Wednesday, February 08, 2012

notes from The Reader, the Text, the Poem by Louise Rosenblatt

Walter Pater's first step for the reader...primary goal when meeting the text is to have as full an aesthetic experience as possible, given own capacities and the sensibilities, preoccupations and memories brought to the transaction...the reader needs to slough off the old self-image as passively receiving the electric shocks of verbal stimuli. Then the quality of the work as experienced is seen as a function also of his close attention to the qualitative nuances produced by his own handling of his responses.
...the ephemeral personal evocation which is the literary work cannot be held static for later inspection. It cannot be shared directly with anyone else; it cannot be directly evaluated by others. Its ineffable and inward character undeniably present problems. Yes, in talking about the literary work we must have recourse to introspection and memory--anathema though they be to those who simplistically seek the objectivity...
p. 137
Whatever the reader may later add to that original creative activity is also rooted in his own responses during the reading event. His primary subject matter is the web of feelings, sensations, images, ideas that he weaves between himself and the text.
...the ordinary reader must refuse to abdicate his own role as a creator, or evoker, of a work from the text, per transactional reality: no one else, no matter how much more competent, more informed nearer to the ideal (whatever that might be), can read (perform) the poem or the story of the play for us.
p. 143
The reader needs to realize fully, to honor, what he is living through in his evocation of the work. This can spark a sense of the same kind of creative enterprise as the expert, the critic. The emphasis should be on the creative transaction, a coming together of a human being (with all that implies of past experience and present preoccupations) and a text (with all that implies of potentialities for participation.)
The sense of personal identity comes largely from self-definition as against the "other," the external world of people and things. Literary texts provide us with a widely broadened "other" through which to define ourselves and our world. Reflection on our meshing with the text can foster the process of self-definition in a variety of ways... What within myself, the reader may ask, what temperamental leanings, what view of the world, what standards, made it less or more easy for me to animate the world symbolized by the text? What hitherto-untapped potentialities for feeling, thought, and perhaps action, have I discovered through this experience? the possibilities are infinite: the insights derived from contrasts with my own temperament and my own environment; the empathy with violence, the sadistic impulse, that may now be faced and perhaps controlled; the compassion for others formerly felt to be alien; the opportunity for trying out alternative modes of behavior in imagined situations...
p. 151
...psychological patterns or complexes of each reader may be revealed in characteristic responses while literary transactions free him to give utterance to underlying biases and obsessive attitudes. increasing self-understanding and consequent mis- or divergent interpretations may provide clues to the readers' preoccupations.
p. 153
In the last analysis, it is always individual readers evaluating their own personal transactions with the text; we must recognize the uniqueness that derives from the individual's particular selecting-out of elements from the cultural milieu, and the special value-demands due to the unique moment in the reader's life in which the literary transaction takes place. ...As with the evocatory and interpretive aspect of the reading process. reflection can lead to clarification and to confirmation or revision, of those primary evaluative responses.
p. 157
Literary transactions are woven into the fabric of individual lives. Personal meaningfulness should be recognized as at least one of the possible criteria to be applied by a reader assessing the reading event. of course, powerful personal reverberations and moments of intensity or illumination may be the result of the coming together of the reader and the text at an especially propitious moment. The reader, it can be said, provides at that point in his life or in that social situation, particularly receptive context, a kind of amplifier, for what he derives from the text. We should of course recognize the extent of the reader's projective contribution. Nevertheless, we should honor the intensity of fullness of consummation of the experience.
p. 173
By means of texts, the individual may share in the funded knowledge and wisdom of our culture. For the individual reader, each text is a new situation, a new challenge. The literary work of art is an important kind of transaction with the environment precisely because it permits self-aware acts of consciousness. The reader, bringing his own particular temperament and fund of past transactions to the text, lives through a process of handling new situations, new attitudes, new personalities, new conflicts in values. These he can reject, revise, or assimilate into the resources with which he engages his world.
...the essence of a work of art is precisely that a consciousness is a living through, a synthesizing evocation, from a text which involves many levels of the organism.
p. 174
With the aesthetic transaction as his fulcrum, the reader-critic can range as far as he wishes, bringing to bear ever wider and richer circles of literary, social, ethical, and philosophical contexts., achieving a certain objectivity through reflective self-awareness, through understanding that the work envisaged is a product of the reverberations between what he has brought to the text and what the text offers. He seeks to understand how his own sense of life, his own values, coincide with, or differ from , the world that he has participated in through the transaction with the text. ...The transactional concept can only reinforce interest in the dynamics of the relationship between the author, the text, the reader, and their cultural environments.
p. 175 Walt Whitman quote from "Democratic Vistas" in Prose Works 1892:
Books are to be call'd for, and supplied, on the assumption that the process of reading is not a half-sleep, but, in the highest sense, an exercise, a gymnast's struggle; that the reader is to do something for himself, must be on the alert, must himself or herself construct indeed the poem, argument, history, metaphysical essay--the text furnishing the hints, the clue, the start or frame-work. Not the book needs so much to be the complete thing, but the reader of the book does. That were to make a nation of supple and athletic minds, well-train'd, intuitive, used to depend on themselves, and not on a few coteries of writers.