Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Sheryl O'Donnell


Literary scholars study how readers interpret texts. Louise Rosenblatt, Wolfgang Iser, and Wayne Booth analyze how readers interact with texts transactionally, as a phenomenology, and as an ethical exchange. This grounding gives a foundation on which to analyze and define the interpretive acts demonstrated by readers. Poststructuralist critics Roland Barthes and Jacques Derrida open up the idea of "text," allowing us to apply our phenomenology of reading beyond words on paper. I apply the work of these and other critics not to the readers of texts but to characters depicted within texts who are readers. These characters confront unfamiliar texts, interpret using codes of reading, and through acts of writing are transformed into better readers and members of communities. The works under consideration are Elizabeth Bishop's poem, "Questions of Travel," Carol Shields' novel, Swann: A Mystery, and Florian Henckel Von Donnersmarck's film, The Lives of Others.