Is it Formalism or Human Response?

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"He pointed out what the words meant, how the sentiments expressed in the poem were or were not appropriate to the fictive speaker and situation, how the imagery developed consistently or inconsistently, how the parts fit or failed to fit together" (Keesey 133).

How do YOU respond to a piece of literature?

Keesey understands that there are many meanings to a text and every person may have a different response.

The quote above shows how someone, such as Keesey, would do a formalist reading of a text.

What I want to know is how do you know when your response is right or wrong?

In other words, if I propose an argument or take a stand on a text and defend it with details then is that a reader response? Is it taking a stand, responding to the text, and using information and details from that work to support my opinion or response?

Another question that I have for you is, if I read a text and have a response then how do I know if it is formalism or reader-response? I know that it would not be structuralism because that is a more solid version of the text whereas formalism is a topic that can have a meaning that fluctuates.

Click here for the web page devoted to Keesey.

4 Comments

I have some of the same questions. As we keep saying again and again in class, there isn't always a right answers for everything. However, as Dr. Patterson commented in my night class the other night, in literature there isn't always a right answer, but there are answers that are closer to being right and answers that are closer to wrong. I think we are all looking for not the exact right answer, but which way are we leaning with our interpretations and writings? I often find that my casebooks seem to be leaning the wrong directions, but the main problem I have is how do I get them to lean more towards right?

I know what you two mean. I think that there doesn't have to be a distinct line. In fact, in my opinion, reader-response is many times, dependent upon some kind of formalist reading. If Keats uses repetition, is he not leading the reader into some sort of response? I think that he is. And doesn't that also become author's intent?

Do you two, or anyone else, get confused with author intent as well? What should we do to make sure we are actually doing one form and not doing some other form instead?

In response to Katie, I believe, as Dr. Jerz says, the casebooks are a way for us to practice a particular criticism, not perfect it, and the final paper will allow us to use the criticism that we learned the best. Remember the old say of "Practice makes perfect," but in this case, "Practice means better criticism!"

In response to Angela, I think that we should focus strictly on one form of criticism, but sometimes we tend to combine the criticisms together.

If any other class members read this, please post your response to Angela's question.

I think that some people will say that it depends on the text, but a formalist reading is much different than author's intent or isn't it?

You make a good point about the casebooks Derek, but in response to Angela's question, how do we know the difference between the two and get better at it if we don't know how to practice? I once had a coach tell me that practice doesn't make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect. I feel like I can practice with these casebooks all I want, but I never will get any better at it because I don't understand what isn't working and I don't know what to do to make it better.
I think a formalist reading is different than author's intent because it is just concentrating on the text itself. I think that they could both be part of each other, but there are differnces between the two. I think.

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This page contains a single entry by Derek Tickle published on February 20, 2009 5:24 PM.

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