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Glossary of Literary Theory
The systematic examination of the aspects of the text that arouse, shape, and guide a reader's response. According to reader-response criticism, the reader is a producer rather than a consumer of meanings. In this sense, a reader is a hypothetical construct of norms and expectations that can be derived or projected or extrapolated from the work and may even be said to inhere in the work. Because expectations may be violated or fulfilled, satisfied or frustrated, and because reading is a temporal process involving memory, perception, and anticipation, the charting of reader-response is extremely difficult and perpetually subject to construction and reconstruction, vision and revision.
Reader-response criticism, however, does not denote any specific theory.
It can range from the phenomenological
theories of Wolfgang Iser and Roman Ingarden -- both of whom argue that
although the reader fills in the gaps, the author's intentional acts impose
restrictions and conditions -- to the relativistic analysis of Stanley
Fish, who argues that the interpretive strategy of the reader creates the
text, there being no text except that which a reader or an interpretive
community of readers creates. (See also Constance
School of Reception Aesthetics, Implied
reader, Reception theory.)
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