Reader Response in Secondary and College Classrooms

Reader Response in Secondary and College Classrooms

Reader Response in Secondary and College Classrooms

Reader Response in Secondary and College Classrooms


This text, based on Louise M. Rosenblatt's transactional model of literature, focuses on the application of transactional reader-response theory in the classroom. It grows from frequent requests from secondary school and college teachers for teaching suggestions on how to put theory into practice. This is not a "What should I do on Monday?" cookbook, but an expression of the practice of theory in college and secondary school classrooms.

The chapters portray a spectrum of strategies--including biopoems, expressive and imaginative writing, journal writing, readers' theater, role playing, and unsent letters--using as examples individual works from several genres. Recognizing that teachers who may have been trained in other theories and methodologies may be hesitant about their quite different role and expectations in the reader-centered classroom, the authors provide stepping stones to develop readiness and confidence, suggestions, and insights to ease the transition to the transactional model of teaching and learning.

Pedagogical features:

• An explanatory introduction to each section defines its orientation and describes the content and direction of the chapters it contains.

Invitations elicit engagement of readers with concepts, attitudes, or strategies presented in the chapters; they invite readers, as individuals or members of a small group, to consider ideas or to practice a strategy, among other activities, in order to enhance understandings.

• A glossary defines key concepts and strategies discussed in the text.

• A bibliography provides an extensive list of resources--books and journal articles--both theoretical and applied.

New in the second edition:

Six new chapters --three deal with the roles of film-as-literature in the English classroom, and three with enhancing multicultural understandings.

Updates and revisions to several chapters that appeared in the first edition.

Invitations, new in this edition, have been added to focus and expand readers' thinking.


The recent upsurge of reader-response criticism has caught the attention of many teachers at all levels of instruction. This consciousness has been fomented by an array of books on response-centered critical theory as well as numerous journal articles and conference presentations (see bibliography). Thus the words reader response (which are generally applied to a range of theoretical positions) have moved into the mainstream, in effect rocking the boat of traditional literary thinking and instruction. Yet, practice and, perhaps, full understanding of the pedagogical implications of reader-response theory, have not followed principle.

The focus of these writers has been primarily theory -- deciphering and clarifying the reading process, determining the role of the reader in relation to the text, exploring how meaning is made, defining the nature of the interpretive act, and assessing the influence of reading communities and literature conventions. In these analyses, there is evident a continuum of reader-response thinking, a range of attitudes with considerable disagreement among theorists (see Mailloux, Suleiman and Crosman, and Tompkins). However, each acknowledges the significant and active role of the reader, an assumption that runs counter to the premises of traditional theories.

This volume is based on the transactional model of literature asserted by Louise M. Rosenblatt. Soundly expressive of each aspect of response-centered critical theory, it is pedagogically the most meaningful for teachers. As detailed within this text, her approach insists on the reader's role in conjunction with the text, the reader's individuality affecting and being affected by the text. In contrast, other theoretical positions give prominence to the reader, the text, or the context. However, this volume is not specifically concerned with close scrutiny of these variations and emphases. Rather, it focuses on the application of the transactional theory of literature, activating it in the classroom, and the theory being expressed as background.

Frequent requests for teaching suggestions from both secondary school and college teachers-how to put theory into practice -- establish the need for this book. Furthermore, some teachers seem to believe that reader re-

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