Monday, February 2, 2009

Lecture 4: Reader Response Wordle Summary, Paul D. Found

Wordle: Reader Response

The tag cloud is pretty close to my interpretation of the text, as I think the whole point of reader-response was to obviously, focus on the reader, but also to create a universal theory. Being universal, it had to appeal to elitist (academic) and populist (lay-person) groups. The aim was to make "reading" teachable - reading as in the interpretation and moeaning of texts, rather than the mechanics of actually reading.

Is there a conspiracy as Harkin suggests? I do not think so. As she seems to suggest herself, reader-response is really just "common-sense" - it is obvious to most people now that the reader is key to interpreting a text. As she says herself, "We no longer even expect different readers to arrive at identical readings".


Jess said...

Thanks for posting your Wordle response Paul.

Perhaps you could explain a bit about what you mean when you use the term "universal." You might look up Stanley Fish and his notion of "interpretive communities." Have a look at "Resistance and Independence: A Reply to Gerald Graff"
by Stanley Fish in New Literary History, Vol. 17, No. 1, Philosophy of Science and Literary Theory
(Autumn, 1985), pp. 119-127, The Johns Hopkins University Press
Stable URL:

Yes the emergence of reader response (a la Rosenblatt) did have pedagogical implications I wonder whether we can say, in such unfaltering terms, that the "aim was to make reading teachable." Rosenblatt's own study set about describing specific readers' processes of engagement and involvement in the construction of a text (as readers and writers).

You're right that reader response theories move away from structuralist and formalist accounts so that what becomes important is how the text and the reader work together (transact) to interpret a work...there isn't any single, objective or *authorial* intention. Rosenblatt's reader response was more about resisting any overarching claim or special meaning in the text. I think this was more in the way of validating subjective responses. According to formalist theory readers should all agree on the structures etc...of a text...but of course disagreements would emerge...but how can that be if texts have objective meanings?

See the quote of Susan Suleiman that Harkin employs:
"To my regret,Louise M . Rosenblatt's pioneering work in the field of subjective
criticism came to my attention only after this essay was in proof. A footnote will
therefore have to replace the discussion her work deserve[s . . .]. Although
[Rosenblatt's] work was influential among those concerned with questions of
pedagogy its relevance for literary theory was recognized only recently when it
was rediscovered by Bleich and others"

If subjective responses are "common-sense" why do you think formalist/structuralist accounts were recognised as academic/insightful?

Paul D. Found said...

By "Universal" I meant that the theory of reader-response was intended as a universally applicable way of understanding texts - not that all readers would have the same "universal" interpretation of the texts.

As to why formalist/structuralist are recognised as insightful/academic and reader-response is not, maybe it is because reader-response did become populist. Harkin may well be right about that...