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Discussion: Reader-response Criticism

December 18, 2018 @ 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm

Discussion Facilitator: Ian Hayes
Teacher bio: http://peoplescolloquium.org/teacher-bios/

Reader-response Criticism

If you’ve ever disagreed with someone about the quality or meaning of a work of literature, the conversation might have ended with “let’s agree to disagree,” or “everyone’s entitled to their own opinion.”

According to Reader-response Criticism, that’s not entirely accurate. “Even when a given reader-response theory does assert that there is no such thing as an insufficient (or inaccurate or inappropriate) response, your job as a practitioner of that theory isn’t merely to respond but to analyze your response, or the responses of others, and that analysis can be found wanting.” Whether you consider transactional, subjective, psychological, or social reader-response theory, they all offer different tools to understand how we, the readers, create the meaning we find in literature, and to explain why some pieces move us and others don’t.

During this discussion, we’ll review Chapter 6, Reader-response Criticism, from Lois Tyson’s Critical Theory Today.

Critical Theory tries to explain the various forms of Literary Criticism and the assumptions and values upon which they rest. The focus of this chapter is to outline those areas of Reader-response Criticism––concepts such as the role of the reader in creating meaning in literature and the nature of the text as an event rather than an object––that are useful to literary criticism and to show how this view of human behavior is relevant to our experience of literature.

Chapter 6 – Reader-response Criticism: https://efford.weebly.com/uploads/1/3/8/3/13833564/critical-theory-today_3.pdf

We request that our participants read the text in advance if possible, however, all are welcome to attend even if it wasn’t possible to read the text in advance. The first portion of our discussion will focus on understanding the text.

The second portion of the discussion will be devoted to answering the following question: How do readers make meaning as they read the text, and what is the relationship between the meaning they make and the text?

People’s Dialogues: Reading Critical Theory
Literary Criticism tries to explain the work to us in terms of its production, its meaning, its design, and its beauty. Critical Theory (or Literary Theory), tries to explain the assumptions and values upon which various forms of Literary Criticism rest. By familiarizing ourselves with the language each theory speaks, with the key concepts on which each theory is grounded, these discussions will prepare us to understand the ongoing debates both within and among critical theories.

With Lois Tyson’s Critical Theory Today as our textbook, we will study a number of theories in succession, not just because it’s important to consider multiple viewpoints if we want to see the whole picture, but also because grasping the process of understanding that underlies human experience can increase our ability to see both the value and the limitations of any method of viewing the world.

Theory, Criticism, and Society: 10/2018 – 3/2019
During this semester, we’ll explore ideas from theory and criticism focusing on art, literature, music, and culture, with the further intention of applying such ideas to the creation and organization of society. Our goal is to deepen our understanding of theory and criticism, and to broaden our perspective of the world we live in—and the possibilities open to us.


December 18, 2018
5:30 pm - 7:00 pm
Event Category:


Slide Inn
2342 SE Ankeny
Portland, OR us
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