Reader-response criticism argues that literature should be viewed as a performing art in which each reader creates their own, possibly unique, text-related performance.
categorizing reader-response theorists explicitly invites difficultly due to their overlapping beliefs and practices. Transactional reader-response theory,
led by Louise Rosenblatt and supported by Wolfgang Iser, involves a
transaction between the text's inferred meaning and the individual
interpretation by the reader influenced by their personal emotions and
knowledge. Affective stylistics,
established by Stanley Fish, believe that a text can only come into
existence as it is read; therefore, a text cannot have meaning
independent of the reader. Subjective reader-response theory,
associated with David Bleich, looks entirely to the reader's response
for literary meaning as individual written responses to a text are then
compared to other individual interpretations to find continuity of
meaning. Psychological reader-response theory,
employed by Norman Holland, believes that a reader’s motives heavily
affect how they read, and subsequently use this reading to analyze the
psychological response of the reader. Social reader-response theory
is Stanley Fish's extension of his earlier work, stating that any
individual interpretation of a text is created in an interpretive
community of minds consisting of participants who share a specific
reading and interpretation strategy.
In all interpretive communities, readers are predisposed to a
particular form of interpretation as a consequence of strategies used at
the time of reading.
The most fundamental difference among reader-response critics is
probably, then, between those who regard individual differences among
readers' responses as important and those who try to get around them.