Resistant reading

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A resistant reading is a reading of a text which moves beyond the dominant cultural beliefs to challenge prevailing views. It means to read a text as it was not meant to be read; in fact reading the text against itself.

Textual example[edit]

By way of illustration, consider Andrew Marvell's poem To His Coy Mistress.

A resistant reading may develop from an alternative reading, pointing out how the representation of gender in the poem furthers the notion of gender as binary oppositions, the male is active and powerful, the female is passive and marginalized. As such, it will be read by readers who share feminist views of the world as gender inequality and discrimination against women. For example, Marvell's representation of heterosexuality in the poem may be read as being exploitative, based as it is on the persona psychologically terrorizing the woman. Marvell depicts his persona as attempting to have the woman submit as a result of the fear he seeks to instill within her; Marvell's vivid and confronting imagery is most significant and not accidental:

Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound / My echoing song: then worms shall try / That long preserved virginity...


Resistant reading is an important element of our critical and interpretive repertoire. It is worth considering whether diegetic border crossing always strengthens the potential for resistant reading (as might seem intuitively likely, given that readers are moving in and out of the story), or whether on some occasions it might trigger the reverse effect.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Journal of Literacy Research, Spring 2003 by Mackey, Margaret