The written word is one important way through which people\ud come to think about themselves and the world they live in.\ud Reading and writing are experiences which are both\ud personal and political. They are closely connected to the\ud development of a sense of self. In order to explore the\ud specific ways in which this development takes place, and\ud the possibilities offered by particular literary genres, I\ud interviewed four working-class women writers about their\ud reading and writing histories from childhood onwards. I\ud use these interviews to construct a series of case\ud studies, each of which allows me to focus on a different\ud genre or area of concern, expressed by the writer herself,\ud and examine in detail the specific identifications and\ud pleasures it offers. In doing so I use a reformulated\ud reader-response criticism to analyse the ways in which\ud these women use reading and writing to make sense of the\ud world and of themselves, and to create meaning. I argue\ud that the value of reader-based criticism lies in its\ud ability to account for the uses made of texts by individual,\ud historically-situated readers
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