All in the Thunk!

24 Oct


Reader Response Criticism – Literary Critique


       Reader response criticism is the application of the subjective rather than the objective; the interaction of the reader with the written word and their personal response to it. What is it about the novel that inspires the reader and what is it that creates the animus to turn the page? Instead of filtering the text through a lens, or molesting it from a particular viewpoint, the reader reviews, digests and comments accordingly, dependent upon their perspective, experience and personal understanding. Utilizing this method of critique one can reveal the implicit and that which may or not be implied through self-discovery. By reading, absorbing and reflecting upon the author’s words the reader is able to bridge comprehension gaps and complete the narrative using their own interpretive skills. Rather than accepting suggested criticism and paying homage to quotidian literary sign posts the end-user embarks on a personal journey through the work and performs an active rather than a passive critique. In short, this form of review is induced by reader response and understanding, not the application of structured due-diligence and close reading.

Affective stylistics do of course help the reader to balance determinacy and indeterminacy; the digestion of factual information offered by the author, supplemented by an intimate reaction to that which is either omitted or included. The difference between this form of critique and the formulistic approach is that the reader’s response is a cerebral exercise as oppose to an adherence to a defined strategy. Instead of relying primarily on the author and their work the reader utilizes instinctive reading. Through personal experience, societal indoctrination, cultural awareness and all the other tenets of self of which we’re possessed, we’re able to apply ourselves to the story. Rather than dissecting the prose and exposing them to minute laboratory style scrutiny, the literature comes to life simply by being read.

Until a book is taken from the shelf, opened and read, literature doesn’t exist and remains a mere figment of imaginative possibility. It’s the interaction of the reader with the book that creates literature not the other way around – hence the importance of reader response. Certainly good writing engenders readers but first has to be discovered for its own merits – the primary response of the reader rather than the machinations of authors and their pens. Without readers literature would cease to be and so self-indulgent criticism is every bit as important as all the other forms of critique which Dobie describes in “Theory and Practice.” The reason that literary corner-stones such as the “New York Times Best Seller List” endure is because of the popularity of reading, not the insistence upon intellectual criticism. Reading, although generating discussion and untold amounts of work, is ostensibly meant to be enjoyed.


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