Before Reading

Narrative Conventions and the Politics of Interpretation

Peter J. Rabinowitz

Theory and Interpretation of Narrative



249 pp. 6x9


“A landmark book, one that makes important and original contributions to reader-response theory, ideological criticism, and current work on canon formation.” —Novel

“This study is provocative, nicely illustrated, clearly aware of work in literary hermeneutics. It usefully systematizes insights based upon actual classroom practice, a feature too often absent from critical work.” —Choice

“This is a well-written theoretical discussion in favour of the new hermeneutics of reader-centered criticism. . . . An admirable book, warmly recommended to comparatists.” —Literary Research

“The book is ambitious and daring, filled with objections to the canonical critics of our time—Gerald Prince, Jonathan Culler, Umberto Eco, Stanley Fish, Wolfgang Iser, to name only a few. . . . A pleasure to read.” —Philosophy and Literature

How does what we know shape the ways we read? Starting from the premise that any productive theory of narrative must take into account the presuppositions the reader brings to the text, Before Reading explores how our prior knowledge of literary conventions influences the processes of interpretation and evaluation. Available again with a new preface by James Phelan, Before Reading offers a valuable and coherent framework for approaching the study of narrative.

Peter J. Rabinowitz is a professor of comparative literature at Hamilton College. He co-edited Understanding Narrative with James Phelan and coauthored Authorizing Readers: Resistance and Respect in the Teaching of Literature with Michael W. Smith.