OVERVIEW: All three of the theorists we've read so far are saying similar things about how we make meaning from texts that we read. Their purpose in each of their theories is slightly different: Frank Smith is attempting to explain the science of reading, how the brain does it and what it does to the brain when we do it; Louise Rosenblatt is interested in helping us to understand the classroom circumstances surrounding reading that need to be in place for a genuinely meaningful reading experience.
Iser's is a literary theorist probably most popular in the 80s and 90s when Reader Response Criticism, coming out of postmodernism in literary criticism articulated the idea about reading that it is the reader who gives meaning to a text, not the author. This is the position espoused by many reader response literary critics, most famously by Stanley Fish in "Is There a Text in This Class". Fish's very extreme notion that texts only exist in the minds of readers is not what Iser espoused--he recognized authorial intent and impact on readers. But his main focus was on the text, the intermediary device between readers and writers, that comes alive when a reader deploys their expertise in life and in reading to make meaning in a text. So, as you can see, not that different than Rosenblatt or Smith.
But Iser is interested in talking about literature--capital L literature--and how we decide if a text has literary value or not. That's his purpose. Now, I'm not saying that's the right way to look at a text, but there are some elements of his argument that I think complement what we've already talked about in terms of how people read and expands the idea in interesting ways.
For this asynchronous class, I would like for you to do the following:
1. Identify Iser's main argument about what makes a literary text worthwhile. As you do so, identify key terms and ideas Iser develops to make his argument. Take it slow and don't worry about getting it right or wrong. It's fine to talk about what you don't understand about an idea--don't just tell me you don't understand or that you found the reading hard. Yes, I know that. What I want to see is your best effort at trying to figure it out.
2. Explain to me why I think that Iser's argument is in combination with Smith and Rosenblatt a strong argument for assigning difficult texts, reach texts, to students in classrooms at any age.
3. Respond to at least one of your colleagues: you can connect what they say to something you remember from Smith or Rosenblatt; you can help them to understand something that they struggled to understand; you can correct, expand, or modify a definition that one of your colleagues identifies as important to Iser's argument.
AS I SAID IN CLASS: As long as you've completed this task by the start of class on Thursday, you are good.