Readers Response Theory

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Reader Response Theory

- can be traced back to Aristotle and Plato - literature’s effect on the reader - sources in the writings of the French structuralists (who stress the role of the perceiver as a maker of reality) - reader criticism became recognized as a distinct critical movement only in the 1970s - less a unified critical school than a vague collection of disparate critics with a common point of departure - “Reader Theory” “audience theory” neutral terms - reader-critics take the existence of the reader as a decisive component of any meaningful literary analysis – as Michael Riffaterre puts it, “readers make the literary event” - “narratee” = the person to whom the narrator is addressing his or her narration (“you” to whom Huck Finn directs his opening sentence) - the “narratee” is really a character (even if only sometimes implicitly present in the text) and should not be conflated with readers who are outside the text. - subjective kinds of reader response criticism - hypothetical readers = readers who are implied by the text. - readers whose moves are charted out by (and hence more or less controlled by) the work in question. - Meaning is entirely context-dependent (Fish) - Reader criticism has helped break down the boundaries separating literary study from other disciplines - Wolfgang Iser – the implied reader’s program in phenomenological terms: although he pays particular attention to the determinacies in the texts – The gaps that the reader has to fill in on his or her own – his reader remains very much controlled by the author since those gaps are part of the strategy of the text. - Some RR critics call it the notion of “literary competence” – highlighting the ways in which the reader’s knowledge of conventions allows him or her to make sense of literary texts

• Narratees • Implied Readers • Intended Readers •

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