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Reader's Response Criticism

Exploring the theory, history, and key contributors in Reader's Response Criticism

William Zhang

on 5 November 2012

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Transcript of Reader's Response Criticism

2 Major Differing Opinions Literary Theory Reader's Response Criticism Focusing on the work of literature itself and/or the author
Intention, Historical/cultural context, bias of author (Historical-Biographical - 1780s)
Focused solely on literary work, on content and form (New Criticism 1920s - 1940s) Focusing on the reader and their experience of a literary work
Reader is an active participant in creating meaning
Meaning of the text comes from the interaction between the reader and the text
Reader's knowledge and experiences help derive meaning from the text Professor Zhang Ph.D Professor Adel Ph.D Readers Response - 1920s - 1980s Historical Context
Key Ideas Key Contributors
Example Analysis of a Text Historical Context Key Ideas and Concepts Key Contributors Example Analysis I.A. Richards(1920's)
Louise Roseblatt (1930's)
Walker Gibson (1950's - 60's)
Stanley Fish (1960's - 1980's)
Norman Holland (1960's - 1970's)
Wolfgang Iser (1970's) Readers Response arose as a critical theory in response to traditional literature such as New Criticism
New Criticism focuses solely on the text of a work of literature, completely excluding the reaction of the reader, the author's intention, moralistic bias, and historical context
Began in the 1920's, became more prominent in the 1950's - present "Affective Fallacy"
- William K. Wimsatt "If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?" Key Ideas and Concepts Considering reactions to literature is vital to interpreting the meaning of the text
Centers around the 'reader' as the most important aspect during analysis
Text does not exist until it is read by some reader
If a text does not have a reader, it does not exist-or rather it has no meaning Points of View

Considering the readers point of view
3 important ones are:
Philosophical This can be applied to Readers Response: "If a text is created, and no one reads it does it have a meaningful existence? Key Ideas and Concepts Readers give texts meaning with the experiences that they bring to the text
Whatever meaning a text may have involves the readers experiences and opinions
Reinforces the idea that a meaningful idea can not exist without the reader How does the interaction of text and reader create meaning?
Do the sounds/shapes of the words as they appear on the page or how they are spoken by the reader enhance or change the meaning of the word/work? I.A. Richards Walker Gibson Holland and Iser Louise Rosenblatt Constructed an effective system of criticism based on emotional responses (Principles of Literary Criticism)
Researched how students read poety under their own guidance, strategies, and resources (Practical Criticism, 1929)
Conceded that scientific conception of truth is correct and poetry provides only pesudo statements Further advanced the theory, which is based on the readers process of engagement and involvement
Presents the idea that responding to a text is an event (Literature as Exploration 1938)
States that the special meaning, and an individual's associations with words and images largely impacts what the work communicates to him
Reader gives the text personality traits
During any reading experience, readers may often switch back and forth between efferent and aesthetic modes of reading (The Aesthetic Transaction, 1986) Introduced mock reader
A role played by the reader because the text asks (or prompts) him/her to play it (for the sake of the experience)
Reveals the author's strategies for getting the readers to accept or reject whatever the author wishes them to
By no means is the text abandoned in this particular element of Readers Response, but rather the reader is injected further into the interpretative operations as a way of gaining critical insights Focused on real readers
Published "The Dynamics of Literary Response"
Psychoanalytic study of how readers project their ideas and fantasies onto texts and uses various defenses to justify their interpretations Addresses concept of an "ideal" reader
Examined how texts operate on the brain of the ideal reader
Describes process of first reading, then the development of text into a whole, and how the interaction between the text and reader takes place, leading to the construction of a "culture" in people's minds Readers Response allows for many interpretations of a text
Based on a variety of factors To His Coy Mistress Young Goodman Brown Age
Time Period
Culture Religion
Morals Reader
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