Schema affirmation and White Asparagus: Cultural multilingualism among readers of texts

Lesley Jeffries

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


This article builds on the work of Cook (1994) and Semino (1997), although it begins by attempting to demonstrate that their claims that the general function of literature is to change a reader's schemata are logically difficult to sustain, difficult to demonstrate empirically and counter-intuitive for many experiences of reading literature. Two poems are considered as examples of 'schema-affirmation': the identification in a text of prior knowledge or experience which is rarely or never publicly articulated in that genre. It is claimed that this is a common experience for readers of literary works, particularly for those who in some way feel themselves oppressed or alienated by the mainstream culture. It is suggested that the ability to read simultaneously from a number of viewpoints should become the foundation of any model of textual meaning, and that readers' tendency to construct what they see as the 'intended' meaning is not necessarily affected by their other or alternative readings. The need for empirical work investigating these phenomena is acknowledged and it is suggested that reader-response studies could be adapted to this end.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)325-343
Number of pages19
JournalLanguage and Literature
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2001


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