When readers step out of a text and rethink what they know,
they mentally cast themselves out of a text and reenter their
own world. It is here they can learn from the text. When they
stand in this position to a text, readers reflect on the decisions
and choices they have made in their own lives, the things they
have done, and dilemmas they have faced. Something they have
encountered in the text an event in the plot structure, a
character's actions or reactions, for example plunge them
back into their past to consider other possibilities. Not only
can readers learn about other cultures, eras, and even their
own lives from the text, but also they can sometimes become
cognizant of the information they are learning from it.
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are not always provoked to rethink their lives as they read.
However, when they do find points of congruence between what
they are reading and what they have lived, readers respond in
many deep ways, rethinking a past decision or event from a different
perspective, for example. They find alternatives that may not
have occurred to them previously.
At times, readers deliberately enter a text to find a message
there that they can translate into their own lives. But most
often, especially when the literature is rich and complex, these
moments for reflection present themselves serendipitously.
When such a connection is made, readers find themselves contemplating:
How could they have reacted differently? How could they have
felt differently? What else might they have been able to think
about in that situation? Some other questions that readers mentally
pose when they step out of a text and rethink what they know
In asking and answering these questions, readers come to see
literature as a portal, through which they can look at themselves,
recreate their own identities, and imagine who they might become.
- How might I react if I were in a similar situation as
the character in the text? Was I ever in a similar situation?
Do I know anyone who was?
- What can I learn from the situation in this text?
- Why did I feel a certain way or act a certain way when
I found myself in a situation similar to the one in the
- What were my choices? Did I make the best ones?
- How else could I have handled it? What should I do now?
- What did I gain from that decision? Was it the right one?
- How could I act if I wanted to become a more ______ person?
The text world can remain open to readers long after they have
put the text aside. They can return here as they reconsider
and think through what they have done, or said, or thought from
the perspectives the text has offered them.
The opportunity to gain insight about one's life by reading
literature is at the heart of why many of us continue to read.
This program presents panelists engaged in a lively discussion
about Hamlet, where each member of the conversation connects
with the text on a unique personal level. The panelists demonstrate
how this drama has been an opportunity to rethink their own
life story from the vantage point of the text world.
For a complete guide to the workshop session activities, download
and print our support materials.