Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Reader Response, Emotion, and Affect

All right. Here's the situation. I spent the semester reading about rhetoric, emotion, affect, and motives. We read Adam Smith, Burke, Massumi, Sedgewick, Worsham, Hardt, Schell, Albrecht-Crane, and others. And everything I picked up reminded me of reader response theory. Now, I noticed that sometimes when I said the phrase "reader response" that people might have what Massumi might call a bodily vibration--this was usually a negative affective response, but I wondered why in rhetoric and emotion, when Boler would talk about finding an "expressivist pedagogy of emotion" why no one mentioned reader response. It just seemed like reader response theory fit. Well, my professor told me that she leaned more toward reception theory rather than reader response. She explained that reception theory had more to do with how groups or cultures were affected by a reading, something like that. So I thought it was interesting that there was this alternate literary theory, that seemed like reader response that was out there and I knew nothing about. But trying to write the paper seemed impossible until Donna gave us the option to map the paper using Cmap. It's free! And actually, mapping is just as difficult but in a different sort of way. Because I'm not really even sure what my question is.

I think it is strange that these people talk about reception theory and it is so very similar if not identical in some ways to Rosenblatt, but no one cites her. Actually, several of the articles mention a book about critical theory and only in the introduction does she mention Rosenblatt who she just discovered at the end of her research, and she wasn't able to include her in the book. Actually, Harkin in her College English article mentions that same book.

Isn't that strange though? So, I was reading this rhetoric stuff and thinking that they saw it important for people to have personal emotion or affective responses to events or readings. My professor's perspective was that there really is not universal emotional response, so it's not really a "true" response. I think she might have meant that reader response theory does not include a cultural perspective or critique.

Cynthia Lewis cautions that reader response can allow people to focus too much on their universal personal experiences at the expense of understanding the cultural perspective. Her example was that when a pre-service class read Watson's Go to Birmingham that they were so caught up in the fact that they were reminscing about their Buster Brown shoes that they missed the point that the girl was almost killed in a bombing.

Okay, so I understand that. I don't want them to not interpret or not do some kind of cultural critique. I'm not sure that Rosenblatt does not say this. But what's wrong with having a personal response that is rooted in the text. What if you then analyze that "personal" response and may be create an awareness that it is not so personal at all.

I don't know. I need help with this.


gezzicar said...

Hmmm, i have no idea what you're talking about on your post haha. It is WAY above my head. Oh, i have had a xanga since...my freshman year i think. I've had a xanga for a long time. I don't do blogspot because xanga is MUCH MUCH cooler! But i'm glad to be your blog visitor! Can i tell all my friends about your blog like May, Xuling, etc..? Then we can all comment your posts and invade your blogspot =D

Donna said...

At the end of the first paragraph you say that you don't know what your question is, which is indeed a bit of a problem. Then at the end you say this:

"I don't want them to not interpret or not do some kind of cultural critique. I'm not sure that Rosenblatt does not say this. But what's wrong with having a personal response that is rooted in the text."

Is that your question, maybe? It seems as if that was your question back when we were talking about this earlier this semester.

I wonder if Ch. 3 of Massumi might offer a way of seeing this question as having more than an either/or or even a both/and potential?

So maybe the question isn't to ask why do people think this way or what's wrong with thinking this way, but how to think reader response so that it isn't bogged down in these binaries?

Keri said...

Well, I think you are right. There is a question there somewhere. I have a lot of questions. I don't understand why Iser and others never mentioned Rosenblatt although her work was so similar and came 30-40 years previous.

While I think I understand that emotion is a cultural construction, right?, that maybe reader response has to be the way for reader to begin before they ever attempt a cultural critique.

Thinking back on everything we read, I feel like I'm not clear who thinks emotions are culturally created. Does anyone that we read this semester look at emotion as individual at all.

I think Rosenblatt says that the either/or thinking is what is dangerous, but one of my questions is how could anyone not see that.

Does this make sense at all? Would you be willing to share your impression of reader response again?

Donna said...

Rather than *my* impression, why not look at others' impressions? What about doing a map of scholarly receptions/representations of reader response? What sort of affect is present in those receptions?

(Of course, in saying this, I am modeling my own preference toward reception theory and away from a more personal reader response ;-)