On Using Various Lenses to Think About Literature

We all read in different ways. If we didn’t, discussing books with each other wouldn’t be half as much fun. Paying attention to how we read is just as important as what we read. Most women read from a feminist perspective without even realizing it, just as most men read from a perspective of masculinity. Reading from certain perspectives is part of who we are as individuals, but it is when we broaden our views and turn our lenses to the next dial that we really begin to see more deeply inside literature, inside ourselves and into the world itself.

Reading from a biographical lens appeals to me because I am as curious about the author of a book as I am about the book itself. In my opinion, authors put themselves into their writing whether or not they realize they are doing it. Some authors actively try to keep themselves out of their writing, but this too can be seen in a biographical sense, since what is missing from a novel can be equally as important as what is left in.

One particular essayist who interests me is Wayne Koestenbaum. In his book, Engendering Men: The Question of Male Feminist Criticism, he states that gay readers read from a gay perspective. I hadn’t given much thought to this fact until I read that statement, but it is one of those things that I will not be able to unread and I’m grateful for that fact because it has made me think more deeply about my own innate critical lens. Have I also always read from a gay perspective? I suppose I must have, including all the books the books on our reading list this semester, none of which featured a gay, lesbian or transgender protagonist. Someone reading this might respond with the fact that we are reading about adolescents in American literature. But all this reminds me of the two transgendered children that were in my daughter’s 6th, 7th and 8th grade class, or the time my son told me that every girl in his high school was bisexual. A question worth pondering: why is it that in this changing climate of adolescent sexuality is there still such a huge gap in GLBT adolescent fiction and what are we going to do about it?

~ Naptharoe


2 thoughts on “On Using Various Lenses to Think About Literature

  1. Naphtaroe — You’re right that we didn’t have any GLBTQ protagonists, but some secondary characters fell into that category. I thought of including Levithan’s Boy Meets Boy, or something like it, but it didn’t make the short list. If you find something that fills the gap, let us know. –BR

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