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Contemporary Experimental Narratives
ENGL 146EN - Fall 2003,  Rita Raley
Thu, 9/25 The Role of the Reader

Reader-response criticism & commentary on the death of the author

“lost in the midst of a text (not behind it, like a deus ex machina) there is always the other, the author. As institution, the author is dead: his civil status, his biographical person have disappeared; dispossessed, they no longer exercise over his work the formidable paternity whose account literary history, teaching, and public opinion had the responsibility of establishing and renewing; but in the text, in a way, I desire the author: I need his figure (which is neither his representation nor his projection), as he needs mind (except to ‘prattle’)” (27)
- Roland Barthes, The Pleasure of the Text

Wolfgang Iser: "reading causes the literary work to unfold its inherently dynamic character" (The Reading Process: A Phenomenological Approach [1972]: 212)

"Although the narratives can be read as autonomous, open-ended tales, in the event that constitutes the reading of Calvino's whole text, they are inextricably intertwined with the frame; they are both the reward for the lesson learned in each chapter of the frame and the testing ground for that lesson" (201).
"I think it would be possible at this point to suggest that Calvino's text is mocking its readers into the realization that though writers might celebrate the creativity and free play of the reader, they ultimately expect of their readers the response they have themselves envisioned. In fact, the whole text frames the reader's response to such an extent that, it could be argued, the more active the reader, the greater the possibility of his being framed" (210).
-- Mariolina Salvatori, "Italo Calvino's If on a Winter's Night a Traveler: Writer's Authority, Reader's Autonomy," Contemporary Literature 27:2 (Summer 1986)


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