And yet there is still that feeling that texts are somehowdifferent.

But they will hesitate to gobeyond what they take a text to

There are assertions "in black and white" to fall backon.

Speed and direction both affect balance; we will fall off, or crash, withoutall three. And yet we may focus on one or another at any particulartime. We can parse each out for analysis.While the modes of reading anddiscussing texts can be separated out for purposes of discussion, and it isrelatively easy to distinguish between the resulting forms of discussion, inpractice these reading techniques overlap. Any particular text can, andwill, be read at various levels of understanding at once. We cannotunderstand what a text says without recognizing relationships betweensentences. We cannot even understand sentences without drawing inferencesthat extend beyond the words on the page. Observations and realizationsat any one level of reading invariably support and spark observations atanother.

Texts do differ from art insofar as they actually seem to come outandsay something.

When we go beyond the words,we are reading meaning.

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The portrait, however, is more readily referred to as “enigmatic.” The ever elusive smile, the misty atmosphere, the hazy landscape in the background and, most of all, the ambiguous, inscrutable expression on the face of the sitter entrap the imagination, leaving questions open and fancy disturbed. Mona Lisa’s exceedingly serene, indifferent disposition further deepens the uncertainty and excites curiosity.

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60D DSLR for low angle of street musicianPhoto by Nora Raza’ai

The more features of the painting that you recognize, the more powerfulyour interpretation will be.When reading texts, as when readingpaintings, we increase understanding by recognizing the craftsmanship of thecreation, the choices that the artist/author made to portray the topic acertain way.

Waiting for magic hourPhoto by Nora Raza’ai

Aloof? Looking at the Mona Lisa, you knowthat you are not looking at Mona Lisa, a person, but The Mona Lisa, apainting. You can talk not only about the meaning of the picture, butalso about how it was crafted.

Montmartre in the distance is the highest point in Paris

We can restate a text; we cannot restate a painting or action. Yet atext is simply symbols on a page. Readers bring to their readingrecognition of those symbols, an understanding of what the words mean withinthe given social and historical context, and an understanding of the remarkswithin their own framework of what might make sense, or what they might imaginean author to have intended. There is no escape; one way or anotherwe are responsible for the meaning we find in ourreading. When a text says thatsomeone burned their textbooks, that is all that is there: an assertion thatsomeone burned their textbooks. We can agree on how to interpret sentencestructure enough to agree on what is stated in a literal sense. But anysense that thatperson committed an irresponsible,impulsive, or inspired act is in our own heads. It is not stated as suchon the page (unless the author says so!). Stories present actions;readers infer personalities, motives, and intents.

The inconspicuous American in the crowdPhoto by Nora Raza’ai

Readers can criticize an author's handling of a topic based on their ownknowledge or views, evaluate the writing style, or attack the honesty of theauthor.

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These too are legitimate forms of response, but they require a criticalreading of the text first if they are to be meaningful. The first orderof business is to make sense of the text, and it is with that taskthat our efforts are concerned here.Finally, we might note that bookreports or reviews often contain additional elements, such as a feeling for thewriting style, comparison to other works, the reviewer's emotional response tothe reading experience, or the circumstances of publication. And bookreviewers often use the book under reviews as a taking-off point for adiscussion of the topic itself—all elements that go beyond, but depend on, acareful reading of the text in question.