Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Reader Response Theory: Rosenblatt's Take

So there's a lot going on with the reader response theory, but I really want to focus on Rosenblatt's perspective as it is very up front and really interesting. The reader response theory is the idea that the reader is involved with the textual meaning. Rosenblatt brings up the idea that there is an invisible reader, one lurking in the shadows because he/she is being ignored. This reader was considered to be passive when reading a literary work, but then finally the reader gets their time to shine. In this article, we learn about the two types of reader; (this is the interesting part) the non-aesthetic reader and the aesthetic reader.  The non-aesthetic reader focuses their attention on what will remain with them after the reading. The aesthetic reader is more focused on the now. Rosenblatt describes the two contrasting stances by saying that "in non-aesthetic reading, the reader's attention is focused primarily on what will remain as the residue after the reading—the information to be acquired, the logical  solution to a problem, the actions to be carried out" (Rosenblatt 23) and aesthetic reading is "the reader's primary purpose is fulfilled during the reading event, as he fixes his attention on the actual experience he  is living through" (Rosenblatt 27).

For my art work, I chose to draw a picture that I believe portrays these two types of readers, the readers that were once lurking in the shadows and the readers who have now been illuminated. I want to show how I was portraying these two different readers in my mind by putting them onto paper. I am not a very good artist so bare with me and my horrific stick figures. This artistically challenged piece is depicting one reader as poking his head out from the curtain, hoping to get his chance to shine in the spotlight. The other figure is center stage, the center of attention. He is able to have his opinions and interpretations of the text versus his buddy who is stuck in the past with no chance to shine.

I guess the biggest problem I had with Rosenblatt's article was that I didn't understand why someone could be both a non-aesthetic reader and an aesthetic reader. Couldn't someone be a little bit of both? I ask this because I have a hard time believing that someone could just be non-aesthetic. How could you wait until the end to weigh in, to solve the problems?


  1. I think your summary of Rosenblatt, and of aesthetic and efferent reading, is very strong. You do lose me a bit with connecting the artwork to the theory. I don't think efferent actually means that you wait until the end to weigh in or interpret. In fact, just the opposite. The meaning of the text is made almost instantaneously because it is so simple and clear: like the way you read the instructions about how to call poison control if your kid has ingested poison. Aesthetic reading is more like reading for the artistic experience: for the nuance and the interpretation and the style and so on. I agree that most reading is a combination of efferent (we just need the facts, want to understand and gain clarity) and aesthetic (nothing is probably simple or clear enough that it can't be taken in multiple ways-- just look at "Is there a text in this class?").

  2. Oh, ok well thank you for clearing that up for me. Sometimes my mind carries itself away.