Which theory could be useful to analyze Hart's "Ghosts"?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that one type of literary theory that can be used in analyzing "Ghosts" by Hart could be the Reader- Response form of literary criticism.  Reader- Response is rooted in how the specific audience interprets meaning from a given work.  In Reader- Response theory, the belief is that "what a text is cannot be separated from what it does" to the reader.  How the reader "responds" to the text and the arrangement of ideas within it is where meaning lies.  At its core, the Reader- Response form of literary criticism suggests that the understanding of the reader is essential to determining textual meaning:

..reader-response theorists share two beliefs: 1) that the role of the reader cannot be omitted from our understanding of literature and 2) that readers do not passively consume the meaning presented to them by an objective literary text; rather they actively make the meaning they find in literature.

Reader- Response is a theory of literary criticism that can be used to interpret the meaning of Hart's "Ghosts."

One way in which the Reader- Response theory could be seen in the analysis of the story could be in the description of the car accident.  The exposition of the story is rooted on a destructive car crash, and how a reader responds to its details that Hart outlines is one way in which the theory can play a role in understanding and determining textual meaning.  The theory of Reader- Response argues that the "sounds/shapes of the words as they appear on the page" and "how they are spoken by the reader" helps to "enhance or change the meaning."  This theory can be seen in the initial discovery of the accident: "Her eyes were closed and she was twisted around as if she were trying to cover her collar with her neck because someone was coldly pouring water onto her head. She had on black slacks and a tattered grey hoodie."   The perception of the reader to the description of the accident, the scene of chaos, and the injured body is where the reader's insight and understanding enhances textual meaning.  This is one area where the use of the Reader- Response theory can be seen in analyzing the nuances and meaning of Hart's short story.

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