Tuesday 19 June 2018

What is important knowledge about a 'text' (a book, a poem, a play, an essay, an article etc)

We say to children and students something to the effect of:

"Here is a text" - that's to say we put a text in front of a class or a text is in put in front of us.

What is the 'important knowledge' about this text? What counts as 'important knowledge' about it?

Is it its history, 
its structure,
its techniques, 
its antecedents, 
its effect on its contemporaries, 
its effect on those who have written texts or spoken about this text since this text first appeared
its effect on you the reader, 
its method of narrations, 
its use of time, 
how the society of its time produced it, 
its genre, 
its use of reveal-conceal,
its use of specifics in the text in order to represent ideas beyond or around the text,
the degree to which it draws attention to how it itself is written and constructed,
the degree to which it appears to invite or not invite questions about itself,
the apparent assumptions it makes about who the audience for this text will be,
the variety (or not) in the registers the text appears to 'speak' with,
the extent of (or lack of) figurative writing within the text,
the recurrence or patterns of vocabulary, sequences, structures and images in the text,
the variations in sound in the text,
the varying grammars in the text,
the extent (or not) to which the text conforms or does not conform to the contemporary expectations of such a text, 

some of the above,
none of the above
a combination of the above?
a priority of some of the above over others?
if this last, in what order should we place these questions? 

and, if any of the above,
why some and not others?
if any of the above
how should we gauge the effects of any of these on a reader, or some readers, or readers contemporary to the text?
how do we know what these effects are? or should be? or do we just invent them? or assume them? or read them off some pre-given, pre-designed scheme of effects? Will a history or sociology of effects help us here?