February 18, 2007

I Want to be the Ideal Reader

"The ideal reader, unlike the contemporary reader, is a purely fictional being; he has no basis in reality and it is this very fact that makes him so useful: as a fictional being, he can close the gaps that constantly appear in any analysis of literary effects and responses. He can be endowed with a variety of qualities in accordance with whatever problem he is called upon to help solve" (Iser 142).

Sure, you can do a reader-response reading of a text, but the real question is what kind of reader should be responding? According to Iser in "Readers and the Concept of the Implied Reader" there are several different forms of a reader- the "real", "implied", and "ideal". I strive to be the "ideal" but, in reality, am the "real".

Reader-response often creates the question of "Whose reading is valid?" Sure, everyone's interpretations of a text have value, but some have more than others, as Iser points out. The writer has his own version of the reader in mind- the reader that understands everything, who gets all the symbolism and carefully crafted wording. This person exists for the writer, and sometimes the writer alone, as the reader in actuality often misses symbols and meaning and is forced to study the text intently. This is the "implied" reader- the way we should read the text- with the author in mind.

The "ideal", although she doesn't exist per se, is what we base our criticism on, and what we can only aspire to become. What I read as the "real" reader isn't necessarily interesting or engaging...in fact, it's barely valid for any literary study. "Real" readers bring in their own thoughts and experiences, their own biases toward the writing, while the "ideal" is like a world unto itself- it has no experiences or biases so it reads with clear eyes and therefore can uncover the true meaning of the text, through exploration of words and syntax (in which the "ideal" is well-informed. Genius reader). This is why the "ideal" does not exist- readers have trouble seperating their thoughts, concious or unconcious, from the text which can create different interpretations. The "ideal" sets our standard of reading, our "model which makes it possible for the structured events of literary texts to be described" (147).

Iser, ''Readers and the Concept of the Implied Reader'' -- Jerz EL312 (Literary Criticism)

Posted by VanessaKolberg at February 18, 2007 2:43 PM | TrackBack
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