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Reader Response
La Mano Ubbidisce all'Intelleto, Carlo Mario Mariani,1983
Concepts & Examples
Issues & Discussion
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Under Construction


Question: Are there correct readings of a certain texts?  What role does a reader play in reading?
Premise-There is no text without a reader.

I. Concept:
  What is reading?  What is literary criticism?
reading: reading outloud, memorizing,  reading books as well as everything else (signs on the street, advertisement, toilet literature, our life, etc.), dialogue, re-creation;
literary criticism: appreciation, analysis, biographical studies, textual studies, history of idea approach, etc.

  Two views of reader:

This "I" which approaches the text is already itself a plurality of other texts, of codes which are infinite or more precisely, lost (whose origin is lost).  Objectivity and subjectivity are of course forces which can take over the text, but they are forces which have no affinity with it.  Subjectivity is a plenary image, which which I may be thought to encumber the text, but whose deceptive plenitude is merely the wake of all the codes that constitute me, so that ultimately my subjectivity has the generality of stereotypes. 
Roland Barthes  1974: 10
The Affective Fallacy is a confusion between the poem and its results (what is it and what it does) . .  . It begins by trying to derive the standards of criticism from the psychological effects of the poem and ends in impressionism and relativism.  The outcome is that the poem itself, as an object of specifically critical judgment, tends to disappear. 
Wimsatt and Beardley 1954: 21
The reader . . . is this informed reader, rather an abstraction, not an actual living reader, but a hybrid, . . . 
Fish  1980: 49
one text is potentially capable of several different realizations, and no reading can even exhaust the full potential for each individual reader will fill in the gaps in his own way, thereby excluding the various other possibilities.
Iser 1974: 271

  different emphases on reader's role-

  • passive roles-reader controlled by the text, sociological conditions, or author*s intentions
  • more active ones:
  •     structuralism (reader as decoder)
           phenomenology (reader as an active participant of an event)
           psychoanalysis/subjective criticism (reading: from personal response to objectification and social acceptance); reading as identification process (Norman Holland)

    A more balanced view: we read both to discover ourselves and to learn about the world.   We are both solitary readers and readers of one community.  (Cf. Robert Crosman)

        A.  reading experience: transaction, filling in gaps/blanks  e.g. "London"; "The Sound Collector"; "Baby-sitter"

        B. context of reading: horizons of expectation; reading as a dialogue, as fusion of horizons
            e.g. excerpt from Magus; "A Rose for Emily"
            paradigm & history of reception of-e.g. Pope in 19th-century, Shelley in Modern period, Madame Bovary,
            Lawrence's work, The Importance of Being Ernest, Fatal Attraction
            a text which re-interprets of an older text〈好男好女〉(both the film and the short story)、
        《阮玲玉》、The French Lieutenant's Woman

        C.  readers in/of the text: narratee, authorial (implied) reader, resisting reader
            any dramatic monologue; stories/poems which is an I-you narration ("I Stand Here Ironing"; M. Atwood's poems);
            stories with a story-teller (and story) within it ("Should Wizard Kill Mommy");

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    II. Practice:

         reading process
        A. Pick up a text that you have never read before, and record the stages you go through in building up a
             "gestalt" image of the text (from having first impression to marking codes and correcting the impressions).  What is your first impression?  What are your questions and expectations of the text as you read it?  What are its gaps?  What textual features (codes) helps you answer the questions or fill in the gaps?  As you fill in the textual gaps, do you draw on any literary conventions, knowledge about the author, or personal experience?
             As a conclusion, you can try to speculate where meaning resides.  In the author*s mind, your mind, in the text, in social/literary conventions, or somewhere among the four?

        Horizons of expectation
        B. This paper can also be a team work; that is, you can invite your classmates (or groupmates) to do it with you.
             The team first chooses a controversial text and then collects and analyzes different readers* (e.g. your
             classmates*, your siblings*, your relatives* and neighbors*) responses to it by talking about their horizons.

         Narrative structure & different kinds of reader
        3.  Get a story/poem with a I-narrator and a (you-)narratee.  Analyze the differences between the text*s author, narrator, narratee, and readers.


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