What are predominant author-centered literary theories that could be applied to F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby? Would Jauss' theory of the "horizon of expectations" count as author-...

What are predominant author-centered literary theories that could be applied to F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby? Would Jauss' theory of the "horizon of expectations" count as author- or reader-centered?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Literary theories can be divided into three classes: those centered on the author, the reader, and the text. Although these categories aren't completely mutually exclusive, they provide a useful framework for beginning to think about F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby.

Text-centered theories look at the text itself, independent of author and reader. Traditional historical or philological criticism investigates such questions as establishing a definitive edition of a text (especially important for poorly preserved ancient and medieval manuscripts) and tracking down textual references (providing helpful notes about the identity of obscure political figures or places mentioned in literary works). Other forms of text-centered criticism include New Criticism, Structuralism, and Deconstruction, which focus on taking the text outside its context and paying close attention to the form of the text and its specific uses of language and literary techniques.

Author-centered criticism is essentially biographical. It looks at how a work fits in with other elements of the the author's life and works. One major form is psychological criticism, which sees literature as springing out of deep elements of the author's subconscious mind. Another type of author-centered criticism is a more historical or biographical approach, which investigates an author's letters, diaries, and personal life to learn more about the meaning of a work. Discussing the intentions of an author, therefore, is part of author-centered criticism.

Reader-centered criticism focuses neither on the author nor the text, but readers' experiences. This can be impressionistic, recounting one's own reaction to a text, as happens in "reader-response" criticism, or historical, as in studies of the reception of the text (i.e. book reviews, mentions of the work in other literary works, etc.). Jauss' work is of the second type, and an important part of the theoretical framework of reception studies.

For The Great Gatsby, a Jaussian approach might involve looking at how book reviews and literary criticism of the work have changed since its original publication in 1925. Such an approach would show how the shifting horizon of expectations, in terms of cultural norms and literary traditions, has changed the way the book has been interpreted by readers over the past 90 years. 

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