A return to the reader and their imagination: the forming of a referential world in order to establish meaning in a text

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Michael D. Smith (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/
Hephzibah Roskelly

Abstract: The goal of this text is to reassert the importance of the imagination and the reader in the process of reading. It is my experience that the reader and text interaction has come to be dismissed as being too prone to individuation. Such a mindset comes from the foundation set forth in criticism by the likes of the New Critics and has is continued on in the works of some critics today. While I do not dispute that there are cases where an individual may overstep the process and map their own feelings or emotions onto a text, to discredit the communication that we all share with a text is a step too far in the opposite direction. Therefore, I have set out to not only assert the importance of the reader and the imagination in the process of reading but also to show how through their involvement a referential world is formed which aids the reader in establishing perceptions both in and out of the world of the text. In order to do this I will first discuss the imagination as a crucial part of one's engagement with art. Oscar Wilde's "The Decay of Lying" will be my primary source in this venture as Wilde is an avid promoter of the imagination and asserts a new way of viewing its usage. I will then begin my discussion of reading as an imaginative and transactional act through the use of Louise Rosenblatt's work in reader-response theory. Delving further into reader-response theory I will place Rosenblatt in to juxtaposition with theorist Wolfgang Iser to reveal how the communication between text and reader is prompted through what Iser calls the "gaps" in the text. All of this will be brought together by my inclusion of cosmopolitan theorist David Harvey and his three-part spatial taxonomy of absolute, relative and relational space. Harvey's theory, as well as the concept of dialectic tension, will help me to reveal how the works of these three theorists connect together in forming a unified theory of the reading process. It is through this unified theory that I assert the referential world is formed by the reader and for her use. Following this I will utilize Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes as a means of displaying how the reader's imagination and the referential world are engaged during the reading of a text. By referring to Doyle's use of clues, highlighting the genre of detective fiction as a whole, and discussing the concept of Holmes existing as more than a fictional character, I will show that the referential world transcends the boundaries set forth by criticism in its distinction between fact and fiction. It is also here where I will provide justification for seeing the imagination as more than a means of relating to fantasy, and instead assert that it should be seen as an influential portion of human understanding. Thus to remove the reader or her imagination from any process of attributing meaning to a text is harmful to the future of literary criticism.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2015
Imagination, Iser, Reader, Rosenblatt, Theory, Wilde
Reading, Psychology of
Reader-response criticism

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