How to Read Texts Not Written for You?

I thought I’d use my first blog post to express my hopes and concerns for this course for the upcoming semester. Normally, I would go into a new course thinking about what I will “gain” from it, or how my study of the various assigned texts will be “useful” to myself.  But something feels wrong about this method of thinking with this course.

As mentioned by Jay in his post, and by Professor McCoy in class last week, Toni Morrison writes for black people. Something I have been struggling with is reconciling my whiteness and my study of Morrison’s texts with my potential engagement in (to borrow a phrase from Joyce Irene Middleton) “cultural tourism.” I have found Middleton’s essay on rhetorical eavesdropping helpful in guiding my reading of A Mercy so far, in that she discusses how “colorblindness” is counterproductive. Perhaps what I have to gain from A Mercy is a deeper understanding of slavery during the Atlantic slave trade, and consequently a deeper understanding of its reverberations which profoundly impact people of color to this day, thus combatting this colorblindness. But still I have concerns about doing violence to a text that is not intended for me.

So I guess what my concern boils down to is this: How does one read something that is not written for them?

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