Permalink for this paragraph 0 Reading chapter 4 of Texts and Contexts “Creating the Text: Reader-Response Criticism” brought some new ideas to my attention. Lynn’s example of Ernest Hemingway’s “A Very Short Story” especially highlighted the liberating qualities of reader-response criticism for me, because it reveals that there are multiple responses a text produces based on the reader. Lynn says: “…one of the beauties of reader-response criticism is that it takes advantage of the diversity of readers in the world, reminding us of the treacherousness of generalizations about them.” (85). I like how reader-response criticism, (while acknowledging that some interpretations are more likely than others based on textual evidence,) allows readers to form their personal criticism of a work based purely on their reaction. It is a criticism free from “right” and “wrong,” instead bound only by the reader’s persuasive approach to connect their view to a text.
Permalink for this paragraph 0 In the example of Hemingway’s short story, Lynn makes the point that though there may be more easily identifiable interpretations, other perspectives are just as valid if not as intuitive to the reader. Essentially, the reader would normally align with the narrator and his plight, while distancing themselves from the “villainous” woman Luz because of the negative light the story seems to paint over her. Referencing the critic Scholes, Lynn reiterates: “the viewpoint, Scholes says, seems to be closer to the unnamed man than to Luz” (82). However, Lynn takes this kind-of revolutionary stance by crafting a reader-response that sympathizes with Luz, confirming that observing the story in this way is not “best” or “worst” but “in fact more compelling” (85).
Permalink for this paragraph 0 Clarifying that taking this counter-intuitive response is appropriate, Lynn rhetorically asks: “Does that mean that I am responding from a woman’s point of view? And is that point of view necessarily “at a disadvantage”?” Basically, Lynn rebukes the idea that having a unique-reader response should immediately deem it somehow invalid or wrong. It is not at a disadvantage to think in this way. Rather, “making the case for Luz against the soldier is generally a more interesting endeavor than showing how Luz is cruel to the soldier” (86). This quote epitomizes my “a-ha” moment within chapter 4. Sure, there are cases where a response to a text is perhaps wild, but it is only wild when it is unfounded. Lynn makes a convincing argument for taking an alternative point of view, and thereby shows that we as fellow critics can do the same–and should.