Iser, Wolfgang.  “Interaction between text and reader.”  BHR 391

First reading!

Actual text + actions of reader in responding to it, 391
Reader creates virtual work, 391
Reader composes work while receiving it, 391
Reading vs. face to face compared, 392
Regulative context of face to face communication; absent in reading, 392
Gaps in experience create inducement to communicate, 392
Gaps a form of indeterminacy, incentive to reader, 392
Austen only apparently trivial, hence reader fills the blanks, 392
Reader realizes the significance of what is not said, 392
As interaction between explicit and implicit, reveals gaps that reader must bridge, 393
Negations also control process of communication, 393
Plot breaks, unexpected directions, invitation to reader to find missing link, 393
Perspectives (may conflict): narrator, characters, plot, fictitious reader, 393
Referential field formed from two positions, 394
Filling of gap, creates a theme; serves as background to next theme, 394
As reader relates and transforms positions in text, aesthetic object emerges, 395

Supplementary: application of his principles to “The Trout.”  @Choose one or two of the summary comments above; how is process of reading of “The Trout” illuminated?

Gap: the “basic inducement to communication”; the “indeterminate, constitutive blank, which underlies all processes of interaction”; “it is this very indeterminacy that increases the variety of communication possible” (392)
-- e.g., why the Dark Walk; how to interpret it (pastoral, Gothic, etc.?), uncertainty
-- e.g., individual perspective of main character vs. norms of other characters
Iser: “The gaps function as a kind of pivot on which the whole text-reader relationship revolves” (393) – Julia figuring out how to remain faithful to her own intuitions:
-- Julia and family on the well: she “held up her long lovely neck suspiciously”
-- Julia and Old Martin: “She stared at him suspiciously”
-- Julia and mother (“'Mummy, don't make it a horrible old moral story!”)
Iser’s negations: raises possible meanings to negate them, e.g., Julia’s rejection of mother’s fairy tale about the trout; if not x, then y (if not Martin, not the rain, etc., then ?)
Iser: four perspectives, narrator, characters, plot, fictitious reader; relating of two creates a “referential field” (394)
-- e.g., Julia’s thoughtfulness plus plot of endangered trout (para. 19); that she gets up at night (20); referential field: Julia’s moral nature, bravery shown in rescue, creating wider set of implications than immediate story (towards the “aesthetic object”)
-- “the hero’s perspective may be set against that of the minor characters . . . the reader’s wandering viewpoint travels between all these segments, its constant switching during the time flow of reading intertwines them” (393)
-- note, a succession of encounters in which Julia challenges or violates other’s norms; these (says Iser) create a receding series of themes (theme and replacement; each para. 19-22?)
Iser: “The segment on which the viewpoint focuses in each particular moment becomes the theme,  The theme of one moment becomes the background against which the next segment takes on its actuality, and so on.  Whenever a segment becomes a theme, the previous one must lose its thematic relevance and be turned into a marginal, thematically vacant position” (394)
-- theme: trace development of theme of adult duplicity vs. childhood independence (note how balance shifts increasingly away from adults as drivers of plot)
Hence focus increasingly on what perspectives Julia’s norms come to exclude, her norms increasingly supplied by the reader; the “aesthetic object” arises in opposition to the rejected norms
Iser: the reader “ultimately transforms the textual perspectives, through a whole range of alternating themes and background relationships, into the aesthetic object of the text” (394-5)
-- i.e., Julia’s emergent concern for the real suffering of the trout, her effort to rescue it; represents a shift from childishness to responsibility, maturation; aided by emergence from womb-like structure of The Dark Walk.
-- question whether we accept the norms of the main character, or see them situated elsewhere as a critique of the character; consider this contrast in relation to Julia

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Document created December 10th 2011