Re: [John_Lit] Readers once more
- Horace Jeffery Hodges et alia:
As I mentioned earlier I had been off list for several weeks and
have not caught up with the plethora of postings. However, Jeff, I
found you started a thread that persists to this day regarding
I don't know if any of the following helps but it is my concise and
incomplete survey on the subject that shows Prince in context.
Reception theory or as it is more popularly now called
Reader-Response Criticism, the study of the readers role in the
text grew out of the New Criticism, a critical theory of literature
analysis that emerged in the 1920's led by I. A. Richards
(1893-1979), William Empson (1906-1984), and Cleanth Brooks
(1906-198), based on the theory of the Russian and Czech
theorists of the formalist critical view.
"Decontextualization", term coined by the Russian psychologist,
Lev Semenovich Vygotsky (1896-1934) wherein the reader
makes the text part of the culture. Readers decontextualize an
idea and recontextualize it as a product attribute, so that the birth
of Jesus becomes identified with the St. Matthew's "Star of
Bethlehem", or the Passion of Christ becomes identified with St.
John's "Ecce Homo".
Reception theory was first formaly proposed by Roman Ingarden
(1931) The Literary Work of Art, that focused on how the reader
puts the text together by filling in its indeterminancies.
William Wimsatt and Monroe Beardsley, "Intentional Fallacy" in
The Verbal Icon: Studies in the Meaning of Poetry (Lexington:
University of Kentucky Press, 1954), 194.
They developed the idea of an "agnostic reader" who could never
know the psychological processes of the author since they are
inaccessible to the interpreter. We cannot know the mind of the
author and have only their text . Therefore, it is the text that
should be examined, not the author. They assert that "the
design or intention of the author is neither available nor
desirable as a standard for judging the success of a work of
literary art." "The poem is not the critic's own and not the author's
(it is detached from the author at birth and goes about the world
beyond his power to intend about it or control it). The poem
belongs to the public"
New Critics, Wimsatt & Beardsley are interested in
historio-critical methods since they reconstruct the historical
context in which the verbal context was first spoken to distinguish
it from how it now stands.
Epistemic rhetoric, a term coined by Robert Scott (1967) "On
Viewing Rhetoric as Epistemic" Central States Speech Journal,
18: 9-17, put forth the rhetorical theory that the truth conveyed in
the text is not found a priori outside of it nor within the speaker
but through the dialogue between the writer and the reader.
Scott's view coincides with that of Fish.
Deconstruction, a branch of literary theory, developed about
1970, demonstrates the contradictions in structuralists
principles of textual analysis. This approach was developed
primarily by Jacques Derrida. This method begins with isolating
a structural relationship and identifying the priorities that give it
its center. Deconstruction reverses the expected priorities to
show the basis of the opposition is questionable forcing the
reader to rethink their validity as well as all binary contrastive
Jacques Derrida, 'Discussion.' The Structuralist Controversy:
The Languages of Criticism and the Sciences of Man. Ed.
Richard Macksey & Eugenio Donato. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins
UP, 1970. 265-272.
Roland Barthes (1973) The Pleasure of the Text, focused on the
personal sensations of the reader. In his work, Image, Music,
Text (NY, 1977) he presents a post-structuralist view with the
famous line: "The text is a tissue of quotationsdrawn from the
innumerable centers of culture" quoted by all in the know
academes. Barthes developed the concept of the competant
reader or the "encoded implicit reader", i.e., what assumptions
are implicitly assumed on the part of the reader to comprehend
Gerald Prince, A grammar of stories; an introduction, (The
Hague, Mouton, 1973) developed his concepts of what we now
know as narratology (Narratology : the form and functioning of
narrative, Berlin ; New York : Mouton, 1982).
Wolfgang Iser Der implizite Leser. Kommunikationsformen des
Romans von Bunyan bis Beckett. Theorie und Geschichte der
Literatur und der schönen Künste. Texte und Abhandlungen, Bd.
31. Uni-Taschenbucher; 163. Munich: Fink, 1972; (1978) The Act
of Reading, focused on the reader's familiarity with the literary
techniques and conventions of the text echoing Barthes'
"encoded implicit reader".
"The convergence of text and reader brings the literary work into
Wofgang Iser, "The Reading Proscess: A Phenomenological
Approach," in Reader Response Criticism, ed. Jane P.
Tompkins (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980),
Wolfgang Iser and Sanford Budick, The Translatability of
Cultures: Figurations of the Space Between. Irvine Studies in the
Humanities. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press 1996.
"Deconstruction: A Trialogue in Jerusalem." Mishkenot
Sha'ananim Newsletter [Jerusalem] (December 1986), 7: 1-7.
Wolfgang Iser, Jacques Derrida and Geoffrey Hartman. Abridged
and edited version of a trialogue that took place in August 1986.
Whereas, Stanley Fish (b. 1938) focused on what the text means
1) the ideal reader (the perfectly insightful reader),
2)the virtual reader (the reader in the author's mind),
3) the actual reader (the reader who happens to be reading the
4) the narratee (the reader addressed by the narrator).
Nos. 2 & 4 are redundant. since formal and informal address in
this sense are equivalents.
Other models include but are not limited to:
(1) the empirical reader, every reader of the text spanning time
(2) "encoded implicit reader" cited in the text with the phrase "you
(3) "encoded explicit reader"
Cordially in Christ,
- Ross, my skepticism about memory concerns the claim
made that in ancient oral culture, listeners could
recall an entire, lengthy discourse word for word
after hearing only one time. I find this unlikely
because it would mean flawlessly and rapidly (in real
time) transferring items of information from very
limited short-term memories to long-term memories. I
would need to see some evidence for this as a common
ability in antiquity.
Some people may have special gifts -- Isaac Asimov
could (reportedly) read a document quickly and retain
it word for word in his long-term memory. There may be
individuals who have this gift for aural information.
I also accept that the ancients may have developed the
capacity of their short-term memories in ways that we
don't -- or may have had greater rates of information
transfer into long-term memory than we do.
They may also have had special memory techniques --
mnemonic devices and such -- that enabled them to
retain word for word what they were hearing if they
But for any and/or all of this, I need more evidence
than a "wry smile." ;.)
John, you have provided a wealth of information and
bibliography. I wish that I had your familiarity with
I just want to raise a point, and perhaps someone more
informed than I can respond. You state:
> Reception theory or as it is more popularly nowRussian
> called Reader-Response Criticism, the study of the
> readers role in the text grew out of the New
> Criticism, a critical theory of literature analysis
> that emerged in the 1920's led by I. A. Richards
> (1893-1979), William Empson (1906-1984), and Cleanth
> Brooks (1906-198), based on the theory of the
> and Czech theorists of the formalist critical view.My understanding is that New Criticism was an
independent lit-crit development that borrowed from
Russian Formalism but was not actually based upon it.
Also, it appears -- even from your post -- that
Reception Theory developed by drawing upon many
sources, of which, New Criticism was merely one.
Assistant Professor Horace Jeffery Hodges
Hanshin University (Korean Theological University)
447-791 Kyunggido Osan-City
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