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Reading Phenomenology

In: English and Literature

Submitted By almeghdad
Words 3298
Pages 14
Fadl Ahmed Abbas Almeghdad,PhD scholar
SRTM Univ,Nanded,India . Phenomenology of Reading A number of poststructuralist movements such as deconstruction had challenged the formalist and New Critical assertion of the objectivity of the text. But it was not until the 1970s that a number of critics at the University of Constance in Germany, the Constance School, began to formulate a systematic reader-response or “reception” theory. The leading members of this school were Wolfgang Iser and Hans Robert Jauss. Such phenomenological theories deal with the important role of the reader in the overall structure of any given literary text. The reader plays a great role in shaping how the work will be understood and what meanings it will have. Each new generation and each new group of readers in a new setting brings to a literary work different code for understanding it.

Does writing require reading? What does reading do for writing that writing cannot do for itself? Different schools have different answers, but for phenomenology of literature, the answer is YES. Reading is ontological requirement for writing. Since writing in itself is not complete and indeterminate, it ontologically requires reading completement. So, reading, as prof.A.V.Ashok, from EFLU, defined, is “the compeletization of incomplete textured meaning into actualized meaning”. Text, for realistic theory of reading, is nearly getting written, the text exists as a body of complete meaning. In other words, a text exists in the fullness of its meaning for writing does not support rules for the reader as an active agent in the text reproduction. Writing prior to reading is a scheme of promoting, triggering, close, guidelines and instruction to the reader. Reader-response theory had its philosophical roots in the doctrine called Phenomenology, whose foundations were laid by the German philosopher Edmund Husserl. The word phenomenon means “appearance.” As a result, as a philosophical attitude, phenomenology changed the emphasis of study away from the external world of objects toward examining the ways in which these objects appear to the human subject, and the subjective contribution to this process of appearing. This “bracketing” of the external world is referred to by Husserl (1859–1938) as the “phenomenological reduction,” and it underlies his attempt to fulfill certainty in philosophy.

The task of phenomenology is to test not the world of objects “in itself” but how this world is constituted by a vast range of acts of consciousness. Husserl defines his phenomenological reduction as the method for effecting radical purification of the phenomenological field of consciousness from all obtrusions from Objective actualities. In examining pure consciousness, reader-response and reception theory, we are examining not only the structures of thought and perception that are immanent in consciousness but also the entire range of “external” phenomena as they appear to, and are structured by, consciousness.

Husserl sees acts of consciousness as intentional. This means that consciousness is always conscious of something, and it assumes or suggests the objects toward which it is directed. His intentional theory of Consciousness suggests that being and meaning are always bound up with one another. According to Husserl, what phenomenology grasps is the ideal essences of objects; and, since these essences are immanent in consciousness, they are grasped intuitively. He sees his method as characterized not only by a “phenomenological reduction” but also by an “eidetic reduction,” a reduction or abstraction to the ideal form.

Another famous figure of reception theory who tried to deal with the ideal form of text, who challenged objectivist views of both literary texts and literary history, and urged that the history of a work’s reception by readers played an integral role in the aesthetic status of work and significance, is Hans Robert Jauss. Jauss insists a literary text is not an object that stands by itself and that offers the same view to each reader in each period. It is not a monument that monologically reveals its timeless essence. Rather, it exists only in the form of a dialogue between text and reader, a dialogue whose terms and assumptions are ever being modified as we pass from one generation of readers to the next. As such, literary text is not an object or a thing but an event and it can exert a continued effect only if readers continue to respond to it. Jauss also argues that the responses of individual readers do not happen in a vacuum but are situated within a horizon of expectations that can be objectified. The “continuous establishing and altering of horizons,” he urges, determines the relationship of the individual text to the succession of texts that forms the genre. The new text evokes for the reader the horizon of expectations and rules familiar from earlier texts, which are then varied, corrected, altered, or even just reproduced.

Iser is also another theorist who begins by pointing out that, in considering a literary work, one must take into account not only the actual text but also “the actions involved in responding to that text. Iser asserts that the “phenomenological theory of art lays full stress on the idea that one must take into account not only the actual text but also the actions involved in responding to that text . Iser not only argues that the text offers various schematised views or perspectives that the reader concretises in the process of reading,but also suggests that we might think of the literary work as having two poles;the aesthetic and the artistic. His point is that reading is an active and creative process. It is reading which brings the text to life, which unfolds its inherently dynamic character.

Iser insists that the reader’s role is larger than that of the fictitious reader, who is only one aspect of the former. The text must be able to bring about a standpoint or perspective from which the reader will be able to do this. Every text, says Iser, constructs its work, in varying degrees unfamiliar to possible readers; these readers, therefore, must be placed in a position to actualize the new perspectives. Given that the text’s structure allows for different realizations and interpretations, any one actualization, says Iser, “represents a selective realization of the Implied Reader” and it can be judged against the background of the other realizations “potentially present in the textual structure of the reader’s role.” Briefly, the “Implied Reader” is a “transcendental model” which allows us to describe and analyze the structured effects of literary texts.

The Implied Reader is a function not of “an empirical outside reality”, but of the text itself. Iser points out that the concept of the Implied Reader has his roots planted in the structure of the text; he is a construct and in no way to be identified with any real reader. He defines the Implied Reader as “a textual structure anticipating the presence of a recipient without necessarily defining him.” The Implied Reader, then, designates a network of response-inviting structures, that prestructure the role of the reader in the latter’s attempt to grasp the text. Iser explains that there are two aspects of the concept of the Implied Reader: “the reader’s role as a textual structure, and the reader’s role as a structured act.”

By the first of these, Iser refers to those elements in a text that help a reader to “actualize” unfamiliar or new textual material. The second aspect of the concept of the “Implied Reader” is the “reader’s role as a structured act.” By this, Iser means the reader’s active role in bringing together the various perspectives offered in the text; the text itself does not bring about this convergence. Iser sees “textual structure” and “structured act” – the two aspects of the “Implied Reader” – as related in the manner of intention and fulfillment. The concept of the “Implied Reader” is explaining the tension that occurs within the reader during the reading process, a tension between the reader’s own subjectivity and the author’s subjectivity which overtakes the reader’s mentality, a tension between two selves that directs the reader’s ability to make sense of the text. The reader’s own subjective disposition, says Iser, will not be totally left behind. Iser acknowledges that such a notion might be useful in order to close the gaps that constantly appear in any analysis of literary effects and responses.

Not only that but also Iser draws on Roman Ingarden’s concept of “intentional sentence correlatives,” according to which a series of sentences in a work of literature does not refer to any objective reality outside itself. Rather, the complex of these sentences gives rise to a “particular world,” the world presented in the literary work. Iser’s point is that the connections between various sentences or complexes of sentences are not established by the work itself, but are determined by the reader. A sentence in any literary work claims Iser, characteristically “aims at something beyond what it actually says.” Iser reminds us of Husserl’s observation that a group of sentences creates an expectation in the reader; but what tends to happen, says Iser, is that in truly literary works these expectations are continually modified as we go on reading; indeed, a good literary work will usually frustrate our expectations.

Drawing attention to two important features of the reading process, for Iser,is a crucial thing . The first is that reading is a temporal activity, and one that is not linear. The reader, in constructing these interrelations between past, present and future, actually causes the text to reveal its potential multiplicity of connections. These connections are the product of the reader’s mind working on the raw material of the text, though they are not the text itself – for this consists just of sentences, statements, information, etc.” The second significant feature of the reading process is that, when we are confronted with “gaps” or unwritten implications or frustrated expectations in the text, we try to look for consistency.

Such consistency of images or sentences and coherence of meaning, according to Iser, is not given by the text itself; rather, we, as readers, project onto the text the consistency that we require. Consequently, such textual consistency is the product of the “meeting between the written text and the individual mind of the reader with its own particular history of experience, its own consciousness, and its own outlook. Understanding the material of the text within a consistent and coherent framework allows us to make sense of whatever is unfamiliar to us in the text. The non-linear nature of the reading process, says Iser, is analogous to the way we have experiences in real life. Hence the reading experience can illuminate basic patterns of real experience, Iser states, the manner in which the reader experiences the text will reflect his own disposition, and in this regard the literary text acts as a kind of mirror.

Though Iser sees the polysemantic nature of the text and the illusion-making of the reader as opposed components, both are essential in the process of reading. It is the interplay between illusion-forming and illusion-breaking that makes reading essentially a recreative process. Reading, for Iser, reflects the way in which we gain experience. Following Poulet, Iser emphasizes that in reading, it is the reader, not the author, who becomes the subject that does the thinking. Even though the text contains ideas thought out by the author, in reading we must think the thoughts of the author, and we place our consciousness at the disposal of the text. Iser modifies Poulet’s insights to urge that reading abolishes the dualism of subject and object that constitutes ordinary perception and this division now occurs within the reader’s consciousness.

The text produced by our response when reading is called by Iser its “virtual dimension,” which represents the coming together of text and imagination. We, as readers, presume the individuality of the author as a division within our personality, thereby establishing the alien “me” and the real, virtual “me.” In fact, it is this relationship between the alien themes of the text and the virtual background of familiar assumptions that allows the unfamiliar to be understood. With a literary text, we can only picture things which are not there; the written part of the text gives us the knowledge, but it is the unwritten part that gives us the opportunity to picture things. Without the elements of indeterminacy, the gaps in the text, we are not able to use our imagination. Iser contends that the picturing done by our imagination is only one of the activities through which we constitute the gestalt of a literary text.

For Iser, the reading process mimes the process of experience in general. While Iser acknowledges that “the potential text is infinitely richer than any of its individual realizations,” and that the reading process will vary from individual to individual, he also urges that such variation can occur only “within the limits imposed by the written as opposed to the unwritten text.” One might also argue in Iser’s defense that his concept of the reader as split between two personalities, the author’s and her own, also disables complete arbitrariness of interpretation since it is a prerequisite of the reading process that the reader’s preconceptions are held in suspension or, at the very least, compelled into dialogue with the assumptions and attitudes in the text. The meaning of a literary text, says Iser, is not a fixed and “definable entity” but a “dynamic happening. It is, in other words, an event in time. Every fictional structure, according to Iser, is two-sided: it is both “verbal” and “affective.” The verbal structure of effects embodied in the text “guides the reader’s reaction and prevents it from being arbitrary”; the affective aspect is the realization in the reader’s response of a meaning that has been “prestructured by the language of the text.

In this sense, literary texts begin performances of meaning rather than actually formulating meanings themselves. Actually, the very aesthetic quality of a text, says Iser, lies in this performing structure that could not take place without the reader. Hence, not only is “meaning” an event in time, but also it is located in the interaction between text and reader. Iser effectively extricates the notion of meaning from its status as a spatial concept, as an entity somehow hidden in the textual object, and sees it as a temporal concept, as a relation that is produced in the reader’s consciousness. Iser’s concept of “negativity” is important in his analysis of the reading process. All of the text’s formulations, he says, are punctuated by “blanks” and “negations.” The former refer to omissions of various elements between the formulated “positions” of a text; “negations” refer to cancelations or modifications or contradictions of positions in the repertoire of the text. These blanks and negations, says Iser, refer to an unformulated background. Negativity, urges Iser, is the basic force in literary communication, making possible.

Negativity is a mediator between representation and reception, enabling the reader to construct the text’s meaning on a question–answer basis. Hence, negativity is the infrastructure of the literary text. In other words, everything that has been incorporated into a literary text has been deprived of its reality, and is subjected to new and unfamiliar connections. Negativity is the structure underlying this invalidation or questioning of the manifested reality. So, negativity provides a basic link between the reader and the text. Iser sees it as feature of a work of art that it makes us able to transcend our own lives, entangled as they are in the real world. Negativity, then, as a basic element of communication, is an enabling structure that gives rise to fecundity or richness of meaning that is aesthetic in character.

Iser acknowledges that it is the reader’s own competence that will enable the various possibilities of meaning and interpretation to be narrowed down: it is the reader who provides the “code” that will govern her communicative relation with the text, rather than there being a preexisting code between text and reader already in place.

Historically noting, Iser’s goal is to move the critical focus away from the text toward the reader, and while he insists the experience of the reader during the reading process, his analyses are focused primarily on the individual acts of reading. It is important here to consider the work of another reader-response theorist, Stanley Fish, who tries to locate the reading process in a broader and institutional context. Fish warns that any analyses originated by the assumption that meaning is embedded in the text itself will always point in as many directions as there are interpreters. He emphasizes that we need a new set of questions based on new assumptions. In each of the disputes analyzed by Fish, he remarks that the responsibility for judgment and interpretation is transferred from the text to its readers,the meaning of the lines at stake coincides with the experience of the readers. Meaning is not contained in the text but is created within the reader’s experience.

Fish resisted that there is a sense that it is embedded or encoded in the text, and that it can be taken in at a single glance. He calls these assumptions positivist, holistic, and spatial. The aim of such analysis is “to settle on a meaning,” to step back from the text, and then to put together or calculate “the discrete units of significance it contains.” Fish’s objection to such an approach is that it takes the text as a self-sufficient entity, and ignores or devalues the reader’s activities. What we should be describing, he believes, is “the structure of the reader’s experience rather than any structures available on the page.

Nevertheless, Fish’s emphasis that it is the reader’s experience of the text which creates meaning or, in his terminology, has meaning, he views this meaning as always constrained by the central goal of readers. Further, Fish argues that readers, or at least competent readers, belong to interpretive communities which are made up of those who share interpretive strategies not for reading, but for writing texts, for constituting their properties and assigning their intentions. Such strategies, he points out, exist prior to the act of reading and therefore determine the shape of what is read. Fish’s point is that it is impossible even to think of a sentence independently of its context, and that our making sense of reader-response and an utterance and our identifying of its context takes place simultaneously.

In this sense, I conclude noting that not only Iser’s phenomenology of reading but also the perspectives of Jauss’s reception aesthetics lay down the scientific understanding of reading in relation to the character of fiction or creative writing. An exceptionally sober stance in that respect we find with Wolfgang Iser for whom the individual act of reading is the chief being of literature; a communicative process with two partners – text and reader - in whose unfolding the structure of the text and the structured by the relations in the text understanding of the reader are correlated. Reading is the coming into being of a literary text, the act of its transformation into a work of art. Based on Ingarden’s conclusions and Husserl’s phenomenology as regards reading, Iser elaborates the functionalist approach that creative writing is expressed not only in acts of text making and in the peculiarities of these texts, but incorporates their use as well.


* Ulrika Maude, Matthew Feldman , Beckett and Phenomenology ,continuum literary studies,2009 * Dermot Moran, The Phenomenology Reader, New York,2002. * John Edward Russon ,Reading Hegel's Phenomenology, Indiana University press,2004. * editted by Jane P Thompskin,Reader-Response Criticism: From Formalism to Post-Structuralism,Hopkin,1980. * Thomas Baldwin, Reading Merleau-Ponty: On Phenomenology of Perception, Taylor & Francis e-liberary,2007

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...Comparison Essay N/A PHI/105 N/A N/A Comparison Essay The three main types of philosophy, also known as schools of thought, are continental, pragmatic, and analytic philosophies. With analyzing these three types of philosophy, we can compare and contrast them and see what they are and how they are used. The first school is continental philosophy. Continental philosophy is a general term, which is supplementary with the philosophical opinions that originated on the continent of England in the 20th century (Moore & Bruder, 2011). It has numerous theories for instance, there are critical theory, deconstruction, existentialism, hermeneutics, phenomenology, and structuralism (Moore & Bruder, 2011). The schools of thought accompanying continental which are the most important the two are existentialism and phenomenology (Moore & Bruder, 2011). The best known philosophers associated with continental philosophy are Martin Heidegger and Jean-Paul Sartre (Moore & Bruder, 2011). Some themes of existentialism are traditional and academic philosophies are from the uncertainties of real life, the world is irrational, and the world is absurd in the sense that there are not explanations that can be given for the way that it is. These are not all the themes for this school of thought nonetheless these are the most fascinating (Moore & Bruder, 2011). The second type philosophy is pragmatic. Pragmatic philosophy is a type of philosophy that rejects the idea......

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