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Reader-Oriented Theories

Reader-Oriented Theories

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Reader-Oriented Theories

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  1. Reader-Oriented Theories Søren Hattesen Balle e-mail: shb@hum.aau.dk http://www.hum.aau.dk/~shb/ Room: 53 Thursday : 10.15-12.00

  2. Reasons for its emergence • A reaction against the dominance in universities of Formalism/New Criticism • New literary forms more directly including the reader • Postmodern literature • Self-reflexive writing • Mass media • Focus on manipulation and production • Focus on listeners and viewers

  3. Continued… • Phenomenology • The science of phenomena (vs. the science of being) • Consciousness is always of something (E. Husserl) • Hermeneutics • The science of interpretation • The hermeneutic circle (H.G. Gadamer)

  4. General characteristics Reader-oriented theories are quite different, but they all agree that: • The text is not a structure of meaning in itself • The meaning of a text is the ‘production’/’creation’ of the reader • There is no ‘right’ reading “[…] with reading there is no face-to-face-situation. A text cannot adapt itself to each reader it comes into contact with. […] The reader […] can never learn from the text how accurate or inaccurate are his views of it” (W. Iser, 1980)

  5. Continued… What shapes the reader’s response? • Wolfgang Iser: • Reading involves an interaction between elements of the text and the act of reading itself • The text is a potential structure actualised by the reader • The text has blanks/gaps, which the reader must complete • Do not study either the text or the reader in isolation, but look at how the reader completes the text

  6. Continued… This Is Just to Say I have eaten the plums that were in the icebox and which you were probably saving for breakfast Forgive me they were delicious so sweet and so cold (William Carlos Williams, 1934)

  7. Continued… • Stanley Fish • Any individual reader is necessarily part of a community of readers. • the individual reader’s response is determined by the conventions of reading that he has been educated into within a certain socio-historical context

  8. Continued • Norman Holland / David Bleich • The reader reacts according to his own personal identity – his identity theme, that is, his personal psychic dispositions, the individual character of his desires, needs, experiences, resistances, etc. • ‘Interpretation is a function of identity’ (N. Holland) – subjective criticism

  9. Study questions D.H. Lawrence, from The Virgin and the Gipsy (1930) • Read the first 10 lines: What ‘blanks’ or ‘gaps’ does the reader have to fill in? • How can you characterize the vicar’s wife? On what do you base your characterization? • How would you segment the beginning of the text (first five paragraphs) according to the different perspectives ('speeches') present in the text? • How would you describe ‘the implied reader’? Look up the term in your glossary or, for example, here: http://www.oxfordreference.com/views/GLOBAL.html http://www.press.jhu.edu/edu/hopkins_guide_to_literary_theory/

  10. Continued… • How would you describe the ‘interpretive community’ you belong to? Is that important for your reading of the text? • What would make your reading a ‘personal reading’? Can you think of any problem in relation to such a reading? • There is no such thing as an 'ideal reader' (cf. Jonathan Culler), however the reader of The Virgin and the Gipsy has to have certain competences in order to extend possibilities of interpretation. Which competences can you think of? How would you describe the ‘interpretative community’ you belong to? • Do you think that men’s and women’s responses to the text would be different? What exactly are you responding to if you are responding ‘according to gender’?