Can It Stand Alone? I Don't Think So

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"The real purpose of art is to answer the human need for an intelligible and satisfying vision of the universe and our place within it and to answer as well our many other psychic wants, few of which can be met by scientific truth or the brute facts of experience" (Keesey 132).

When I read the quote above, I think I ended up slightly analyzing my own reader reaction. I immediately thought of T.S. Eliot's claim that we don't have to write poetry about what we feel or what we experience. A few weeks ago, I was a little doubtful about Eliot's statement. Now, I think I understand. Writing is used to help us understand our lives and world, whether realistically or unrealistically.

After having this reaction to this quote, it made me think of another reaction that I had to an earlier quote, one that I wasn't quite so clear on. "Similarly, the sort of affectiveness found in numerous impressionistic essays that tell us how the critic felt while reading may seldom contribute directly to our general understanding of literature. In other words, while a good deal of the talk about literature has always been loosely affective, significant attempts to develop a consistent theory along these lines have been few, and most of these are quite modern" (Keesey 130). Does this mean that the reactions I would experience while reading would help me to talk about the work but not necessarily create a meaning/interpretation from the text? If I understood this right, then I can see how that would be so. For example, the reaction I had from the quote I used at the beginning of my blog gave helped me to recall prior information and to connect it to this writing, but it didn't neceassarily help me to develop a theory about Keesey's chapter. I think I kind of understand this.

Overall, as I mentioned in a comment on Greta's blog, I had a different understanding of reader reponse after Keesey's chapter than I had expected before I read it. I thought this type of criticism would be one that I could understand and possibly learn more easily, but instead I now view reader-response criticism as one that can't stand on its own barely at all. It just seems there are too many possibilities that can't often be combined to form criticism. Maybe I misunderstood what I read, but I just don't see reader-response criticism as being as useful as what I thought it could be. What I did find interesting though was the different psychologies that were involved in taking the different approaches to reader response criticism. They too each had their up and downs, but none of them seemed to have a near flawless approach.

As a side not, take a look at one of Keesey's sentences: "Most reader-response critics have little interest in authors or intended meaning" (129). Hmmmm....if this was in Keesey's casebook for the week, would there be a slight problem with him using "most" as part of his argument. Maybe, maybe not...I really don't know.

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~Depth~       Here are a few blogs that are a little longer and had a little more work than usual put into them. Some of them are explanations, many are questions and thoughts that I had on a particular work... Read More

2 Comments

I know what you mean, Katie. I expected reader-response to just be what I thought. I thought it was going to be a reprieve, but it just ended up confusing me. What I didn't understand was the "ideal reader" thing. I didn't quite get how to separate myself from myself. You may want to check out my blog entry because I try, and think I may succeed in, making sense of reader response.
http://blogs.setonhill.edu/AngelaPalumbo/2009/02/my_second_crack_at_trying_to_u.html

Is anyone else struggling with this?

Reader-response was definitly not what I was expecting either. But, I think the same way you do Katie, that it can be a good criticism if combined with something else. And Angela, I don't think we can ever completely separate ourselves from ourselves, which is the whole reason reader-response doesn't completely work for me, and why I think it is one of the weaker criticisms. But, the one redeeming factor is that it does call for an open mind and allows us to explore these ideas from a different point of view, at least as much as we are able.

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