Saturday, December 25, 2010

By: Jayson Patalinghug
Please read and understand these theories first before you start reading and criticizing our works here. If you have questions and clarifications, you can send me email and I will get back to you.

Objective Reader

At this point we have already learned two types of readers. First, those who look at the relationship of the universe to the text (mimetic readers); Second, those who look at the relationship between the writer and his work (expressive readers); and now we will add another type of reader which is affected by structuralism. We call them objective readers.

An objective reader posits that every text is autonomous. History, biography, sociology, psychology, author’s intention and reader’s private experiences are all irrelevant. Any attempt to look at the author’s relationship to a certain piece of literature is called “Intentional Fallacy.” Any attempt to look at the reader’s individual response is called “Affective Fallacy.” Objective readers argue that each text has a central unity. The responsibility of the reader is to discover this unity. The reader’s job is to interpret the text, telling in what ways each of its parts contributes to the central unity. The primary interest is the theme. A story or poem is spoken by a persona (narrator or speaker) who expresses the attitude which must be defined and who speaks in a tone which helps define the attitude: ironic, straightforward or ambiguous. Judgements of the value of a text must be based on the richness of the attitude and the complexity and the balance of the text. The key phrases are ambivalence, ambiguity, tension, irony and paradox.

The reader's analysis of these elements leads him to an examination of the themes. A work is good or bad depending on whether the themes are complex and whether or not they contribute to the central, unifying theme. The more complex the themes are and the more closely they contribute to a central theme (unity) the better the work. Usually, objective readers define their themes as oppositions: Life and death, good and evil, love and hate, harmony and strife, order and disorder, eternity and time, reality and appearance, truth and falsehood, emotion and reason, simplicity and complexity, nature and art. The analysis of a text is an exercise in showing how all of its parts contribute to a complex but single (unified) statement about human problems.

 The reader must look at the words, the syntax, the images, the structure (usually, "the argument"). The words must be understood to be ambiguous. (The more possible meanings a word has, the richer the ambiguity. The reader should search out irony (ambiguous meaning) and paradox (contradictory meaning, hence also ambiguity). The reader must discover tensions in the work. These will be the results of thematic oppositions, though they may also occur as oppositions in imagery: light versus dark, beautiful versus ugly, graceful versus clumsy. The oppositions may also be in the words chosen: concrete versus abstract, energetic versus placid).

Most readers who belong into this type are those who are well verse in the field of literature. Those who believed in the standards in writing fictions and familiar with the different literary elements. 

Next topic: Affective Readers

Sources: History of Literary Criticism by Maggie Mertens Encyclopedia Britannica: Literary CriticismDictionary of the History of Ideas: Literary Criticism. 


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