"however defined"

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"...They agree on one main point: since the 'poem' exists only when the reader (however defined) encounters the text, literary criticism must focus on that encounter." Keesey 138

So I was kind of disappointed after reading this article. Keesey constantly asked questions that were running through my head, "How can we talk critically about the poem-audience relationship?," "Which of several responses is the best one?" and many more. Then I would get all excited and read on to never learn the answer!!! I have always understood in this class that there is no "for certain" but for some reason this article continued to tease me as he said stuff like, "You are probably wondering...", well yes, but no one answered my question. Sure he gave plenty of possible answers but not a definite response to the questions.

So I thought it was only fitting that I picked this quote at the end of the essay that sums up the lack of answers. In the parenthesis we are faced with the truth, "however defined," there is no exact rhyme or reason to how we define the reader, because we are all different. As Keesey says, "...More accurately, there are as many Hamlets as there are readings, for our responses change from year to year, or even from day to day" (133). As far as the reader goes, we can not pin point one person because they all react to a work in different ways. I accept this, but does Keesey have to be such a tease?

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I found your description and stance on this quote to be very interesting! You have offered a great question that is "How can we talk critically about the poem-audience relationship?" (Merryman, however defined). I think that we can determine this relationship through historical criticism. Based on how an audience would have seen a text will have a lot of influence on our reading. Aside from the ideal reader, we can push, closer and closer, to the intention of the author.

Bethany, I don't think that there is a "correct or specific" answer when referring to criticism. So, do you think that a reader can be seen as a person who is offering a reader-response rather than a specific criticism?

Bethany, your entry made me laugh, I can definitely relate to what you’re saying. You just keep reading waiting for the answer to come, and in the end, after all the reading, you find out there is none. At first this did annoy me and in some ways scared me, but then I thought about a world where there was a “right” answer to what a text meant and I realized that inability to define or come up with a “right” answer about a text, is part of what makes it worth studying.

Reader-response criticism kind of surprised me, because it wasn’t quite what I expected it to be. Going back to Keesey’s diagram which places the reader opposite the author really makes sense to me, because I think reader-response criticism, like author intention is not something that can be done very well without combining it with some other school. As Derek mentions you could easily combine it with historicism, or you could just as easily combine it with formalism.

Lastly, I’m going to refer you to Angela’s blog on Keesey because she picked the same quote as you, so you might be interested to check out her take on the quote:

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