, Research Paper
In the book, Ways of Reading, the authors Bartholomae and Petrosky outline what they describe as a “strong reader”. They characterize the attributes that collectively contribute to this title and then talk about the relations between a strong reader and a strong writer. The perspectives that Bartholomae and Petrosky discuss on ideas and textual analysis are very interesting and in point of fact remind me of the thought process of which I use when analyzing a reading.
“ Strong readers often read critically, weighing, for example, an author claims and interpretations against evidence-evidence provided by the author in the text, evidence drawn from other sources, or the evidence that is assumed to be part of a reader’s own knowledge and experience.”(p.12)
The easy way to read a text is to observe the general plot and to formulate ideas about the text through a first reading. A strong reader cannot only observe a reading; they can analyze the text and formulate an opinion through not only their own perspective and opinion, but through utilizing their own ideas as well as those of the authors and societies’. Reading Jane Tompkins’s Indians, we find that the “strong reader” description is quickly applicable.
In Tompkins’s essay, the reader is fed the fa?ade that Tompkins’s is writing on the relations between the Puritans first entering this country and the Native Americans already residing there. Her introduction to this paper is a personal reflection of a memory she has retained since her childhood. The reason for writing this essay she explains, is to prepare for a course she was to be teaching. The essay appears to be that of exceptional quality. Not only does she analyze the sources of which she has looked for understanding, she begins to discuss the bias in which every reading is coated. Her essay quickly turns into an analysis of the bias facts issued by authors and it’s effect on the final product. By the time Tompkins’s has to conclude her essay, the essay has progressed into something that has nothing to do with Native American’s relations; instead the initial subject has become a catalyst for her conclusion.
“ I didn’t know what the facts were. All I had, or could have, was a series of different perspectives, and so nothing that would count as an authoritative source on which moral judgments could be based. But, as I have just show, I did judge, and that is because, as I now think, I did have some facts.”(p.686)
As shown in the passage above, the argument that Tompkins’s is having with herself is generalized. The story behind this quote could be anything, Tompkins has utilized a story about “Indians” as it helped her structure her argument a little more efficiently. Also, reading the passage above, we see that Jane Tompkins has contradicted herself, this is another technique she uses to exemplify her idea, and she will clarify this contradiction later in the conclusion.
“ The awareness of the interests motivating each version cast suspicion over everything, in retrospect, and I ended by claiming that there was nothing I could know. This, I now see, was never really the case. But how did it happen…Why did I conclude that none of the accounts was accurate because they were all produced from some particular angle of vision?” (p.687)
Using her “strong writing” skills she is able to produce this contradictory internal dialogue transcribed into text to show how her ideas inspire thought, even within what she knows. This idea or argument in her conclusion becomes this: poststructuralist theory, perspectives, and their influences on factual sources throughout history.
When describing a “strong reader” Bartholomae and Petrosky developed some attributes that they attributed to a “strong reader”.
“ Strong readers, we’ve said, remake what they have read to serve their own ends, putting things together, figuring out how ideas and examples relate, explaining as vest they can material that is difficult or problematic, translating phrases like Richard Rodriguez’s ‘scholarship boy’ into their own terms…by writing down your thoughts, placing one idea against another, complementing on what you’ve done, taking examples into account, looking back at where you began, perhaps changing you mind, and mobbing on.” (p.12)
Operating on the traits in the above passage, we can analyze Jane Tompkins on her ability to manage within these standards. Clearly we have seen that by contradicting herself on purpose only to address the reasons behind this strategy in her conclusion, Tompkins has taken “examples into account” and by looking back where she began, she changed her mind. These techniques are all executed through concise and tactical writing skills all linked to those of a “strong reader”.
“ It is hard to distinguish the act of reading from the act of writing. In fact the connection between reading and writing can be seen as almost a literal one.”(p.12)
In the terms described by Bartholomae and Petrosky, Tompkins analysis can ultimately be a work of critical reading, since in their description the differences between reading and writing are often minimal as this is illustrated in the passage above.
Bartholomae and Petrosky’s introduction to strong reading and writing was able to set up the observation skills necessary to critically read Jane Tompkins’s essay and receive something more than a story about some Indians. In fact these skills were so prevalent in the reading, they essentially comprised the entire essay Indians. These kinds of similarities are extremely useful for readers of the text. Within Bartholomae and Petrosky’s introduction, the skills were introduced and described, and in Indians the skills were utilized and therefore shown how they operate in a strong reader’s essay.
“I must piece together the story…as best I can, believing this version up to a point, that version not at all, another almost entirely, according to what seems reasonable and plausible, given everything else that I know.”(p.688)
This one sentence appears to have the effect of not only summarizing the conclusion, but also proving that the techniques used to describe a “strong reader” are present in the essay and actually envelop the style in which the essay was written.
The guidelines which Bartholomae and Petrosky conveyed as the attributes to a “strong reader” come to life and concisely reiterate what they are attempting to show in Jane Tompkins’s essay Indians. As the author of the essay, reading the text does not appear to show how being a strong reader would have any relevance to the essay written. After reading and studying the definitions set forth by Bartholomae and Petrosky, not only does the reader categorize Tompkins as an effectively strong reader, the readers see two other main points. The first point is that Tompkins’s strong writing ability can be directly linked to her ability to read “strongly” based on the ideas of Bartholomae and Petrosky. The final point noticed, was that without either the introduction to Ways of Reading or Indians, either reading would possibly lose validity. Each work studied in this duo, appears to aid the others’ ideas and arguments. The analysis and perspectives utilized in Indians are conveyed through the processes described in the introduction to Ways of Reading. Vice versa, the arguments made toward the makeup of a “strong reader” would not have been feasibly possible to illustrate without examples such as Jane Tompkins essay.