Theories of Reading, Looking, and Listening
Interest in reading and interpretation continues to grow among contemporary literary theorists. This issue of Bucknell Review is concerned primarily with one particular form of that interest: current theories of the reading process and reader-oriented criticism. The decline in the vitality of Anglo-American New Criticism left a vacuum in American critical discourse that is being filled by domestic and Continental approaches such as phenomenology, semiotics, deconstruction, feminist critiques, and revised versions of psychoanalytic and Marxist critiques. Reader-response theory and practice borrow freely from these approaches, attempting to move critical attention away from the autonomous literary text to the interaction of the reader with that text. In helping to displace New Critical practice, reader-response critics are directly attacking its objectivist and formalist assumptions. Reader-oriented theory argues for the Affective Fallacy Fallacy, a rejection of the notion that the text should be interpreted independently of the reader's reaction to it. However, there is little agreement among reader critics on how the reading experience should be described, how readers should be viewed, or how texts are constituted - as the various discussion in this issue of Bucknell Review illustrate. The essays gathered here, primarily theoretical in nature, provide a good cross section of contemporary reader-oriented approached to literature. Several pieces analyze established theories of reading (Cain on Fish, Champagne on Barthes, Deutelbaum on Holland and Mauron, Bleich on Ingarden, Culler, and Iser). Others represent new developments in accounts of reading (Spolsky and Schauber using Grice) or extensions of older theories (Rosenblatt on her "transactional criticism"). Waniek's essay located parallels to reader-centered theories in the work of Gadamer in philosophy and Gombrich in art history. The final two essays illustrate the implications of reading theories for other domains: Iser for a theory of looking (via a spectator-centered approach to drama) and Rabinowitz for a theory of listening (via a listener-centered theory of music). While these two articles demonstrate the relevance of reading theories to visual and aural art forms, the rest of the essays in this volume testify to the continued vitality of contemporary discussion of readers and their readings of literary texts.
Contributors: Steven Mailloux, Louise M. Rosenblatt, Ellen Schauber, Ellen Spolsky, Rolan A. Champagne, Vicki Mistacco, William E. Cain, Wendy Deutelbaum, David Bleich, Erdmann Waniek, Wolfgang Iser, and Peter J. Rabinowitz.
About the editor:
Harry R. Garvin was John P. Crozer Professor of English at Bucknell University.
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