Responding to Reader Response

The reader response theory is a very strange concept to me. Although it quite obvious and natural that people think while they read, it is an odd occurrence to think about what you’re thinking about while reading. It is even weirder to be reading about and thinking about what you’re thinking about while you’re reading, and then putting into words and theory those processes. Makes a lot of sense, right?

But really, it is interesting to contemplate the thought processes that go into reading. In my essay I focused on the concept of how people’s identities determine how they read a work. It got me thinking about the way in which I imagined the story, and how my background influences my perceptions.

I also was able to compare my vision with the performance of Stop Kiss that I saw with my class. I remember thinking disappointing and provoking thoughts as the play was happening like, “I imagined Callie to be more of a rough city girl, the tomboy type” or “I didn’t realize that this was what was actually happening between the characters in that scene!” I realized that the perceptions of others, such as the play director and the actors, may differ from my interpretation. I asked myself, why is this?

As I was writing my paper and the ideas came together, I realized that these differences are due to  the fact that people can read the same work and have a completely different picture of the characters and what is happening in the “gaps” of the plot. Maybe this is the reason why the movies are never as good as the books–they simply can’t capture your imagination, let alone live up to everyone’s ideas about what it should look like.

To see my Reader Response Essay Process Portfolio, click here.

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That’s A Wrap!

At this very moment I have just realized that with the turning in of my Reader Response essay first draft I have just finished writing my final essay for my ENGL 305: Literary Theory and Writing class! While I may have some revisions to do on the essay after my professor peer reviews it, the bulk of the work is done. I have completed my sixth and last essay–and with that, the class!

Looking back on my experience in this class, I know that I have learned so much. Not only have I learned about literary theory, but also how to write, research, analyze, manage time, read and synthesize information from literary criticisms, create an online portfolio and to blog, and push through the many difficulties that came my way during the writing process. I am proud of myself for sticking with this upper-level class–despite the large commitment it took and fear of failure.

This semester has flown by! I can remember the first days of class when I was just 17 and unsure of my abilities and interest as a writer. Now I am a much more confident, skilled, and experienced writer. My time in Lit 305 has been an excellent experience that has opened my eyes to the world of English, literature, writing and how I can use these skills in the future.

While I have personally enjoyed this class, which has satisfied and encouraged my passion for writing, I will admit that I am a bit exhausted. I have had a very busy, homework-heavy semester and writing 6 intense essays has taken up a lot of my time and energy. While I look forward to more writing in the future, I am excited for the upcoming winter break to recharge.

From here on out I just need to focus on doing my reader response essay revisions, finalizing my blog, writing and peer reviewing biographies with my partner before I can turn in my final portfolio this week!

To see my Reader Response Essay Process Portfolio, click here.

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My “Transaction” with Reader Response

For this essay, I underwent the same process as always: read, prepare, research, and write–oh, and wishing I could finish the process faster to turn it in close to the due date!

I began my Reader Response essay by reading the supplementary criticisms and the textbook, taking notes and marking passages that would help me later with writing the essay. I then spent a couple of days in class learning about the numerous reader response critics and their theories. Next, I brainstormed an interesting topic that I wanted to discuss in my essay and created a concept outline mapping out the different reader response theories I saw within Stop Kiss. I then submitted my thesis proposal with the outline to my professor for peer review. After receiving the peer review from my professor with suggestions, I began tightening my thesis and cutting down my outline to the main points I was trying to make. This was tricky, because I had to find the commonalities between my points, condense them, and tie them to the correct theorists that I would later reference in my paper.

Afterward, I spent a day on researching sources for the essay. Aside from the passages I had marked and other information in my criticism books, I was lucky enough to be able to find some primary sources from the three main theorists that I featured in my essay on the internet. I found a very interesting interview that contained conversation between Iser and Holland, in which they explained their own theories and posed questions to one another that they each replied to in complex and merited discussion.

Finally, I wrote my essay. Because I had found so much helpful information in my research, sorting through it all and determining where I would place the endnotes took a considerable amount of time and concentration. Like the New Historical essay, the Reader Response essay was a bit more challenging for me, because it was a new writing style that I had not encountered before. I also tried a new approach to my writing by using a less detailed outline and filling in my thoughts as I went while plugging in appropriate quotations from the theory I had researched.

Hopefully I accomplished the correct approach to writing this essay, and that it turns out much better than my New Historical! Now I just wait for the peer review…

To see my Reader Response Essay Process Portfolio, click here.

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This Paper is History!

I’m relieved to be done with the new historical essay–this paper is finally history! After another late night of writing (amidst a week of stress), my new historical essay is complete. While I still didn’t connect with the content of my paper, I was impressed with my own hidden ability to be flexible and figure out how to write the paper coherently as I went. I surprised myself with my impromptu analyses, which I was able to weave seamlessly through the stiff outline of historical facts that I had gathered. Aside from figuring out how to write the paper itself, I also struggled simply with finding time to write it. The paper turned out to be quite long, and I had an exceptionally busy and tiring week on top of that. However, I managed to pull through and get it done!

In addition to learning the new historical approach, I learned how to do research for an essay. Turns out that I was doing it right the whole time! (I apologize for my previous frantic post about not understanding how to do research.) My professor decided to show us in class how to use online databases and the campus library research resources to locate good sources. Apparently, my guesswork was correct! Although I wasn’t able to get to the library for this essay, I also learned that book sources are great evidence for a paper–I’ll have to use that strategy for my next essay!

However, despite my progress I am still not sure whether or not I had enough sources in my final paragraph. I’m not sure if my professor will want more information or primary sources about the feminist movement itself, although I provided plenty of connections and information throughout the rest of the essay. Hopefully the writing style I chose is sufficient!

In class we also dove deeper into the instructions and requirements for the blog we have been creating, since the end of the semester is drawing near (yes–it’s already Thanksgiving break!!!). Today I have been editing the finalized formatting of all my posts and pages, adding clickable links and checking if they are functioning, setting up hyperlinked images, writing introductions to pages, formatting pages, etc. After a little digging, I found a video online that taught me how to hyperlink a picture. By doing so, I added a linked logo image to my LinkedIn profile on my Biography page so that anyone who wants to contact me or learn more about me (ie: future employers?) can access it! I also realized that all my other images were clickable links to bigger versions of the images, so I took off the hyperlinks in order to make the page look cleaner and less confusing to readers who are interacting with the site.

I am excited that there’s only one paper left in this class (Reader Response), but sad that the class is almost over. I have really enjoyed Lit 305, learned a lot about literature, and improved my writing. I will also miss having my professor, whom (since I am not an English major) I’m uncertain if I’ll have for another class during my college career. With that said, I am hoping that he may one day help me with the publishing process–yup, I am already looking into learning about publishing (wish me luck)!

To see my New Historical Essay Process Portfolio, click here.

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Reader Response Essay Abstracts

Abstracts of Literary Criticisms in Course Texts:

James, Henry, and Peter G. Beidler. The Turn of the Screw. 3rd ed. Boston: Bedford of St. Martin’s, 2000, pp. 287-301.

The new historical criticism of Turn of the Screw, “He began to read to our hushed little circle”: Are We Blessed or Cursed by Our Life with The Turn of the Screw? by Wayne C. Booth, focuses on the fact that–despite what some critics claim–the novel is actually widely popular, because readers have responded to the text by finding a variety of values in it. While many agree that there is value in Turn of the Screw, there is major confusion about why it is considered a valuable work of literature and whether or not there is any universal meaning in it. Booth calls readers to question what value there is–if any–to read and write criticism about a work that may not elicit the “correct” response from a reader. He continues by analyzing the text with an ethical criticism, calling readers to examine “what good or harm a given story or kind of story might yield” (290). Factors that may affect readers’ responses (ie: how thrilling and horrifying the “turns of the screw” are found to be) include their interpretation of a piece in terms of ethics and censorship, whether or not they believe in ghosts, and whether or not they are “straight,” “ironic,” or “mazed” (292) readers. Finally, Booth argues that because there are multiple ways of responding to the text the true inherent value of the novel is its ability to spark continual discussion and debate.

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Chopin, Kate, and Nancy A. Walker. The Awakening. 2nd ed. Boston: Bedford of St. Martin’s, 2000, pp. 352-373.

The new historical criticism of The Awakening, The Construction of Ambiguity in The Awakening: A Linguistic Analysis by Paula A. Treichler, focuses on how the syntax of language is used to create the reader’s interpretation of the text from Edna’s point of view. For instance, there is a complex ”syntactic interplay between active and passive voice” (353). In addition, there are multiple possible uses of the word “awaken” as well as the transition from third-person pronouns that signify property toward first-person singular pronouns that give Edna her identity. The lack of clarity of meaning within the language used in the novel reflects the ambiguity of Edna’s awakening, specifically in regards to both Edna and the reader’s inability to reach a solution for her internal conflict. As the novel progresses, the “simplicity of Chopin’s style gives way to a rather complicated and intense reading experience” that “offers a verbal resolution… which is nearly perfect and… transcends the profound contradictions and ambiguities of the story” (353). The linguistic style is shown to have been a deliberate choice by Chopin, which gradually depicts to the reader Edna as actively gaining consciousness rather than simply being passively subjected to the forces that surround her. The increasing use of complex language creates a dramatic reading experience of the narrative. For example, this is shown by the repetition of words associated with sleeping and awakening, which on their own are simply words but by the end of the novel become a powerful metaphor to the reader. Ultimately, this interplay of active and passive language is used in Edna’s suicide to demonstrate how a woman’s control over her body can be simultaneously active and passive, whereas her “active passivity, a decision to no longer decide” (372) leads to her personal victory and inevitable death. Edna’s suicide becomes the “perfect human emblem and perfect literal, and literary, resolution” (373).