The process of reading places the author, text, and reader into a dynamic relationship in which, through a fusion of the author's literary vision and the reader's creativity, the text is transformed into an informative and enjoyable experience. This process is especially apparent in the novel form. As the theorist Wolfgang Iser states, a novel must be "conceived in such a way that it will engage the readers imagination in the task of working things out for himself, for reading is only a pleasure when it is active and creative" (Iser 51). Similarly, another theorist and philosopher, Mikhail Bakhtin, argues that within a novel an author creates numerous different voices and languages, each of which contributes to the dynamic reading process; every word and sentence has a context both inside and outside of the novel. Though there are many other theories regarding reader-response, these two form a cohesive definition of the process: Iser's theory broadly explains the interaction-or intersection-of the three components in the process, while Bakhtin's theory explains the specific subjectivity of the novel language.
Both of these theories, however, rely on the basic assumption that all texts are intended to be interpretable; that is, in the words of Umberto Eco, that all texts are 'open'. Eco describes an 'open' text as one that attempts to force the reader "into an interplay of stimulus and response which depends on his unique capacity for sensitive reception of the piece" (Eco 49). In essence, an open text invites the reader to fuse his own unique experiences with that of the text to form an interpretation that is his own. Conversely, Eco also describes an antithesis to the...
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...tes reader anticipation. Thus, one must conclude that while Eco's theory is fascinating and may very well have a solid basis outside of the novel form, it is impossible for a novel to be closed; though the author's intentions bay be set in stone, the reader's intentions certainly never will be. A novel, by virtue of being a novel, will always be more open than closed.
Bakhtin, Mikhail. The Diologic Imagination. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981.
Eco, Umberto. The Role of the Reader: Explorations in the Semiotics of Texts. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1979.
Iser, Wolfgang. "The Reading Process: A Phenomenological Approach." Published in Tompkins, Jane P. ed., Reader-Response Criticism: From Formalism to Post-Structuralism. Maryland: John Hopkins UP, 1980.
Rand, Ayn. Atlas Shrugged. New York: Penguin Books USA, Inc., 1957.
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