Reader Response Criticism Essay

904 words - 4 pages

Fish’s Reader Response Criticism is composed of two interdependent ideas: first, that the meaning of texts is shaped by the reading experience itself, and second, that these meanings cannot be judged to be correct or incorrect, but merely belonging to one “interpretive community” or another. The first idea may be identified as the executive aspect of Reader Response Criticism because it analyzes the act of reading, while the second idea is the epistemological aspect of the theory because it circumscribes the knowledge we can acquire about a text to the merely relative. Studied independently, each aspect of Reader Response Theory offers by itself strong arguments countervailing the formalist stance of the New Critics. But as we will see, the application of Fish’s theory as a whole creates distinct interpretive communities which can be judged for their relative truth values, which leads to a contradiction: if one interpretive community is closer to “the truth” than another, then either the executive theory is wrong because an objective text exists, or the concept of interpretive community is irrelevant because we can make value judgments about a particular interpretation. At any rate, logic dictates that Fish’s theory be internally consistent, and as shown below, this is simply not the case.
We will show how Fish's theory defeats itself by applying it to a curious fragment from Marguerite Yourcenar's Mémoires d'Hadrien, a long, imagined meditation from the dying Roman emperor Hadrian. In the original French, Yourcenar writes,
La chair elle-même, cet instrument de muscles, de sang, et d’épiderme, ce rouge nuage dont l’âme est l’éclair.

It is possible to provide a word-for-word translation with no loss of specificity:

The flesh itself, that instrument of muscles, of blood, and of epidermis, that red cloud whose soul is lightning.

This excerpt begins at the level of innate human concepts (flesh) and proceeds through the more concrete level of medical terminology (muscles, blood, epidermis) and onwards through an evocative metaphor (red cloud). Before the reader reaches the final clause (“whose soul is lightning”), he has built up an expectation that a culminating trope will be used to close the sentence, as is usual. Instead, the fragment ends with “whose soul is lightning” which refers not to the red cloud, but to “the flesh itself.” In other words, the red cloud is not the object of the concluding clause, but a “psychological multiplier:” the reader sees a red cloud (associated with storms) and then sees lightning exacerbated by the immediately preceding image. Now the reader possesses a clear mental picture of the passionate flesh, but the strange syntax (both in French and English) leaves him uncertain about what exactly the text has said: is lightning the soul of the flesh? Is the soul the lightning...

Find Another Essay On Reader Response Criticism

Reader response theory and the Essay

1194 words - 5 pages During the mid twentieth century, the literary community witnessed the descent of the New Criticism and the emergence of the reader response movement. The reader response movement sharply contrasts the theories of New Criticism in that it focuses on the importance of the reader in the creation of the literary experience. Like New Critics, reader response theorists do not entirely agree on all issues and, consequently, different branches of the

Literary Study Essay

1663 words - 7 pages The Beginning's of Literary Study - For Dummies J A Modified Version of R. L. McGuire's Passionate Attention: an introduction to literary study.Literature and criticism Authors basic assumption of a book- the reading and the study of literature cannot and do not take place outside the context of human values.One's unique personal experiences are from whence their values are formed. These values come to light as a reader reads or a writer

Evaluation and Interpretation

1306 words - 5 pages formalism is that it permits society to criticize a literary work as its own divergent piece, one without any outside interference. [8] Though one can apply formalism to Chekhov’s ”Misery,” there are numerous schools of literary criticism that can be applied to this same short story, such as the reader-response criticism, structuralism and semiotics, moral criticism, etc. The reader-response criticism when applied to Chekhov’s “Misery” would elucidate

A Critical Note on New Historicism

3099 words - 13 pages ; Discourse Analysis; Reader-Response Criticism; Reception Theory; and Speech Act Theory (1970s) • Dialogism; Cultural Studies; New Historicism; and Queer Theory (1980s) • Postcolonial theory; Eco-Criticism; and Diasporic Studies II New Historicism: The term New Historicism is fathered by Stephen Greenblatt in his well-known book The Power of Forms and the Forms of Power in the Renaissance (1982). It has originated mainly as a reaction to its

Modernism and New Criticism

3204 words - 13 pages Modernism and New Criticism The ways in which we define the importance of texts is constantly changing. We can look back and see critical theories used, such as Historical Criticism, Reader-Response Criticism and Psychoanalytic Criticism. Each of these theories offers a different way to interpret a text. However, when looking back over the texts of a specific era, shouldn’t the type of criticism we used for a book be based on that time

the role of a critic in defining a piece of art

3336 words - 13 pages spirit of work of art. The function of a critic is to see a work of art as it is, and to present before the reader what he sees in it. Thus criticism is 'a disinterested exercise of intelligence bearing on a work of art.A good critic must overcome his or her prejudices and also refrain from an excessive quest for 'sources', 'influences', and such other extraneous information. For him a work of art must complete in itself. He must be able to 'bring

Analysis of Shirley Jackson's The Lottery

4961 words - 20 pages that text (Parker 314). Reader-response criticism was coined by literary critic Louise Rosenblatt in the mid-20th century. It soon served as a cornerstone of literary movement in the 1960s and 1970s that later became intrinsic to the study of other schools of literary thought today. In using reader-response theory to examine “The Lottery” in a contemporary context, one might perform reading surveys and metacognitive questionnaires to determine

The Formalist Critics, by Cleanth Brooks

1821 words - 7 pages misunderstood. What his statements have to do with faith in connection with literature is up to the reader, since in one of his articles he specifically mentions, “literature is not a surrogate for religion” (Brooks 19). He seems to contradict himself on purpose to keep his central thesis hard to reach. In evaluating some of his “faith articles”, the reader can have a critical examination of his critique of his formalist criticism. His first

Reader Response to James Joyce's The Dead

1138 words - 5 pages example would be the way he treats his wife Gretta as an object.         As Peter J. Rabinowitz informs one that in reader response criticism the "...activity of reading always alters the text at hand.  Unless we are limiting ourselves to reading in the sense of uninflected recitation, reading is never a passive activity to which the reader contributes nothing.  In the reader response criticism, reading is a text in

What is a Psychoanalytic Critical Approach? - Research paper - What is a Psychoanalytic Critical Approach?

2686 words - 11 pages which to raise questions of interpretation, rhetoric, style, and figuration'.[11] However, Lacanian scholars have noted that Lacan himself was not interested in literary criticism per se, but in how literature might illustrate a psychoanalytic method or concept.[12] Reader response[edit] According to Ousby, 'Among modern critical uses of psychoanalysis is the development of "ego psychology" in the work of Norman Holland, who concentrates on the

Hemingway’s The Green Hills of Africa CRH

1412 words - 6 pages . The negative criticism tends to condemn the somewhat dull scenes which remind a reader of a travelogue, while the promising critiques latch on to the aspects of the novel in which Hemingway attempts to find the ‘forth or fifth dimension’ of writing, where a new style is promised. It seems that the most important for the course, however, are the indifferent critics, who seem to hold Hemingway to what made him famous. Perhaps Bernard DeVoto says

Similar Essays

Reader Response Criticism Of "All Bears"

741 words - 3 pages When an audience reads a piece of literature, the author is often not over their shoulder interpreting the text as he or she meant it to come across. The readers are usually equipped with their own previous knowledge, as well as society biases based on his or her previous life experiences. Solely from the use of these tools, as well as the reader’s vocabulary, will a reader interpret the words in front of him or her. Reader Response Criticism

A Reader Response Criticism Of How I Learned To Drive

1826 words - 7 pages , and formalist critical approaches) and one may not look to an underlying moral message, as the entirety of the text is pervaded by moral ambiguity. It is in the act of interpreting our response by which How I Learned to Drive may be understood. How I Learned to Drive gave me a sense of religious optimism, amusement, anger, and bewilderment. During my reading of How I Learned to Drive, I was surprised by the sexual nature of the play. The

A Reader Response Criticism Of How I Learned To Drive

1504 words - 7 pages , and formalist critical approaches) and one may not look to an underlying moral message, as the entirety of the text is pervaded by moral ambiguity. It is in the act of interpreting our response by which How I Learned to Drive may be understood. How I Learned to Drive gave me a sense of religious optimism, amusement, anger, and bewilderment. During my reading of How I Learned to Drive, I was surprised by the sexual nature of the play. The

Comradery Literary Criticism Essay

2077 words - 9 pages . Polonsky, Marc. Why Poetry?. Posted in http://www.marcwordsmith.com/pdfs/Why-Poetry.pdf Fors, Nils Olov. 2011. Words at Play: Diction and Context in Naomi Shihab Nye’s REMEMBERED. The Explicator, Vol. 69, No.1, 45-47: Taylor & Francis Group, LLC Gioia, Dana and R. S. Gwynn, eds. Reader Respond Criticism. The Longman Anthology of Short Fiction: National Endowment for the Arts. J. Case Tompkins, Allen Brizee. 2018. Reader-Response Criticism (1960s-present). OWL resource Literary Theory and Schools of Criticism. Mark Allan Powell. Introducing the New Testament. Published by Baker Academic, a division of Baker Publishing Group.Copyright © 2009. Used by permission.