Reader-Response Criticism Criticism: Overviews And General Studies - Essay

Stanley Fish (essay date 1980)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Fish, Stanley. “What Makes an Interpretation Acceptable?” In Is There A Text in This Class?: The Authority of Interpretive Communities, pp. 338-55. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1980.

[In the following essay, Fish expounds on the view that each interpretation of a literary text is colored by the reader's response to the text and that the only possible solution in trying to understand or counter-act an argument regarding a text is to present opposing points of view on it.]

Last time I ended by suggesting that the fact of agreement, rather than being a proof of the stability of objects, is a testimony to the power of an interpretive community to...

(The entire section is 7156 words.)

P. D. Juhl (essay date 1983)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Juhl, P. D. “Stanley Fish's Interpretive Communities and the Status of Critical Interpretations.” In Comparative Criticism, edited by E. S. Shaffer, pp. 47-58. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983.

[In the following essay, Juhl counters Fish's theory of interpretation, which proposes that each textual reading is affected by the interpretive community to which that reader belongs, and instead notes that literary interpretations can, indeed, be objectively evaluated.]


Over the last decade Stanley Fish has developed a theory of interpretation which is in effect a new version of the hermeneutic circle. In the...

(The entire section is 5052 words.)

Randall Craig (essay date spring 1984)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Craig, Randall. “Reader-Response Criticism and Literary Realism.” Essays in Literature 11, no. 1 (spring 1984): 113-26.

[In the following essay, Craig discusses the effectiveness of using reader-response theory in the study of nineteenth-century realistic fiction.]

Wolfgang Iser's study of the reader in the English novel and Robert Alter's survey of self-conscious fiction follow curiously similar paths, intersecting at Fielding, Sterne, and Thackeray, by-passing the major literary realists of the nineteenth century, and arriving safely in the compatible country of Joyce and Beckett.1 The similar itineraries suggest an affinity between the...

(The entire section is 6710 words.)

Steven Mailloux (essay date 1990)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Mailloux, Steven. “The Turns of Reader-Response Criticism.” In Conversations: Contemporary Critical Theory and the Teaching of Literature, edited by Charles Moran and Elizabeth F. Penfield, pp. 38-54. Urbana. Ill.: National Council of Teachers of English, 1990.

[In the following essay, Mailloux presents a brief overview of reader-response theories prevalent in the 1970s and 1980s.]

The goal of reader-response criticism is to talk more about readers than about authors and texts. During the last twenty years such talk has involved a diversity of tropes and arguments within the institutional activities of literary criticism, history, theory, and pedagogy. In...

(The entire section is 6113 words.)

Michael Vander Weele (essay date 1991)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Weele, Michael Vander. “Reader-Response Theories.” In Contemporary Literary Theory: A Christian Appraisal, edited by Clarence Walhout and Leland Ryken, pp. 125-48. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1991.

[In the following essay, Weele presents an analysis of reader-response theories, tracing the beginnings of this critical approach to the earliest interpretations of scripture.]

Literary criticism has always involved three inescapable elements: the author, the work, and the reader. Reader-response criticism regards the third of these elements as the most crucial for criticism, for criticism always begins in the first instance with...

(The entire section is 7511 words.)

Harriet Kramer Linkin (essay date fall 1993)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Linkin, Harriet Kramer. “Toward a Theory of Gendered Reading.” Reader, no. 30 (fall 1993): 1-25.

[In the following essay, Linkin explores the connections between various reading theories and gender research and interpretation.]


The intersection of reading theory and gender research continues to produce a variety of intriguing studies seeking to explore, describe, and account for projected differences between the ways men and women read, or better, between male and female modes of reading. Most scholarship still falls into the two areas Elizabeth Flynn noted in her “Gender and Reading”: either research into the...

(The entire section is 7822 words.)