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Finding Enjoyment in Literary Criticism.

Updated on October 3, 2016

Reader Response Theories.

Yes, you too can become more insightful as to the nuances of literature through different lenses by using differing critical theories for analysis. Even if you never write another paper for a class again, you can find the differing ways useful to appreciate a novel or a classic.

Lois Tyson, author of the incredibly written tome: "Critical Theory Today" has provided the reader with valuable insights to assist them in constructing or deconstructing meaning in a text that they may have never considered before. In fact, her book is such a fantastic workbook style copy that many students dog-ear their copies, write in them and keep them long after a college course in this subject. One may also find it incredibly useful in making meaning in film analysis too, although film is a different creative medium with its own language and ways of analysis.

When beginning a look at theory, reader response theory is usually the first theory introduced to the reader so they can make sense out of the way they "see" and understand the novel.Many first year students believe this is open season for writing anything they want and having carte blanche in their posts. While this is not true, it does allow for their "opinions" and their own experiences and education and so forth to formulate meaning.

Tyson offers us several different reader response theorists in her chapter on this theory. One of them is Louise Rosenblatt. Rosenblatt has her own book available that explains her style and how to utilize it when critiquing a book.Tyson also mentions Stanley Fish, David Bleich, Wolfgang Iser, Norman Holland, Roland Barthes and several others. Each of these people offer their way of theorizing dependent on their view of this analysis. Much like philosophers and the way they look at the questions of life, literary critics believe in finding the best way to view a written piece of work. And these are just the reader response critics. We still have a lot more theories ahead to view! I would be remiss to not mention that one can always tag reader response onto many other theories as well. What this means is you could have a psychological reader response or a Marxist reader response, and so forth. It can be a great way to offer a bit more if you happen to be knowledgeable in that area of expertise.

One thing many people are not aware of when reading a book is that it is understood within the time frame of which you are at the moment. Age, disposition, circumstances, stress level, reason for reading the book, and other considerations. We may like or not like a book now, but later come to see it is either much more important or perhaps not as grand as we thought it was in the first place. Or we pick up more in it the second or third read. If you are anything like I was, you say second or third read? Who has time to do that with so many books, so little time? I agree still to a point. Some books are worth a second read just to be able to read more concisely, or more enjoyably perhaps.

In my literary criticism courses, my students must read or reread "The Great Gatsby". Many hate the book before reading it again, or dislike it after reading it, but whatever the reason there is a strong opinion that is emitted from reading the book. I admit, for me it is no big deal whether it is embraced or rejected, because it is one of those works that can be utilized in every theory and be made to fit.The other reason I do not care is because oftentimes if we love reading something and we read it and dissect it too much, we come to hate it. I have read it no less than 25 times and each time I learn something new, something I had not considered or a student brings up an idea in a new way. Reader response allows us to do this naturally and of course discussing it makes it all the more enjoyable in a group atmosphere.


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