Making Readers, summary

Cognizing the text: "In order to spotlight the communication process we shall confine our consideration to how the blanks trigger off and simultaneously control the reader's activity. Blanks indicate that the different segments and patterns of the text are to be connected even though the text itself does not say so. They are the unseen joints of the text, and as they mark off schemata and textual perspectives from one another, they simultaneously prompt acts of ideation on the reader's part." Iser, Wolfgang. "Interaction Between Text and Reader." The Book History Reader, 2nd edition. D. Finkelstein and A. McCleery, eds. (London: Routledge, 2006), p. 393. (Original text published 1980)

Feeling the text: "In a series of experimental studies, Miall and Kuiken have found significant differences in the processing of literary versus non-literary texts, although these are more pronounced in experienced literary readers, who show a higher sensitivity to literary effects such as foregrounding and defamiliarization. These prototypically literary strategies tend to slow down text processing, provoking special kinds of readerly attention, particularly attention to affective response. Following Tsur, Miall and Kuiken see the literary disturbance and delaying of text processing as making 'precategorical' and 'lowly categorized' information -- including what we call 'gut' feelings -- available to readers. The special characteristics of literary form, on the one hand, and the text processing of actual readers, on the other, meet in moments of interpretive savouring and intensified feeling provoked by the literary devices identified by the Slavic poeticians in their search to describe literariness. Far from ignoring emotion, cognitive poeticians like Tsur and Miall make affect central to their understanding of literature. -- Patricia Waugh, ed., Literary Theory and Criticism: An Oxford Guide (Oxford: 2006), p. 548.

Priority of literary criticism: "the discourses and institutions of literary criticism, which support and make possible individual critical works, permit and condition our reading. To pretend that we can go direct to the text is to take literary criticism at its word and believe that the text is a simple and definable object. But every text is already articulated with other texts which determine its possible meaning and no text can escape the discourses of literary criticism in which it is referred to, named and identified" -- McCabe, Colin. James Joyce and the Revolution of the Word (London: Macmillan, 1978), pp. 2-3.

Priority of the literary text: "While hardly understanding their import, the words went to my heart. They expressed thoughts of my own, thoughts lying so deeply that I was not able to explain or express them" -- Macgill, Patrick. Children of the Dead End (Toronto: Musson, 1914), p. 137.

Against interpretation: " [i]nterpretation is the revenge of the intellect upon art. // Even more. It is the revenge of the intellect upon the world. To interpret is to impoverish, to deplete the world -- in order to set up a shadow world of 'meanings.' It is to turn the world into this world." -- Sontag, Susan. Against Interpretation (Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1987), pp. 98-99.

Key points:

Critical: literariness, form, aesthetics; reader response theory; the canon; conventions; inculcating class values; receptive fallacy; interpretation; disregard of readers; relation to author (e.g., death of, Barthes)

Reading: feelings (anticipation, self-relevance, negative therapeutic), body, imagery; cognition; neuropsychology; relation to self (e.g., Rousseau's readers); gaps and blanks; memory (episodic); decentering; dehabituation (challenging conventions); point-driven, story-driven; frames (i.e., set towards); polyvalence; normative assumptions

Reader: experiential; relation to author/narrator; to implied reader; empathy; gender differences; reading communities (e.g., romance readers); as writer (e.g., slash); novice vs. expert; transgressive; ethical effects (relation to outgroups, e.g., slavery); self-modification

Historical: difference of past; literacy; print culture evidence (subscriptions, library catalogues, inventories, bookseller records, letters, memoirs); copyright; class differences (e.g., Bourdieu); Church and State; Enlightenment, Romanticism, Modernism, etc.; autonomous poet; intensive vs. extensive reading; oral vs. silent reading; literature vs. fiction, high vs. popular; hegemony of the text (cf. Rose); reading for the young; reading for pleasure vs. improvement; sacralizing of literature (e.g., Arnold); rise of the novel; sensation; consumerism; gender issues (woman as main readers, etc.); libraries; book clubs; book-of-the-month; educational institutions; censorship

Media: books, e-books, ipods; chapbooks, newspapers, journals; radio and television; film; Internet, hypertext; passive vs. active reading; formulaic vs. avant garde

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Document prepared November 22nd 2006 / updated March 29th 2011