Reader-response Criticism - Kinds of Reader-response Criticism - Uniformists


Wolfgang Iser exemplifies the German tendency to theorize the reader and so posit a uniform response. For him, a literary work is not an object in itself but an effect to be explained. But he asserts this response is controlled by the text. For the "real" reader, he substitutes an implied reader, who is the reader a given literary work requires. Within various polarities created by the text, this "implied" reader makes expectations, meanings, and the unstated details of characters and settings through a "wandering viewpoint". In his model, the text controls. The reader's activities are confined within limits set by the literary work.

Another important German reader-response critic was Hans-Robert Jauss, who defined literature as a dialectic process of production and reception (Rezeption--the term common in Germany for "response"). For Jauss, readers have a certain mental set, a "horizon" of expectations (Erwartungshorizont), from which perspective each reader, at any given time in history, reads. Reader-response criticism establishes these horizons of expectation by reading literary works of the period in question.

Both Iser and Jauss, and the Constance School they exemplify, return reader-response criticism to a study of the text by defining readers in terms of the text. In the same way, Gerald Prince posits a "narratee", Michael Riffaterre posits a "superreader", and Stanley Fish an "informed reader." And many text-oriented critics simply speak of "the" reader who typifies all readers...

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