices dialogically
  4. 4. 352 D. K. HARTMAN“speak” across texts. Cairney (1990, 1992), Lehr (1991), and Short (1992)found that elementary students reading across sets of conceptually relatedtexts (i.e., trade books and other students’ writing) viewed texts in this“externally” dialogic way. By tracing the connections that students gener-ated across the texts they read, the view of textuality that emerged was oneof an open-bordered text, where the artificial borders of separation andunivocality suggested by the physicality of the text blur by its being situ-ated in a field of other texts. From this viewpoint, the text exists as part of a complex dialoguerather than an isolated monologue. It is networked with other texts—spa-tially and temporally—into a virtual “metatext” (Landow, 1992) that has“nomadic centers” (Deleuze, 1968) of meaning that drift according to thecontext of other texts in which it resides; there is no stable, central mean-ing. By its nature, the text is expandable, implicated, and linked intoother texts. As a result, the text exists as an in-potentia (i.e., potential)space, representing a virtual presence that is only realized for the momentin proximity to other texts. Taken together, both the “interior” and “exterior” views suggested bythese studies depict a different anatomy of the text. Rather than possess-ing an inherent, hidden, inner, center presence or voice (as is the case inessentialist beliefs), utterances echo through and across texts with bidirec-tional traces and alternative leitmotifs threading through any given text.The view of the text that emerges is that of a cento, a space where variousdiscourses, motifs, and images are situated together into a patchworkintertext that resembles a collage/montage of others’ voices. The implication of this view is that looking at the text in isolation is dis-torting. The notion of an individual, discrete, univocal, pristine textbecomes increasingly undermined and untenable. Instead, the textbecomes an enunciative field where intratextual utterances index extra-textual signs rather than some central signifier. The text becomes a dis-course of dispersion rather than logocentrism, of dynamic signifiersrather than spatial fixity, of centrifugal rather than centripetal voices. That is, the text is an indeterminate, provisional, unfinished work,open to new amplification and interpretation, engendered by its existencein a complex set of shifting relations. The fixed, unitary, centered textassumed in most reading research and classroom materials (i.e., the “textitself ” tradition) gives way to a dispersed, multivocal, decentered text thatis “a differential network, a fabric of traces referring endlessly to some-thing other than itself, to other differential traces” (Derrida, 1979, p. 83).The condition of the intertextual text proclaims that it is not closed; itsnature is to overrun all the limits assigned to it. From out of many texts,the text becomes many more.
  5. 5. Deconstructing the Reader, the Text, and the Context 353The Reader: First Person Plural The reader has been rendered by intertextually-informed research in atleast one way. Hartman (1991a) construed intertextuality as a kind of cog-nitive metaphor to explain the meaning making of eight able high-schoolstudents as they read a five-passage tableau. Each reader silently read thepassages and reported aloud their thoughts during a 2 1/2- to 3-hour ses-sion. By tracing out the source(s), “location,” spatial/temporal proximity,aspect, type, and function of textual resources that the students alluded toin their think-aloud episodes, the view of the reader that emerged wasone of a centoist who synthesized various discourses, motifs, and images bystitching together the textual voices of others into a patchwork intertextthat resembled a collage/montage. Employing the inclusive conception of text discussed previously,thoughts and ideas in the mind were conceived of as being texts also. In aBakhtinian (1981, 1984) sense, these texts of the mind were the “voice” ofanother and reflected the content, style, and sociopolitical stance of eachreader’s discourse communities and imaginative means (John-Steiner,1985). Each text was rampant with intertextual vectors or strands thatconnected to things outside itself (Barthes, 1986), and resided in a reser-voir-or “cauldron,” as Tolkien called it (Cooper, 1988)—of textualresources in the mind, which served as a multivocal, heterarchical networkof resources from which current and future meaning(s) could be con-structed. From this vantage point, when the reader constructs meaning, she gen-erates intertextual links among textual resources to fit a particular con-text, borrowing, adapting, appropriating, and transforming texts in hermind. This entire act is an orchestrated effort to mobilize potential texts,which generate interconnections among many textual resources, resultingin a web of meaning-an evolving mental web that Pearson and Tierney(1984) call an “inner text.” These inner texts represented the interplay ofmany textual resources where the reader has borrowed, transformed, andintersected the texts of others to construct her own. While assembling these inner texts from past as well as evolving texts,the reader also uses her current experiences with the text to revise herpast texts and the connections among them. These revised past texts arein turn used to further revise her currently evolving inner text. Hoesterey(1987) calls this the “intertextual loop,” where the reader uses newinsights from her current inner text to revise the composition and config-uration of past texts, and then loops these revised perceptions back tounderstand the current text. This reciprocal, “multilectical” process (Stan-field, 1985) makes it possible for the reader to generate meanings that areconstantly under revision and being reconstructed ad infinitum.
  6. 6. 354 D. K. HARTMAN The reader’s inner texts resemble a web of connections that are acti-vated or deactivated among textual resources. As a result, a single textualresource in the mind of the reader takes on different meanings in differ-ent contexts. Put another way, the same text is reappropriated accordingto an infinite number of possible relational schemes to represent differentinner texts. Connections are strengthened or weakened among textualresources, such that the act of reading is seen as the deconstruction andreconstruction of textual links. Put in this light, the reader becomes one who “transposes texts intoother texts, absorbs one text into another, and builds a mosaic of inter-secting texts” (Hartman, 1990, p. 2). She weaves multidimensional websof intertextual links in the mind, contingent on a large number of factors.Her role is much more than finding the appropriate schema, activating it,and filling in the slots; a view of the reader implied by some of the pre-vailing cognitive views of reading (e.g., Anderson & Pearson, 1984). The reader, then, can be characterized as one who positions herself ona multivocal field of play where she juxtaposes textual resources—cracks,contradictions, and all—in various architectures (Bataille, 1988). Sheenters and works within “textual worlds” constructed by appropriatingvarious author(itie)s, reading texts in terms of a plurality of other texts.The status of the intertextual reader proclaims that while she is but oneperson, the textual voices of many speak dialogically through her mean-ing making. The reader is a palimpsest, marked by the utterances of oth-ers.The Author: I Am Because We Are The author has been rendered by several intertextually-informed stud-ies in at least one way. Ackerman (1989), Greene (1990), McGinley (1992),and Spivey and King (1989) used intertextuality as a cognitive constructto explain the composing operations of secondary and postsecondary stu-dents as they wrote from sources about various academic topics; and Kam-berelis and McGinley (1992) examined the composing operations offourth graders as they wrote about themselves, their families, their com-munity, and their cultural histories. By tracing out the ways in which tex-tual resources had been ventriloquated, appropriated, and rearticulated,the view of the author that emerged across these studies—like that of thereader—was also one of a centoist who synthesized various discourses,motifs, and images by stitching together the textual voices of others into apatchwork intertext that resembled a collage/montage. Employing the inclusive conception of text discussed previously, theauthor shares a striking resemblance to that of the reader who borrows,
  7. 7. Deconstructing the Reader, the Text, and the Context 355adapts, appropriates, and transforms textual resources that come to himsecondhand and stylized, already imbued with the utterances of others. Inthe words of Kristeva (1974), the author engages in the “transposition ofone (or several) sign-system(s) into another” (pp. 59-60). This signifyingprocess is accomplished by drawing on the genotext (the plurality of tex-tual voices available to the author at any given time and place) to articu-late the phenotext (the presently visible discourse; Kristeva, 1986). Heconstructs “textual worlds” by appropriating the texts of variousauthor(itie)s, juxtaposing texts in terms of a plurality of other texts. Inthis sense, the author is a multidimensional space through which theutterances of others speak. This view of the author has been aptly described by Simon (1969) in hisnovel La Bataille de Pharsale by the work of two men on an abandonedcombine. The machine that once functioned as a whole becomes a con-glomeration of fragments as the two workmen dismantle the combine andcarry away some of the pieces. These pieces are “taken away to replaceones in another machine or, simply, to be used as they were, that is, asiron bars, planks, or rods for fences” (pp. 149-150). Thus, the fate of thecombine and the activity of the workmen provides a metaphor for thefragmentation of one textual sign-system and the reintegration of thefragments into others by the author. There is the deconstruction of a pre-vious text and the reconstruction of another that combines preexistingothers. What is presented is an infinitely renewable and renewing processof the author at work. From this perspective, the author as a solitary actor and voice who orig-inates and gives existence to the text borders on myth. Although the his-torical/mythological author is no doubt responsible for the lions share ofthe work, composing the text is a collaborative production, no matter howdisproportionate the shares. The unified self that is commonly assumedto exist “behind” or “within” the text gives way when the author is viewedas a text himself, indexically collaborating with the textual utterances ofothers. This joint aspect of textual production foregrounds a revisedvision of the author: the author as plural. As Barthes (1974) explained,“this ‘I’ which approaches the text is already itself a plurality of othertexts” (p. 10). By acknowledging the unacknowledged collaborations withother authors, the limited attribution and univocal vision of the tradi-tional authorial self becomes self evident. In its place, a multiauthorvision resurrects the author as a dialogic “self,” and emphasizes the col-lective author(ity) of all those whose voices inscribe the composition. The author, then, re-sounds with the collective nature uttered in thewriting act. The uniquely original, ensconced, exclusive work of a singleauthor is in Barthesian (1977) terms, put to death. Multiple conscious-nesses reflect the dispersed and distributed nature of the author. And the
  8. 8. 356 D. K. HARTMANvoices of these other consciousnesses speak as the author(s) of the text.The status of the intertextual author proclaims that while he is but oneperson, he is a plurality of others’ social voices that dialogically speakthrough him. The author is a social derivation, and comes to exist becauseof who we are.The Context: The Past in Future Tense The context has been rendered by intertextually-informed research intwo ways. Both renderings view the context—which literally means“accompanying text”—as the situational/positional space in which a textresides in relation to other texts, and the referencing and indexing forcesthat impinge on these textual relations. But beyond this commonality,intertextuality has been used to articulate two spheres of the context. Thenarrower, more traditional, sphere is that which is immediate, present,and located “inside” the linguistic textual environment (i.e., the text(s) infront of the reader); whereas the broader, more inclusive, sphere extendsto all that is remote, nonpresent, and found “outside” the linguistic tex-tual environment.The Context as an Endogenous Sphere The endogenous rendering of the context emphasizes a linguistic per-spective on the context. Employing the narrower linguistic conception oftext discussed previously, the semantic, structural, and syntactic positionsof each word, idea, event, and character in the text(s) make up the con-text. The endogenous context resembles the notion of a context(ual) clue,where words and phrases that surround a written language unit and influ-ence its meaning are of concern (e.g., Anderson & Nagy, 1991). By trac-ing out the “location” of texts that readers referenced as they read acrossfive passage, Hartman (1991a) found two types of linguistic textual envi-ronments. The primary endogenous context included those connectedtextual resources that were traceable to the text they were currently read-ing (i.e., within the text connections), and the secondary endogenous con-text referred to those connected textual resources that were traceable toone of the texts they had read previously in the study (i.e., between thetexts’ connections). The view of context that emerged was one where lin-guistic textual resources functioned referentially in an environment wherepotential intertextual links existed within and across passages. From this viewpoint, the context is not merely an aggregate of undiffer-entiated linguistic signs on a page. It is a syntagmatic environment where
  9. 9. Deconstructing the Reader, the Text, and the Context 357the presence of a word, phrase, idea, event, or character is defined againstthe other words, phrases, ideas, events, and characters that surround it:both intra- and intertextually. It is fraught with potential relations betweenone element of a text to another, where the referenced textual resourcesserve to inform the other in some way (Halliday & Hasan, 1976). Thecontext, in this sense, is a complex of shifting linguistic textual relationsthat can be indexed by their semantic and spatial/temporal relation toeach other. In all, it is a space where anaphoric and cataphoric relationsare realized.The Context as an Exogenous Sphere The exogenous rendering of context is much more inclusive and empha-sizes a sociolinguistic and sociocultural perspective on the context.Employing the more inclusive conception of text discussed previously, thesocial, cultural, historical, and ideological dimensions of the context areconceived of as being texts also. In this sense, the context includes thatwhich is constructed during any local social interaction as well as the his-torically and culturally inscribed textual forces that impinge on any par-ticular reading event. For example, Bloome and Egan-Robertson (1992),Rowe (1987), and Short (1986) located intertextuality in the material cir-cumstances of young children’s social interactions as they engaged in thediscussion of texts that they had read and written. By identifying theform, function, strategy, genre, and type of event in text-appropriatingsituations, the view of the context that emerged was one where social, cul-tural, and historical ideologies strongly influenced “what texts may bejuxtaposed and how those texts might be juxtaposed, by whom, where,and when” (Bloome & Egan-Robertson, 1992, p. 25). From this vantage point, the context represents those immediate anddistant cultural rules that have evolved historically to signal which textualresources can be included (and which are to be excluded), and how thosetextual resources can be connected (or why they cannot be connected) in aparticular event. Special attention is given to the construction of those(con)texts that preceded the event that is currently unfolding, and to theconsequences of the event on subsequent events in similar or different(con)texts. Of particular importance, is how “contextualization cues”(Gumperz, 1982) from previous events signal appropriate social interac-tions and meaning making strategies in the current and anticipatedevents. In this sense, the context becomes the episteme—the historicallyevolved and socially determined governing ideas, relations, and practices-for appropriating, articulating, and transposing texts (Foucault, 1972).The meaning that the reader constructs from the text, then, is never a
  10. 10. 358 D. K. HARTMANdirect transference or copy from the author or the text, but is mediated,transformed by some set of implied or explicit rules for establishing thehorizon, or interpretive possibilities, for the text (Todorov, 1984). This view of the context implies that a textual utterance does notderive its meaning from itself, but from the interplay of other utterancesthat went before and will come after it. It is in the company of other texts(i.e., the context), and in the conversation with other texts, that any tex-tual encounter has the potential to be proposed, recognized, or acknowl-edged, and have social consequences (Bloome & Egan-Robertson, 1992).In short, these conditions necessitate the consummation of any textualintercourse. Taken together, both the endogenous and exogenous views suggested bythese studies depict the context as spheres that shape the interplay oftexts in specific environments, and are themselves charged with politicallyand ideologically dialogic forces. The view of the context that emerges—like that of the text—is that of a cento, a space where the joining of textualutterances in the patchwork intertext arises out of a continuing sociocul-tural dialogue of discourses, motifs, and images. The difference beingthat the endogenous sphere locates the dialogue in the referential andcohesive features of the text, whereas the exogenous sphere locates it inthe social and historical negotiations among people. Yet in both cases, thecontext resembles a collage/montage of others’ voices. The space in whicha text resides impinges upon and is impinged upon by others. And in thisway, the past speaks through the present to that which will become future. REFLECTING/PROSPECTINGIf you have followed me to this point, you are probably ready for somediscussion of what this intertextual view of reading might mean. What itmeans, of course, depends on who appropriates what, when, and where.My reflections on what intertextuality and reading mean together, follow.In turn, they may speak to those of your own.The text, the reader, the author, and the context How then does intertextuality, as rendered in the previous pages,transfigure our conception(s) of the text, the reader, the author, and thecontext? In general, I think it foregrounds a very different view of read-ing. And this difference is really a revision of the common conceptualunits we have come to use in our work: the text, the reader, the author,and the context. Taken together, these differences form a shift away from
  11. 11. Deconstructing the Reader, the Text, and the Context 359the everyday world of reading reflected in our language, toward the inter-textual one presented in the preceding pages. What follows are four over-lapping themes made visible by these shifting visions.Beginnings and Endings An enigma presented by this intertextual view of reading is in knowingwhere the text, the reader, the author, and the context begin and end. Tobe sure, there is a place in the text to which one can point—the first or lastletter, word, sentence, or paragraph—and identify as the beginning orend; there is a point where the reader’s eyes first fixate on the text andprogressively saccade and regress their way across the page (or monitor)until there is no more print or time; there is a point when the author’spen first presses against the page (or fingers on the keyboard) and etchesits way until the ideas or pages are no more; and there are spatial/tempo-ral dimensions around a particular word in a page that provide the lin-guistic context for its meaning, and the classroom environment thatprovides the social context for meaning making. But such notions ofbeginnings and endings are cultural constructions which have evolvedfrom pragmatic, methodological, or other reasons. Reading need not beconfined to the boundaries of a temporal activity or physical entity. Thedialogic nature of reading depicted in the previous pages underminesthese commonsensical notions of beginning and ending (Said, 1985). How can we think about beginnings and endings? The insights madepossible by intertextuality extend our vision in both directions as well asraise additional questions. For example, if the text at hand is composed ofother texts that establish relationships of continuity or discontinuity withprevious texts in anticipation. Of potential texts, how far back or forwardmust one go to locate the primal or terminal limits of the text? If thereader and the author are both agents through whom the textual utter-ances of others speak, how far back does one need to trace the utterancesto identify their genealogical origin, or anticipate their potential influ-ence to know when reading and writing end? And if the context is a spacewhere referencing and indexing forces impinge on the relations amongtexts, how far back or forward do the forces need to be traced to say thatthe impact of the context has been accounted for, controlled, orexplained? While answers to these questions are beyond the scope of thisarticle, they illustrate the bounded view of beginning and ending impliedby our common notions of reading. To think, then, that reading begins and ends at this point or that pointis to miss the point of its dialogic nature and structure: Any reading eventis intricately bound to a larger dialogue that has preceded and will follow
  12. 12. 360 D. K. HARTMANit. Although isolating it for close analysis may be revealing, it is also dis-torting. Just as a camera lens can magnify an object at the expense of thebackground (which becomes a blur), so can our conception(s) of the text,the reader, the author, and the context become distorted by too narrow aview of where each begins and ends. It provides only a limited frame on alarger “reality.” Intertextuality reframes these points beyond our existen-tial vision.Classical and Quantum Intertextuality provides still another rendition of reading that violatesour sensibilities of ordinary experience. Using the language of physics,intertextuality foregrounds a contrast between a classical and quantum viewof reading. From a classical (or Newtonian) perspective, the objects of oursenses-the text, the reader, the author, and the context-comport them-selves according to common-sense notions like “things can only be in oneplace at a time” and “things have a stability to them” (determinate). Onthe surface, our sensory input leads us to believe that the text, the reader,the author, and the context are exclusive categories/entities, can only be inone place at a time, and are well circumscribed. For example, there is aboundary that demarcates the subject (e.g., the reader) from the object(e.g., the text), and vice versa. By relying on our sensory input, the text,the reader, the author, and the context signify permanent, constant, andfixed entities that interact-that is, act on each other. But from a quantum perspective, the surface characteristics of theobjects we sense mask un-commonsense notions like things can be in twoplaces at once (or nowhere at all) and things are highly unstable (indeter-minate). Beneath the appearance of things, the text, the reader, theauthor, and the context are caught up in the give and take of discursivepractices that render them indistinguishable. For example, the readerlooks more like the author at times, composing and revising an “innertext,” and the text becomes a sphere where historically and culturallyinscribed forces of antecedent contexts impinge on the reader. Where onebegins and the other ends is a matter of perspective. By advancing a viewthat looks beyond sensory input, the text, the reader, the author, and thecontext signify changeable, variable, and unfixed constitutions that inter-animate—that is, co-constitute the life of each other. The effect of these two views is to suggest that reading has complemen-tary aspects (Bohr, 1934). While the classical view illuminates the elementsof reading as determinate, the complementary quantum view revealsthem as indeterminate. Taking one perspective precludes the possibilityof simultaneously taking its complementary perspective. For example, the
  13. 13. Deconstructing the Reader, the Text, and the Context 361determinate classical view of reading represented through our languagehas for a considerable time obstructed our seeing its indeterminate quan-tum complement. But taken together, the complementary views provide amultiperspectival vision of reading.Singular and Plural There is still another rendering of reading that seems impossible inour macroscopic, everyday world, but is possible in the realm of intertex-tuality: The text, the reader, the author, and the context are plural innature. That is, they are constituted by a plurality of textual sources,voices, and utterances, rather than a singular origin, essence, center, orpresence (Derrida, 1978). The individual text is transformed into a virtualtext; the univocal reader and author into polyphonic agents; and themonologic context into a dialogic sphere. In short, the notion of a solecentering voice is (dis)integrated. Because our conception of the text, the reader, the author, and the con-text have been largely based on univocal, rather than multivocal, render-ings of the subjects and objects of reading, a certain degree of distortionhas interfered with our vision of each. This distortion in our “received”observations of reading has led us to perceive a text as single-handedlywritten and comprehended in a context—that is, to have a physical single-ness. But the paradox of an intertextual perspective is that between andbeyond these observations, the artifact, actors, and circumstances of read-ing manifest preexisting others. They reflect a dispersed and distributedconstitution, multiple consciousness, a social derivation, and a dialogicorigin. In other words, through the text, the reader, the author, and thecontext the virtual presence of other texts are present—named and other-wise. This suggests a duality to reading; a singular-plural duality where thetext, the reader, the author, and the context are each one and more thanone. As a result, a more appropriate way to indicate the simultaneous sin-gular and plural nature of each is to think of them as the text(s), thereader(s), the author(s), and the context(s).Cento and Centoist The governing metaphor voiced in the previous discussion of the text,the reader, the author, and the context is that of a cento and centoist.Almost out of circulation, the term cento in its original Latin form meant agarment of patchwork. Applied to literature, it came to mean a work that
  14. 14. 362 D. K. HARTMANwas a literary patchwork, made up of bits and pieces from other authors’writing (Holman & Harmon, 1992).2 Now, animated by intertextuality,cento is extended to mean a space where various discourses, motifs, andimages are situated together into a patchwork intertext. It is a collage/montage of other’s textual voices, voices that come secondhand andalready stylized. The one who assembles the cento, the centoist, workswith the materials at hand, but does more than the verbatim stitching ofthe source patches that an amanuensis would do; he or she reappropriatesand rearticulates the textual resources with an ideological and politicalcharge of his or her own. In this way, a difference is produced in the inter-play between the “always already” (i.e., the already familiar, the custom-ary) and the “disseminated” (i.e., the novel, the new; Derrida, 1981). Andwhat emerges is the cobbled composition of the text, the reader, theauthor, and the context.Intertextuality The effects of appropriating intertextuality to understand the text, thereader, the author, and the context have also had a transactional effect onthe idea of intertextuality itself. Put another way, in the process of beingappropriated, intertextuality itself has been rearticulated. As depicted inthe previous section on reading-related research, intertextuality is a multi-faceted notion. It is not an idea that remains pure, constant, and idealizedacross time and context, but is mutable and reflects the context in which itappropriated. It can manifest itself differently depending on the condi-tions of its appropriation. My previous discussion of intertextual theory and research illustratesthis quite well. For example, when intertextuality is located in the materialcircumstances of the text, it reflects the perspectives of literary theory andsemiotics; when intertextuality is located in the material circumstances ofthe reader and author, it reflects the perspectives of cognitive psychology;and when intertextuality is located in the material circumstances of thecontext, it reflects the perspectives of linguistics and sociolinguistics. Thesociohistorical context of each study mediates the rendition of intertextu-ality that is invoked. And although there are commonalities among theviews of intertextuality employed by each study, the material conditions ofeach provides a differing epistemic frame on intertextuality. Historically, intertextuality has evolved most visibly within the contextof literary theory, namely postmodernism and deconstruction—ideas thatreflect a commitment to multivocal spaces. As a result, intertextuality rep-resents a discourse of dispersion, not unity. It not only recognizes the con-
  15. 15. Deconstructing the Reader, the Text, and the Context 363textual influences of one text on another, but is itself affected bycontextual factors. Just as there is a certain amount of indeterminacy in atext’s meaning and it remains “open” to new amplification and interpre-tation based on the contextual web in which it resides (Barthes, 1986), 50is intertextuality in literacy research. It is an idea replete with indetermi-nacy and openness, depending on the signifying system in which itresides. The bottom line in all this is that the ways in which intertextuality isappropriated and reflected in the reading-related research discussed pre-viously reveal the contexts in which each study and all of them reside. Oneof the 8 readers in the study I conducted provided a metaphor that cap-tures this point (Hartman, 1991a, 1991b). During the debriefing inter-view I asked the readers: “If you had to choose a metaphor to describe theway you thought while reading the passages, what would that metaphorbe?” One young man said: It’s like a whole sphere of jewels or a circle of jewels, and each jewel reflects every other jewel and every other jewel is reflected in it.When I asked him to tell me more about his metaphor he said: It’s about the effects of events on other events. It’s a metaphor for the rever- berations of lives on each other. Everything reflects everything else. (1991b, p.5) I think his metaphor parallels in a rather remarkable way the “influ-ence” and “reflection” of our own histories on our own and each otherswork. We mirror the “circle” of texts in which we reside. Thus, intertextu-ality is a prismatic construct, refracted by the sign system and historywithin which it works. To focus on anyone or anything in the circle issimultaneously revealing and distorting. As I see it, the intertextual perspectives represented in reading-relatedresearch do not represent a well balanced and well orchestrated examina-tion of intertextuality at work in the text, the reader, the author, and thecontext, and never will. Intertextuality is not a melodious, rhythmic voiceat work. Instead, it is a discordant, nonrhythmic voice. To use some ofCharles Suhor’s (1991) words, intertextuality is not like the symmetry of aBach fugue, but more like the improvisational lines of a jazz musician(p. 21). To expect and demand that absolute uniformity, order, and constancybe the case with the appropriation of intertextuality in reading-relatedresearch is to create a false intertextual mythology. If the underlyingstructure of cacophony is more cacophony, then the closer we look atreading through the intertextual metaphor, the more schismatic, diverse,
  16. 16. 364 D. K. HARTMANill-structured, and “multilectic” our research, practice, and theory willbecome. Intertextuality resonates with uncertainty and suspended dis-course turned back on itself. It is composed of overlapping and divergingnarratives and mixed metaphors. It simultaneously runs with and againstthe grain. It provides the means for complementary visions of both theactivity we call reading and itself.Deconstructing Reading As I stated at the outset, the thrust of this article was to articulate theintellectual and material consequences of constituting the text, the reader,the author, and the context in light of postmodern theories of intertextu-ality and intertextually-informed research. In the process of doing this Ihave necessarily noted the difference between how we have traditionallyrendered these common conceptual units and how they have been reap-propriated by a number of reading-related studies with explicit theoreti-cal grounding in intertextuality. The process of this rerendering hasserved, in a modest way, to deconstruct reading—to give a vano lectia (i.e.,“variant reading”) of reading itself. To provide a variant reading of reading is to imply that we have beenmisreading it all along. And this is precisely my point. In the act of com-prehending, something is excluded. In the way we have come to under-stand the text, the reader, the author, and the context, we have excludedthose insights made possible by an intertextual reading of each. This isprecisely de Man’s (1983) point in Blindness and Insight: Constructing oneinsight involves not seeing other possibilities. Blindness becomes, then, apractical effect of insight. For me to then suggest that the “real” readingof reading is that portrayed by intertextuality is for me to miss my own(and de Man’s) point: that intertextuality is a misreading also. Thoseinsights made possible by it exclude still other possible insights. But short of backing myself into an infinite regress and deconstruct-ing reading into nothingness, using intertextuality as a “strategic device”to deconstruct reading does serve a useful purpose. It makes us awarethat we have not come to understand reading as it is—where an author(in a context), writes a text, that is read by a reader (usually in a differ-ent context). Rather, we have come to see it as it has been constructed bythe language practices of our culture(s) and what they have broughttogether for us. Thus, reading as we have come to know it is a “receivedversion” of the text, the reader, the author, and the context, underwrit-ten and prefabricated by sociocultural forces that operate on us. And it
  17. 17. Deconstructing the Reader, the Text, and the Context 365takes the insights made possible by intertextual renderings of reading toregister our blindness. FINAL REMARKSThe utility of intertextuality, then, may prove to be that it will promptthose of us in the reading research community to struggle with theintended and unintended meanings framed by the concepts of the text,the reader, the author, and the context. If it does this, then we will havebegun to co-constitute a future different from the past and present. If itdoes not, then we will perpetuate the past and present into our futurework. The former is to envision reading as living reanimated by scholarlyinventiveness and insight; while the latter is to see reading as dead-strapped to the scholarly autopsy table. Intertextuality proclaims thereare no eternal visions of reading, only visions contained in socioculturalframes. ACKNOWLEDGMENTSThe research reported in this article was supported, in part, by a grantfrom the Faculty Research Fund of the School of Education at the Univer-sity of Pittsburgh. I am grateful to my colleagues Rick Donato andMichael Helfand at the University of Pittsburgh and Jeanette AllisonHartman at Indiana University of Pennsylvania for the careful readingsand feedback they provided on earlier versions of this article. NOTES 1. For the sake of clarity and consistency, I will generally use “the text” to refer to the physical, linguistic object, and “text,” “a text,” “textual resource,” and “textual utterance” to refer to the more inclusive concep- tion of a linguistic or nonlinguistic sign that communicates meaning. 2. A related term, pastiche (the French word for parody), is often referred to as synonymous with cento. It implies that a particular literary, artistic, or musical work is made up of phrases, episodes, shapes, patterns, forms, melodies, and chords borrowed from the works of others. While the origin of cento is rooted in garment making and quilting, the etymology of pas- tiche (which comes from the Italian for “pie of meat or macaroni”) is located in the Italian pastry chef ’s habit of combining various ingredients so that a whole new, distinct taste is produced in a new-fashioned pie, tart, eclair, puff, cake, or bread (Myers & Simms, 1989).
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