Iser posits an active role for readers, who participate in the meaning-making process of textual creation through the act of reading. For Iser, reading is propelled by the reactions and responses of readers. Still, the interactions are in large part determined by the subjectivity of the reader. This subjective element, however, cannot overdetermine the interaction that takes place and Iser is careful to frequently warn against assuming that interpretations and texts "[disappear] into the private world of [their] individual readers. For Iser, literary texts require readers to actualize them and the fulfillment of the potential reading of a text which is actualized represents a kind of conversation between the text and the reader: "The literary text, then, exists primarily as a means of communication, while the process of reading is basically a kind of dyadic interaction" Act,
|Published (Last):||22 December 2005|
|PDF File Size:||2.57 Mb|
|ePub File Size:||10.51 Mb|
|Price:||Free* [*Free Regsitration Required]|
His point here is that reading is an active and creative process. This does not mean that any reading will be appropriate. When we read expository texts of science or philosophy, for example , we look for our expectations to be confirmed. But we regard such confirmation in literary works as a defect, since we are likely to be bored if a text merely rehearses what we already know and if our imagination is not called upon to work IR, Iser draws attention to two important features of the reading process.
The first is that reading is a temporal activity, and one that is not linear. As readers, we cannot absorb even a short text in a single moment, nor does the fictional world of the text pass in linear fashion before our eyes IR, , As readers, we occupy a perspective that is continually moving and changing according to the way we make sense of the accumulating fictional material.
Moreover, our second reading of the same text will proceed along a different time sequence: we already know the ending, for example, and we will make connections that we had earlier missed.
The text thus created by our reading is a product of our processes of anticipation and retrospection IR, According to Iser, this consistency of images or sentences and coherence of meaning is not given by the text itself; rather, we, as readers, project onto the text the consistency that we require. We attempt to understand the material of the text within a consistent and coherent framework because it is this which allows us to make sense of whatever is unfamiliar to us in the text IR, This search for consistency has a number of implications.
Firstly, it makes us aware of our own capacity for providing links, our own interpretative power: we thereby learn not only about the text but also about ourselves. The non-linear nature of the reading process, says Iser, is akin to the way we have experiences in real life. On the other hand, by making certain semantic decisions and ruling out others, for the sake of a consistent reading, we acknowledge the inexhaustibility of the text, its potential to have other meanings that may not quite fit into our own scheme.
Indeed, our desire for consistency involves us to some extent in a world of illusion: as we leave behind our own reality somewhat to enter the reality of the text, we build up a textual world whose illusory consistency helps us make sense of unfamiliar elements.
Hence we try to find a balance between these two conflicting tendencies. Even as we seek a consistent pattern in the text, we are also uncovering other textual elements and connections that resist integration into our pattern IR, In seeking a balance, we start out with certain expectations, and it is the shattering of these expectations that lies at the core of our aesthetic experience.
It is the very shifting of our perspective that makes us feel that a novel is true to life, and we ourselves impart to the text this dynamic life-likeness which allows us to absorb unfamiliar experiences into our personal world IR, In other words, we must recreate the text in order to view it as a work of art. The bases of the connection between reader and text, then, are: anticipation and retrospection, hence the unfolding of the text as a living event and consequently an impression of life-likeness IR, But how does this happen?
Following Poulet, Iser insists that in reading, it is the reader, not the author, who becomes the subject that does the thinking. Even though the text consists of ideas thought out by the author, in reading we must think the thoughts of the author, and we place our consciousness at the disposal of the text. According to Poulet, consciousness is the point at which author and reader converge, and the work itself can be thought of as a consciousness which takes over the mentality of the reader, who is obliged to shut out his individual disposition and character IR, — The production of meaning in literary texts not only entails our discovering unformulated or unwritten elements of the text; it also gives us the chance to formulate our own deciphering capacity, to formulate ourselves and to expand our experience by incorporating the unfamiliar IR, Hence, for Iser, the reading process mimes the process of experience in general: the aesthetic dimension of a literary work is located in the act of its recreation by the reader, a process that is temporal and also dialectical insofar as it allows the assumptions of the reader to interact with those of the text, yielding knowledge not only of the text but also of the reader herself.
The first argument is based on the nature of meaning, and the second hinges on the question of whether a truly objective interpretation is possible. It is, in other words, an event in time. Iser sees this intersubjective model of reading as an advance over objectivist theories which presume that a text itself contains a single hidden meaning or set of meanings that can be discovered by the critic.
Who, moreover, defines this standard? The critic? But the critic, says Iser, is hardly infallible; he is another reader who will bring his own background and dispositions into play when judging the meaning or value of a literary work. The former refers to an actual reader whose response is documented, whereas the hypothetical reader is a projection of all possible realizations of the text AR, Iser sees both of these concepts as deficient.
The documented response of real readers has often been thought to mirror the cultural norms or codes of a given era. The main problem Iser sees with this approach is that any reconstruction of real readers depends on the survival of documents from their era; and the further back we go in history, such documentation becomes increasingly sparse, and we must reconstruct the real readership of a text from the text itself AR, Moreover, the code of an ideal reader would be identical to that of the author, thereby making reading superfluous AR, 28 — Iser has criticisms of all of these models.
His critique of the psychological models of reading is centered on his objection that they do not adequately describe our reading of literature as an aesthetic experience: the text tends to lose its aesthetic quality and is merely regarded as material to demonstrate the functioning of our psychological dispositions AR, According to Iser, all of the models cited above are restricted in their general applicability.
The text must be able to bring about a standpoint or perspective from which the reader will be able to do this. For example, in a novel, there are four main perspectives: those of the narrator, characters, plot, and the fictitious reader. The meaning of the text is generated by the convergence of these perspectives, a convergence that is not itself set out in words but occurs during the reading process. In other words, everything that has been incorporated into a literary text has been deprived of its reality, and is subjected to new and unfamiliar connections.
Negativity is the structure underlying this invalidation or questioning of the manifested reality AR, The reader must formulate the cause underlying this questioning of the world, and to do this, she must transcend that world, observing it, as it were, from the outside. In the latter case, literature would have nothing, or at least nothing valuable, to communicate AR, Such a model of interpretation promoted the treatment of a literary work as a document, testifying to characteristics of its era and the disposition of its author.
What this model ignored, according to Iser, was the status of the text as an event as well as the experience of the reader AR, Iser sees his own project as emerging from a more modern constellation of approaches which rejected the idea that art somehow expresses or represents truth and which focused more on the connections between the text and either its historical context or its audience AR, And yet, Iser points out, various elements of the classical norm have persisted, even within approaches that aim to reject it.
Nonetheless, elements of the classical norm have crept into this new approach: the New Critical values of harmony, order, completeness, and removal of ambiguity differ from the classical norm only inasmuch as these values are freed from their subservience to the expression of truth. In the New Critical approach, qualities such as harmony are considered valuable in their own right. In many modern conceptions of art Iser sees the classical values of symmetry, balance, order, and totality as occupying a central role.
Why this obstinate persistence of the age-old classical norm, even within the texture of theories that claim to subvert or transcend it? The main reason, according to Iser, is that consistency is essential to the very act of comprehension. The meaning of the text is not formulated by the text itself but is a projection of the reader.
Hence as readers we have recourse to the classical values of symmetry, harmony, and totality, values that enable us to construct a frame of reference against which we can make unfamiliar elements accessible. Notes 1. Hereafter cited as IR.
Hereafter cited as AR.
INTERACTION BETWEEN TEXT AND READER WOLFGANG ISER PDF
His point here is that reading is an active and creative process. This does not mean that any reading will be appropriate. When we read expository texts of science or philosophy, for example , we look for our expectations to be confirmed. But we regard such confirmation in literary works as a defect, since we are likely to be bored if a text merely rehearses what we already know and if our imagination is not called upon to work IR, Iser draws attention to two important features of the reading process. The first is that reading is a temporal activity, and one that is not linear. As readers, we cannot absorb even a short text in a single moment, nor does the fictional world of the text pass in linear fashion before our eyes IR, ,
To Memorable Literature! Iser has an interesting moment on page , a few pages into the essay. No surprises here and none to follow, but he does articulate the situation admirably: What is concealed spurs the reader into action, but this action is also controlled by what is revealed; the explicit in its turn is transformed when the implicit has been brought to light" But since that explicit must be a re-creation that the reader carries in mind on the fly during reading, the explicit or elements thereof must contain something like what Kristeva describes as chora in Revolution in Poetic Language. That is, the system here would seem to be that the reader approaches with ideas relatively fixed by experience, and re-interprets the text in accord with these. The text draws the reader into activities in which the reader projects his or her own ideas into unforseen situations, evaluates the results, and eventually revaluates the original ideas based on the results. The essential insight here for formalists would be that discourse must be partially new, partially old; partially open, partially closed.