The French Lieutenant's Woman Questions and Answers
by John Fowles

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Is the Reader-Response criticism of literary theory applied in the novel The French Lieutenant's woman? What are some examples?

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The Reader-Response mode of literary criticism is applicable to ANY piece of writing.  While reading a dense novel like The French Luitenant's Woman your mind was in constant engagement.  When a reader is thinking about a book, there are lots of things that are happening in the mind, and paying attention to those responses and perhaps actively thinking about how the author is writing in a way to make the readers react a particular way is reader-response criticism.  Reader response criticism is just as the name implies -- a thoughtful approach to noting how you as a reader are responding to a text.  As you read and take note of your reactions to characters or events, or you ask yourself questions about the text, you are engaging in reader-response criticism. Here are few specific examples of responses:

  • What does the title suggest the work will be about?
  • What is the signficance of the opening chapter? Am I drawn in?
  • What do I like or not like about the major and minor characters?
  • What do I think of the writing style?  React to things like vocabulary, syntax, strucure of chapters, choice of narrator.
  • How does the author want me to react to specific characters or situations?  How does the author manipulate me?
  • What are my predictions?
  • Do I notice any use of irony? symbolism? motif?  Do I like it?
  • Am I satisfied with the ending?
  • What makes the work memorable? important? meaningful?
  • What did I like about the work?  What frustrated me?

As you can see, the questions are all opinion questions based entirely on a person's individual reaction or response to the work.  That is the essential issue of this type of criticism.

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