How can I give a reader's response / critical response to "Doc's Story" by John Edgar Wideman?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Reader response criticism developed as a reaction against formalist or structuralist criticisms and places the reader at the center of the critical experience, the idea being that without the "I"--the reader--the text is meaningless since it remains unattended to. It is an error though to conclude that in reader response criticism any individual interpretation is as valid as any other. Even in reader response criticism, there are textually significant elements that govern a valid or less valid critical interpretation of a text. As reader response theory developed over time, it became further removed from previous critical approaches, like new criticism, and emphasized that the "I"--the reader--will always and must always impinge upon (i.e., affect, influence) the meaning of the text. In addition, the author's intention is ignored as unknown and often unknowable.

Therefore, in giving a reader response criticism of the text of "Doc's Story," you want to read the text from a personal perspective while still paying attention to the cues in the text that might indicate the direction of a more valid interpretation. Then write your "I" centered experiential (what was your experience with the story?), reactive (how did you react to the story?), responding (how do you respond to the story?) critical interpretation of the story.

There is broad leeway for interpretation providing that you can indicate some cue within the text that can substantiate your unique interpretation as valid. For instance, using reader's response, one might interpret Doc's choice to join another basketball game at the end as an indication that had the frame-story narrator's girlfriend heard the story of Doc, she would have taken it as confirmation that there are times to move on and away from the past.

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Doc's Story

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