Free Reader?

"The ideological becoming of a human being. . . is the process of selectively assimilating the words of others."

"The tendency to assimilate others' discourse takes on an even deeper and more basic significance in an individual's ideological becoming, in the most fundamental sense. Another's discourse. . . strives rather to determine the very bases of our ideological interrelations with the world, the very basis of our behavior; it performs here as authoritative discourse, and an internally persuasive discourse. . . the struggle and dialogic interrelationship of these categories of ideological discourse are what usually determine the history of an individual ideological consciousness."

". . . authoritative discourse permits no play with the context framing it, no play with its borders, no gradual and flexible transitions, no spontaneously creative stylizing variants on it. . . one must either totally affirm it, or totally reject it."

--The Dialogic Imagination 341-43

Despite the celebratory attitude taken toward the hypertext reader's agency in affecting meaning by varying context, there is another face of Bahktin that needs to be explored. One might ask, "Does context control the reader and reading experience in any extent?" If you will recall, meaning can only be ascertained in the socio-ideological capacity: that is to say, context plays a powerful hand in affecting not only the signifier's expression of its object, but also how the signified object itself is first conceived. Then added is the notion that people absorb pervading ideologies and use them to develop a sense of individual consciousness. How would a reader be any less affected when being presented with a multitude of ideologically informed voices? Accepting Bahktin's contention that identity is only the final manifestation of a congeries of external belief systems and thinking patterns, assimilated into the self, how is it that the heteroglot, ideological text refutes consumption and invites interpretive play? "Authoritative discourse" attests to the totalizing power of some discourses inhabiting the texts people read. It is distanced and self-enclosed, tending to position itself at the top of a discursive hierarchy that it constructs. According to Bahktin, "it demands our unconditional allegiance." This should indicate a certain readerly vulnerability to the text. Our beliefs and our manner of making sense out of the world are conditioned by texts to some degree. The question then stands: in the face of the ideological monolith, how can we salvage individual creativity? How can we account for uniquely ordained convictions and interpretations that turn up in response to literature and social life?

Cyberspace Web Main screen critical theory