The focus of this first lesson was to look at text on a textual level and in relation to the immediate context. What emerged was that, even at this level of looking at text, many different interpretations are possible. The range of answers students gave to the first question about the content of the text showed how complex and ambiguous such a question is. Indeed, I take a view that text interpretation is a process in which readers use their experiences and lifeworld knowledge to give meaning to the text, not to extract pre-existing meaning (see Chapter 3). However, that does not mean we should allow for a limitless number of interpretations in pedagogical activities. I believe, along with Wallace (2003: 16) that we can talk about a range of ‘preferred readings’ of text. The answers to the question about content showed that students do not look at text in a disinterested way. Even if students try and stay close to the text in their answers, they still inscribe meaning, they ‘evaluate’ the text, and see it in relation to its context in relation to its effect on the world; e.g. the text is about women who have a male identity, the pressure to be ‘perfect’, or about how women ‘use’ men, or, in total contrast, that women only gain happiness through having a stable relationship and a child: what one student called the ‘husband and child narrative’.
This may show that seeing the text as stable, which is in effect the assumption underlying questions such as what the text is about, is an artificial and ambiguous task.
Another significant aspect to emerge from the data of this first lesson is that in ascribing meaning to the text, students tend to focus on only one of the discourses within the text, rather than seeing the text in its entirety and with a complexity of multiple discourses. Critical thinking merged with critiques of ideology in some instances.