Is It a Help, a Hindrance, or Just Plain Crazy?
“But since this meaning is neither a given external reality nor a copy of an intended reader’s own world, it is something that has to be ideated by the mind of the reader. A reality that has no existence of its own can only come into being by the way of ideation, and so the structure of the text sets off a sequence of mental images which lead to the text translating itself into the reader’s consciousness.”
- From Wolfgang Iser’s “Readers and the Concept of the Implied Reader” in Donald Keesey’s Context for Criticism, page 147
Well, these two sentences basically sum up the reasons why I did not choose to major in Psychology. As a future teacher, I understand the importance of the Educational Psychologists-I get Vygotsky, Piaget, and even Freud a bit. I understand why there are stages of child and adolescent development, why there are “boxes,” as a good friend of mine calls them, that people are put into based on their level of cognitive, emotional, physical, social, etc. development, and even why people are placed into similar boxes based on their personality traits. However, when I see a sentence like this, I wonder why people believe Psychology is real, especially when those using Psychology (i.e. the Reader-Response critics) acknowledge that its ideas, or ideas determined through the use of Psychology, are not part of reality.
However, because I run the risk of ranting, I’ll focus on what I learned from this essay. I have learned that there are many different types of readers that one can refer to when completing Reader-Response criticism. This idea helped me to better understand why I cannot simply write “I liked this poem because ,” as I mentioned on another blog about Keesey’s explanation of Reader-Response criticism. The reader is never Erica Gearhart, college student, English Literature major, etc-the reader is never this personal.
Instead, there can be the “‘real’ reader” and the “‘hypothetical’ reader,” the “contemporary reader” and the “ideal reader,” and the “reader whose psychology has been opened up by the findings of psychoanalysis” (how this type can be analyzed without the input of a Psychologist, I don’t really understand, but I’ll save this complaint for another blog) (141). Also, by looking at the various readers that can be referred to when completing this type of criticism, one can see why it is so difficult for a critic to keep history (real reader), author (ideal reader), and reality (contemporary/psychoanalyzed readers) separate from Reader-Response criticism. And, finally, because there are so many variations of Reader-Response readers and use of other schools of criticism, one can see why so many variations of Reader-Response criticism have developed.
Am I changing my major? No way! But, I am understanding this crazy-I mean interesting-type of criticism a bit better after having read Iser’s essay.