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THE COMPAKATIST reveals more about the preoccupations oftoday's progressive American academy than about Auerbach. But it may well stimulate some readers to dip once again in Mimesis, and so to come to savor the uniqueness ofhis achievement. Lilian R. Fürst University ofNorth Carolina at Chapel Hill ANDREW BENNETT, ed. Readers & Reading. Longman Critical Readers Series. London and New York: Longman, 1995. ? + 262 pp. The Longman Group, responding to the "new agenda for literature studies" that has crystallized with the emergence ofdistinct critical theories during the last two or three decades, has produced a series ofintroductions to contemporary criticism, and to its "complete reassessment" ofwhole bodies of literature and the ensuing replacement oftraditional critical models. Readers and Reading presents a broad but solid overview ofmese trends, focusing on the impact ofreader-response criticism , and particularly on fundamental questions regarding reader identity, models ofreading, and the ways meaning is made from text. Andrew Bennett's introduction outlines several questions about the function and purpose ofreading raised by reader-response theory. His anthology should, at the very least, lead readers to an understanding of reading as a critical tool, and encourage mem to consider their own responsibility and involvement in coming to grips with texts. Bennett offers a briefoverview ofvarious critical models ofthe reader developed by figures like Riffaterre, Holland, Fish, Fetterley, and Iser, pointing out their differing perspectives with regard to reader identity and reader function. He draws, most notably, from the groundbreaking work ofthe late 1970s and early 1980s, which earned reader-response criticism a legitimate position in the reading and teaching ofliterature and which, not surprisingly, provides the basis for this collection. The book documents the progression of reader-response criticism from its "high point" ofthe early 1980s through the early 1990s. By this time more outspoken and culturally conscious critical models, building on the strength oftheir predecessors, had emerged in the areas offeminist and gender-based criticism, psychoanalytic criticism, historically-based criticism, and other culturally transformative strategies. Wolfgang Iser's opening contribution, "Interaction between Text and Reader," echoes his definitive work, TheAct ofReading, which explores reading as an act ofbecoming conscious and suggests that meaning is determined by the interaction between text and reader, not by either entity on its own: "The study of a literary work should concern not only the actual text but also, and in equal measure, the actions involved in responding to that text" (20-21). This interaction oftext and reader, which might also be described as an awareness ofreading and response, is highly complex: "The two partners in the communication process, namely, me text and me reader, are far easier to analyze than is the event that takes place between them" (21). Because Iser's extensive work in this area is essential to the reader-response movement, it provides an excellent initial focus for this collection . Next comes Vincent Leitch's essay "Reader-Response Criticism," which Vol. 21 (1997): 161 REVIEWS emphasizes the importance of historical and cultural contexts in formulating reading and response hypotheses. His discussion comprises an overview of later developments in reader-response criticism; by looking ahead to the emergence of feminist, Marxist, and psychoanalytic models, it functions pivotally to close the developmental gap between Iser and ensuing theorists in this collection. Significant attention is paid to feminist criticism, and to related gender-based or sexually-based theories. No less than four ofthe critics presented here explore these models ofcriticism—including W. Koestenbaum's "male feminist criticism [whose aim is to] articulate maleness as strange, outcast, and impermissible" (165). Not surprisingly, much current theory presented in this collection is attributed to, or can be traced to groundbreaking authors and theorists like Judith Fetterley, Adrienne Rich, Elaine Showalter, and Elizabeth Freund. The collection also boasts an interesting parallel between Mary Jacobus's feminist/psychoanalytic and WaiChee Dimock's feminist/new-historicist discussions of Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper. Another strategic pairing includes essays by French scholar Roger Chartier and his compatriot Michel de Certeau, whose "Reading as Poaching" is the apparent inspiration for Chartier's historicist treatment ofreading theory. De Certeau "discusses the tactics of apparently powerless consumers" (150) and ultimately endorses a subversive, game-playing—resistant—approach...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-0887
Print ISSN
0195-7678
Pages
pp. 161-163
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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