“If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?” A Reader- Oriented approach to Edgar Alan Poe’s The Tell- Tale Heart
The Titular question is an old philosophical riddle for which a wide range of metaphysical and non-metaphysical solution has been offered. The answers differ based on the perspective of the interpreter. Judging these answers is neither possible nor desirable for us, but the riddle and the ensuing debates attest to the veracity of one of the most basic tenets of reader-response theory: If a text does not have a reader, it does not exist-or at least, it has no meaning. It’s reader, with whatever experience he brings to the text, who gives it its meaning. Of particular significance is Louise M. Rosenblatt’s transactional theory to the shaping of the reader-response criticism. Rosenblatt describes the act of reading itself – as a transaction That derives from “the peculiar array of experiences that define the reader’s persona.”(Davis and Womack 53) In The Reader, the Text, the Poem, a landmark in the history of reader response movement, she writes: “Each reader brings to the transaction not only a specific past life and literary history, not only a repertory of internalized “codes,” but also a very active present, with all its preoccupations, anxieties, questions, and aspirations,’ (Rosenblatt 126) One problem arises then: “To what extent the reader is allowed to draw on his or her own feelings, associations, and memories in interpreting the text?” “The text itself will determine.” Some texts are open and invite the reader’s collaboration in the production of meaning, while others are ‘closed’ (comics, detective fiction) and predetermine the reader’s response. (Selden 48) Obviously a text with an unreliable narrator will depend more on its reader in the production of meaning and consequently affords us with an exemplar for exploring the wide-ranging interpretive possibilities of...
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