10-second review: The two sides of the issue of response to literature: the New Critics vs. subjective and affective response (Rosenblatt). Focus on the rhetorical techniques vs. focus on the use of the reader’s experience in interpreting literature.
Title: “Reading Literature: Two Schools of Thought.” AC Yoder. Journal of Reading (January 1975), 312-315. The secondary school publication of the International Reading Association (IRA), since replaced by the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy.
Quote: “There are two popular approaches to reading [literature] which are at odds in the literary world. The first is the residuum of the older New Criticism and the second is more contemporary, subjective or affective.” p. 312.
Quote: “Using the first approach, one evaluates literature in formalistic terms, free from extra-textual biases which might distort it. The reader’s first task is a close reading of the text, with a great deal of attention paid to formal elements such as narrative technique, diction and the various other devices of rhetoric and style. This approach tends to be impersonal, rational, scientific, objective, rigorously formal, text-centered and detached.” p. 312.
Quote: “Those using the second approach believe that reading and education consist of more than knowing objective rational truths. Another kind of education to be gained from reading is self-knowledge, understanding one’s own experiences, becoming aware of what one thinks, feels and values; in other words, of who one is.
Solution/Quote: “This method of reading requires the student to persistently keep in touch with his personal reactions to the work while at the same time forcing him back to an analysis of the rhetoric. It also provides a cure for the excesses of both approaches. The reader neither becomes trapped in his subjective reactions at the expense of the text nor does he become trapped in the text at the expense of his own personal response.”
Comment: You can’t have one without the other. You need to focus on the text and to relate your experiences to the text in order to learn both the skills of reading and to grow in personal knowledge which is the purpose of literature in the first place. Another of those annoying either/or issues in English education. RayS.