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Structuralism 'threatens the very raison d'etre of literary studies by forgoing the attempt to discover a true meaning of a work'. Instead, it 'analyses the structure of the work and the forces on which it depends... the relations between the work and its enabling conditions'.

 

Roland Barthes suggested that the text is a 'multi-dimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash...'a text's unity lies not in its origin, but in its destination'. In other words, he suggests that when reading, the reader 'produces' a text from resources that various norms and structures make available to him or her, forging meanings from 'what has already been read, seen, done, lived, assuming many different, and possibly contradictory roles as a text is read. Thus, the reader is 'no longer the consumer but the producer of the text' (S/Z: 10/14).

 

This type of thinking is at work in feminist accounts of the reading process because it poses the possibility of 'reading as a woman' as opposed to a generalised, unsituated reader. Feminist critics have suggested that women are 'expected to identify with a masculine experience and perspective which is presented as the human one' (Showalter, Women and the Literary Curriculum p. 856) and often this male perspective includes a negative presentation of women.

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