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English Literature Books In the academic study of literature very little attention has been paid to the ordinary reader, the subjective individual who reads a particular text.
Miall and Don Kuiken, in their paper The form of reading: Empirical studies of literariness state, Almost no professional attention is being paid to the ordinary reader, who continues to read for the pleasure of understanding the world of the text rather than for the development of a deconstructive or historicist perspective.
The concerns that an ordinary reader seems likely to have about a literary text, such as its style, its narrative structure, or the reader's relation to the author, the impact on the reader's writing a reader response paper or feelings - such concerns now seem of little interest.
In this paper I should like to study a few kinds of reader and the subjectivity of their responses to the objectivity found within literary texts, quoting some views found within reader-response criticism. Before I begin, I should like to consider what is meant by the term 'literary text', and what is meant by the objectivity of it.
Literature is said to transform and intensify ordinary language, deviating from the everyday colloquial tongue. The literariness of the language spoken could be determined by the texture, rhythm and resonance of the words used. There is a kind of disproportion between the signifier and the signified, by virtue of the abstract excesses of the language, a language that flaunts itself and evokes rich imagery.
Eagleton argues that what distinguishes the literary language from other forms of discourse is the way it 'deforms' ordinary languages in various ways.
Under the pressure of literary devices, ordinary language is intensified, condensed, twisted, telescoped, drawn out and turned on its head.
The artistic pole is the author's text, and the aesthetic is the realisation accomplished by the reader. Hence the literary work cannot be considered as the actualisation of, or identical to, the text, but is situated somewhere between the two.
Iser speaks of the text as a virtual character that cannot be reduced to the reality of text or to the subjectivity of the reader, and it derives its dynamism from that virtuality. Readers passing through the various perspectives offered by the text relate the different views and patterns to one another, thus setting the work and themselves in action.
Objectivity in literary texts had been discussed since the days of Aristotle, for he originated the literary theory that emphasises the objective features of the text and the authorial intentions revealed by those features.
His Poetics analyses the objective features of Greek epics and dramas as means that are more or less appropriate to the full realisation of various literary intentions.
The idea of objectivity in the text is also analysed in the first chapter, Theory before theory of Peter Barry's Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory.
The literary text contains its own meaning within itself. The best way to study the text is to study the words on the page, without any predefined agenda for what one wants to find there.
The text will reveal constants, universal truths, about human nature, because human nature itself is constant and unchanging. People are pretty much the same everywhere, in all ages and in all cultures.
The text can speak to the inner truths of each of us because our individuality, our "self," is something unique to each of us, something essential to our inner core.
This inner essential self can and does transcend all external social forces. What critics do is interpret the text based largely on the words on the page so that the reader can get more out of reading the text.
But can readers, each having their own subjective view, reconcile their responses to the grandiose generalisations above? To begin my discussion using reader-response theory, I should like to start with Stanley Fish's concept of phenomenology.
In his books Surprised by Sin: The Experience of 17th Century LiteratureFish focuses on the reader's experience of reading literature. Fish argues that a work of literature becomes reality for the critic through the act of reading, a process he terms 'reception'. As reading occurs through time, the experience of literature involves a continuous readjustment of perceptions, ideas and evaluations, with the meaning of the work encountered in the experience of it.
Literature becomes a process in which its criticism involves the processing of phrases and sentences in a slow sequence of decisions, revisions, anticipations, reversals and recoveries.
This view reflects Fish's definition of phenomenology as defined in the preface to his book Surprised by Sin - Meaning is an event, something that happens not on the page, where we are accustom to look for it, but in the interaction between the flow of print or sound and the actively mediating of the reader-hearer.
Hence according to Fish's phenomenology theory, what starts out as a subjective process of the reader ends up in the reader achieving the objective of the literary text.
According to Fish, the objectivity of the text is no longer distinguishable from the subjective inferences of the reader in the process of reading. To him, meaning and form are co-extensive with the reader's experience, and the phenomenology of time determines the meaning and form of a work.
Fish breaks the traditionalist mode by making the work disappear into the reader's experience. Fish regards the text as a rigorous, authoritative controller of the reader's developing process, with meaning created in the reader by the author as the text develops during the reading process.The Author, the Text, and the Reader a study of reader-response theories, and some views on how the objectivity of the literary text is or is not distinguished from the subjectivity of the reader's response.
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