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  • 8/12/2019 Iser Rdng Process


    Warn ing oncerning opyright RestrictionsThe copyright law of the United States (Title 17 United States Code) go verns the makingof photocopies or other reproductions of copyright m aterial. Under certain conditionsspecified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to h rni sh a photocopy or otherreproduction. One of these specified conditions is that the photocopy o r reproduction notbe used for any purposes other than private study, scholarship, or research. If userm k s a request for, or later uses, a photocopy or reproduction for purposes in excess offair use, that use may be liable for copyright infringement.

  • 8/12/2019 Iser Rdng Process


    Woll~anp scr

    Tlie Reading Process Phenon~cnologicalApproacl~Translaled wit11 David Ilcnry Wllso~ i

    Ihe phenomenological theory of art lays full stress on the ideathat, In considering a literary work, one must take lnto account not

    only the actual text but also, and In equal measure, tlie actlonsinvolved In responding to that text. Thus Roman lngarden conirontsthe structure o i he literary text with the ways in which I t can bekotikretisiert (realized).' The text as such olfers different "schema-tised vlews"I through which the subject matter of the work can cometo ilght, but the actual brlnglng to Ilght Is an actlon of KonkretisatiotiI f his Is so, then the Ilterary work has two poles, which we might call-the.artlstic and the esthetic: the artistic refers to the text create by. the author, and the esthetic to the reallzatlon accomplished by iiie-

    - reader. Fronl this polarity It follows tllat the Ilterary work carino;lbeco~npletelydelltical wlth tlle text, or with tlle realization of the text,but in fact must Ile halfway between the two. The work is more thanthe text, for the text only takes on life when It is realized, andfurthermore the realization is by no means independent of theindividual disposition of the reader-though this in turn is actedupon by the different patterns of the text. The convergence of textand reader brings the literary work lnto existence, and tllls conver-TE ReADNo PRO CF ~S:A PPNOMNOOGCA APPROACII, lser from They Wolf~an~Implied Reader trans. wlth David Henry Wilson. E ~ i f l l l s l ~ronalatlon copyri~llt@1974 Johns tlopklns Unl\ erslty Press. Reprinted by per~nlsslon f Johns Ilopklns

    1. Cf. Roman Inbarden, m Erkerl~~etres lllerarlschet~Krttrstrr~erhrTOhlngcn,19681, pp 49 IT.2. For a detnlled dIscu.uinn of this term see Roman lqarden, Dm ll~erarlscheKuns1u1erk Tubingen, 1960 , pp 270 fi

    l ' l ~ c Rvadil~g'rc~ccss: Pl~c~ion~enolodcal 4 5pproach

    gence can never be precisely plnpolnted, but must always remalnvlrtual, as It Is not to Ile Identified either wlth tl ie reallty of the text orw i ~ hhe Irtdividual disposition of the reader.I t Is the virn~al ity f the work that gives rise to its dynamic nature,ant1 his in turn the preconditlo~lor the erects that the work callsforth. As the reader uses the various perspectives orrered Il ln l by thetext i n order to relate the patterns and the "schematlsetl vlews" toone another, l ie sets the work In motlon, ant1 1111svery process resultsultimately In the awakenln~of responses wlthin himself. Thus,reacling causes the literary work to unfold Its Inherently dynamiccharacter. That thls is no new dlscovery Is apparent from referencesmade even in the early days of the novel. Laurence Sterne remarks In

    Tri ~tram harldy: ".. . no author, wllo understands tlie just bound-arles of decorum and goocl-breetllng, would presume to thln:r all:Tlle truest respectwhich you can pay to the reader's understantllng, isto llalve tlils matter amlcahly, and leave hlm somet liing to Imaglne, Inhis turn, as we1l as yourself. For my own part, am eternal ly payinghlm co~npllments f this kind, and do all that lies I n my power tokeep his imaglnatlon as busy as my own."' Sterne's conception of aliterary text Is lh3t it is sometlllng like an arena In wi ~i cheader andauthor participate in a game of t ile Imagination. If t ile reader wereglven the whole story, anti there were noth ing eft for h im to do, thenhis Imaglnatlon would never enter tl ie field, the result woul(1 be theboredom which Inevitably arlses when everything is laid out cut andtlried hefore us.A literary text must tllerefore be conceived In such away that i t wil l engage the reader's irnaglnation in the task of worklng jthings out for hlmself, for readlng is only a pleasure when i t is active- and creative. In llis process of creativlty, he text may either not go far.enou@h,or may go too far, SO we may say that boredom and overstrail1form the boundaries beyond wlrlcll the reader wil l leave the field ofplay.?'he extent to which the 'unwritten' part of a text stimulates thereader's creatlve ~~articipatlons brought out by an observatlo~i rVirginia Woolf's In her study of jarte Arcstei~:

    Jane Austen Is rhus a mlstrrss of much deeper emotion thanappears upon he surfnce. She stiniula~ess to supply what Is notthere. Wlli~tshe ofTers is, apparently, a trifle, yet Is composedofso~netillnghat expands In the reader's mind and endows wlth

    3. Lir~renccSterne, nisrram Shatfe)~lantlon, 1956), 11, 11:79.

  • 8/12/2019 Iser Rdng Process


    hWolfgang lscr

    be most enduring form o f ife scenes wllic li are outwardly trlvial.Jways the stress is la id upo n charac er. I' he turns and twists~f he dialogue keep us o n the tenterhooks of suspense. Ourttentloa is half upon the present momell[, half upon theluture. . Iiere, indeed, In 1111sunlinlslled and In tlie mainInferio r story, are a ll the elem ents o f Jane Austen's greatness.'?'he u nwrltt en aspects of apparently tr lvlal scenes and the unspokendia logue wi th ln the " turns and twlas" not on ly draw the reader in tothe action but also lead hi m o shade in he many outl lnes suggestedby he given situations, so that these take on a real ity of heir own. Butas the reader's imaginat ion animates these 'outlines,' they i n urn wi llinfluence the erect o f the wrl tten part o f the text. Thus begins awhole dynamlc process: the wri tten text imposes certain i lm i~ s n i tsunwr l t ten impl lca tlons In order to prevent these f rom becoming tooblurred and hazy, but at the same time these implications, worke d outby the reader's imagination, set the given situation against a back-ground which ent lows i t wi th far greater signi l icance than i t mighthave seemed to possess o n i ts own. I n this way, tr ivlal scenessuddeniy take on the shape of an "entiur lr ig form o f l i re." Whatconstitutes thls form Is never named, let alone explainetl in til e text,a l though I n fact I t Is the e nd product o f the in teract lon between textand reader.

    'I'lie questlon now arlses as to how far such a process can beadequately described. For thls purpose a phenomenological analyslsrec on~ men ds tself, especla lly since the som ewhat sparse observa.l ions h l ther to made of t l ie psychology of read lng tend main ly to b epsychoanalytical, and so are restr icted to the i l lustration o f predeter-mined ideas concern ing the unconscious. We shall, however, take acloser look later at some worth-while psychological observations.As a starting point for a phenomenological analysis we mlghtexamine the way In wh ich sequent sentences act up on one another.Thls is of especlal Importance In l terary texts in vlew o f the fact thatthey t lo not cor resj>o~l t lo any objective real i ty ot~tsiclehemselves.The wor ld presented by l i te rary texts is constructed out o f what

    Vlr8 ln la Wocllf The Cornrnotr Reader lrsl Serles in on don, t957), p 174.

    lhc Readlng Proccss: A Phcnomcnologlcal Approacl~ 4 7Ingarden has cal led itttetttiotrale atzkorrelate (Intentlonal sentencecorrelatlves):

    Sentences lln k up i n diiTerent ways to form more comp lexuni ts o f mean ln~hat reveal a very varied stnlcture ~i v i n gise tosuch entities as a short story, a novel, a dialogue, a tlrama, ascientific theory. . . I n he final analysis, there arlses n partictrlarworld, with component parts de~ermln ed n thls way or that, anclwlth a l l the variations that may occur wit hln these parts-all thisas a purely Intentlonal correlative or a complex o f sentelices. Ift l l l s complex finally forms a Ilterary work, call the witole sum oisequent lntentlonal sentence correlatlves tlie 'worltl presented'In he work?

    ?'his world, however, does not pass before tlie reader's eyes like afilm. Th e sentences are "com ponen t parts" Insofar as they makestatements, claims, or observatlons, or convey Informatlon, and soestabl ish various perspectives In the text. Dut they remain only"component partsu-they are not the sum total of the text itself. Forthe intentional correlatives disclose su l~ tle onnections whlch Indl-vldually are less concrete than the statements, claims, and observa-tions, even though these only take on th eir real meaningfulnessthrough the interaction o f t l ieir correlatives.Ho w Is one to conce ive t l ie connection between the correlatlves? tmarks those polnts at whic h the reader is able to 'cl im b aboard' thetext. l i e has to accept certain given perspectives, b ut I n dolng so heinevitably causes them to interact. Wh en Ingarden speaks of Inten-tlonal sentence correlatlves In I l temture, the statements made orInformatlon conveyed In the sentence are already In a certain sensequalified: t l ie sentence does no t conslst solely of a statement-which,after all, would be absurd, as one can only make statements aboutthings that exlst-but alms at something bey ond what it actua lly says.Thls I s true o f al l sentences In l i terary works, and i t i s th rough theInteractlon o f hese sentences that their com mon aim is ful f i l led. Thisis what glves them the lr ow n special qual l ty In i terary texts. I n heircapacity as state