February 17, 2007

Criticism for Hippies

"...different people react very differently to the 'same'poem. Some see superficiality where others find profundity; some praise uplifting sentiments where others complain of cliches; some discover coherence where others see only chaos" (Keesey 133).

There is a good reason why I'm not majoring in math (other than the fact that sometimes, when I multiply, 6X7 comes up 52). In math or science, there is always that one "right" answer. Everything is always very black and white, right or wrong, with no room for creative interpretation. Literature, however, lacks such strict boundaries between the correct and the incorrect, allowing the reader to draw their own answers from the work, rather than having to understand it one certain way.

Reader-response is a form of criticism after my own heart. It's sort of like the hippie, free-sprited cousin of other literary criticisms, since it focuses more on what the reader thinks and feels, rather than what the author intended. "Most reader-response critics have little interest in authors or intended meanings. The poem exists now. It affects us now. These, they claim, are the crucial facts, and any relevant criticism must be built on them" (Keesey 129). Take away all the fluff of historical readings and the ambiguious meanings by the author and just look at the text. In the end, it is the text that is important and what we take from it.

However, as Keesey notes in his "Introduction", there must be some sort of boundary for doing a reader-response criticism of a work. Every reader can't be right and valid all the time, can they? To some extent, sure they can. If it seems plausilble enough, then who is to say one interpretation is less valid than another one? As I noted earlier, that's the beauty of literature. Like the quote states, while one may see chaos and the other peace, each reader brings their own interpretations and meanings into a poem and creates something new and interesting each time it is read.

Keesey, Ch 3 (Introduction) -- Jerz EL312 (Literary Criticism)

Posted by VanessaKolberg at February 17, 2007 2:25 PM | TrackBack

I guess it's up to us hippies to go out on a limb and say perhaps the wrong thing and still get something positive out of the work. This is a great form of criticism because it is so hard to take our own life experiences and seperate them from our readings and judgements. It's almost too liberal, as you brought up.

Posted by: Erin at February 19, 2007 9:54 AM

Oh, and one more thing. I'm still not sure about this blog carnival thing, but if you are having one, can I join yours? I'll bring corndogs (okay, I'm feeling dorky this morning)! Really, if you have any ideas on what we're supposed to do please e-mail me?

Posted by: Erin at February 19, 2007 10:28 AM

Hippies! HA!

Ok I'm better now, but in all seriousness I agree with you. Reader-response is where many students go to for quick answers on what they don't undestand. I know that I do it still now. Reader-responses are easy to understand because they come straight from the heart of the person giving what they think. This is also the one part of criticism that I think can be found in all criticisms. Everyone has an opinion, and in a way that opinion comes out in all of the theories. Just thought I'd share that.

Posted by: Tiffany at February 20, 2007 4:45 PM
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