Archetypal and Psychological Criticism - Poetry Reader-response criticism - Essay

Reader-response criticism

(Critical Explorations in Poetry)

Norman Holland, in The Dynamics of Literary Response (1968), emphasizes the instinctual drives of the id rather than the monitoring, controlling powers of the ego, although, unlike early Freudian interpreters of literature, he posits an ego that mediates between the id and the superego and whose mediation is the form of the work itself. The form of a literary work is indeed comparable to the ego defenses against the assault of the id, but it is this assault that is the hidden, determining root of the work. A core fantasy is the base of every literary work, and the writer, through form, defends against it, tries to shape it in the direction of redeemable social, moral, and intellectual value. The eye of the critic, in Holland’s view, is on the core fantasy, on the id, while the eye of the ego psychologist-critic is on the ego’s manipulation of the id through literary form. The core fantasy critic seeks out the core fantasy and demonstrates the author’s artistry in shaping and disguising it. The reader accepts both the core fantasy, which he or she may share, and the devices employed to contain the fantasy. Thus, the reader achieves pleasure by possession of the fantasy as well as by having it controlled. The reader, in the view of the ego psychologist-critic, attains pleasure primarily through the pattern of ego control expressed in the literary work.

In Holland’s later work (Poems in Persons: An Introduction to the Psychoanalysis of...

(The entire section is 472 words.)