As a writer, it is interesting to look at different approaches to literature. Recently I’ve been reading Louise Rosenblatt’s work on Reader-Response Theory. Her interpretation of this concept posits that the reader takes an author’s work, examines it, runs it through a filter of past experiences, and creates his or her own text or "poem" of the work.
Rosenblatt and Reader Response theory has impacted American education. Instead of a rigid interpretation, students were given much more freedom in giving voice to their own views and creativity. Rosenblatt believed that teachers should approach literature without imposing pre-conceived notions to the text. The reader thereby completes the work by attaching his or her interpretation to the work and making it whole. Some people have criticized this, arguing that students became undisciplined thinkers.
Sounds a little high fallutin’? There’s truth to Reader Response Theory though. The writer can intuit it when reading his or her work aloud. Doing so, we try and impart a meaning to it, to influence interpretation; doing it in a way that would influence the reader. Makes you wonder if it isn’t a form of cheating.
So, how can a writer take Reader Response Theory and work with it? How can you know that the work will be reinterpreted based on context and the filter of reader experience? I’ll leave these questions sitting out here. I have more to say on this matter. I’ll pick up this thread of thought in a day or so and welcome your dialogue.