Transactional we act as we move through
Transactional reader response theory often associated withthe work of Louise Rosenblatt, who formulated many of itspremises. In 1938Louise Rosenblatt published her first piece of work Literature as Exploration which established the foundations oftransactional reader response theory. The main idea of this text is thatliterary texts cannot be understood in isolation from the reader. Readerresponse theory begins by acknowledging the role of the reader which statesthat the reader plays an active role in shaping the meaning of a text.Rosenblatt also feels that is important for students to bring backgroundknowledge and experience to the text in order to better understand of what thewriter is trying to convey.
Rosenblatt writes, “what the student brings toliterature is as important as the literary text itself” (Rosenblatt, p.77-78). In 1978 Rosenblatt published TheReader, the text, the poem, and it was through this work she established”transactional” model of reading. Rosenblattdifferentiates among the terms text, which refers to the printed words on thepage; reader; and poem, which refers to the literary work produced by the textand the reader together. How does this transaction take place? As we read a text, itacts as a stimulus to which we respond in our own personal way. Feelings andmemories will occur as we read a text, these feeling and associations willimpact the way in which we make sense of what we read and how we act as we movethrough the text. Literature we previously read, our overall knowledge, andeven our current mood will influence us as well.
The text acts as a blueprintthat readers use to correct their interpretation when they realize it hastraveled too far from what is actually written in the text. This process ofcorrecting your interpretation as you navigate through a text usually resultsin you going back to reread sections to clear up missed conceptions. Thus, thetext guides reader’s self-corrective process as they read and will continue todo so after the reading is finished if we go back and reread portions, in orderto develop or complete our interpretation. Thus the creation of the poem, theliterary work, is a product of the transaction between text and reader, both ofwhich are equally important to the process. In this text The Reader, the text,the poem, Rosenblatt explained that in order for this transaction betweentext and reader to occur, however, the readers approach to the text must be aestheticrather than efferent. When we read in the efferentmode, we read to “take away” particular bitsof information. Here, we are not interested in the rhythms of thelanguage or the style but we are more focused on obtaining a piece ofinformation such as names of places, names of characters and things. Someof these examples include: manuals, journals, textbooks, newspaper articles andother guides.
Rosenblatt states, “the reader’s attention is primarily focusedon what will remain as a residue after thereading — the information to be acquired, the logical solution to a problem,the actions to be carried out.” In contrast, when we read in the aestheticmode, the reader explore the text and oneself. Here, readers are engaged withthe text on a more personal level. Rosenblatt states, “In aesthetic reading,the reader’s focus and attention is directly centered on what he or she isliving through during his or her relationship with that particular text.
” (p.25). Rosenblatt firmly believes that without the aesthetic approach, therecould be no transaction between readers and text to evaluate. Thus, according to Rosenblatt, reading — andmeaning-making? — happens only in the reader’s mind; it does not take place onthe page, on the screen, or in the text, but in the act of reading. According to Rosenblatt, different readers will come up with differentinterpretations which are all acceptable because the text allows for a range ofacceptable meanings, that is meaning will only be accepted if the text cansupport it.
However, because there is a real text involved in this process towhich we must refer to justify or modify our responses, not all readings areacceptable and some are more so than others. Even authors’ stated intentions inwriting their texts, as well as any interpretations they may offer afterward,are but additional readings of the text, which must be submitted for evaluationto the text-as-blueprint just as all other readings are.