Sunday Book-Thought 132

Let me point out, however, that in each of these interpretive theories, the stability of the material text – the interpretive location, or material object – is assumed.
On the contrary, however, what I am arguing here is that no such stability in the material object can be assumed with respect to texts. (In scientific enquiry itself, insofar as an atom, or a quark, or a superstring is a text, they must be assumed to be variables in their own textual fields, just as those textual fields themselves must be judged as variables within the larger textual field – the language game – we call science.) If we define a text as words in a certain order, then we have to say that the ordering of the words in every text is in fact, at the factive level, unstable. No text, either conceptually or empirically, can have the ‘ordering of its words’ defined or specified as invariant.
Variation, in other words, is the invariant rule of the textual condition. Interpretive differentials (or the freedom of the reader) are not the origin or cause of the variation, they are only its most manifest set of symptoms.
Jerome J. McGannThe Textual Condition (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991), p. 185.

Sunday Book-Thought 110

It is clear that any attempt to define the act of reading in a universal sense is misguided. What counts as an act of reading varies from place to place and time to time, according to the social and institutional circumstances of the reader. Any boundary that the researcher sets around the act of reading also has to be seen as porous, and in such a way that permits other participants to enter the act. In other words, individual instances of reading are always embedded in historically and spatially located cultures of print. And once we recognize that understanding the act of reading must take account of those social and institutional circumstances in which reading takes place, we can imagine readers as embedded in reading communities. That leap of the imagination in turn frees us to exercise our ingenuity in uncovering the multitude of details – those ‘distinctive traits’ of reading practices, and ‘the specific mechanisms that distinguish the various communities of readers and traditions of reading.’
Christine Pawley, ‘Seeking “Significance”: Actual Readers, Specific Reading Communities’, Book History, 5 (2002), 143-160 (p. 157).