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       Transactional reader response theory often associated with
the work of Louise Rosenblatt, who formulated many of its
premises. In 1938
Louise Rosenblatt published her first piece of work Literature as Exploration which established the foundations of
transactional reader response theory. The main idea of this text is that
literary texts cannot be understood in isolation from the reader. Reader
response theory begins by acknowledging the role of the reader which states
that the reader plays an active role in shaping the meaning of a text.
Rosenblatt also feels that is important for students to bring background
knowledge and experience to the text in order to better understand of what the
writer is trying to convey. Rosenblatt writes, “what the student brings to
literature is as important as the literary text itself” (Rosenblatt, p.77-78).

     
In 1978 Rosenblatt published The
Reader, the text, the poem, and it was through this work she established
“transactional” model of reading. Rosenblatt
differentiates among the terms text, which refers to the printed words on the
page; reader; and poem, which refers to the literary work produced by the text
and the reader together. How does this transaction take place? As we read a text, it
acts as a stimulus to which we respond in our own personal way. Feelings and
memories will occur as we read a text, these feeling and associations will
impact the way in which we make sense of what we read and how we act as we move
through the text. Literature we previously read, our overall knowledge, and
even our current mood will influence us as well. The text acts as a blueprint
that readers use to correct their interpretation when they realize it has
traveled too far from what is actually written in the text. This process of
correcting your interpretation as you navigate through a text usually results
in you going back to reread sections to clear up missed conceptions. Thus, the
text guides reader’s self-corrective process as they read and will continue to
do so after the reading is finished if we go back and reread portions, in order
to develop or complete our interpretation. Thus the creation of the poem, the
literary work, is a product of the transaction between text and reader, both of
which are equally important to the process.

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In this text The Reader, the text,
the poem, Rosenblatt explained that in order for this transaction between
text and reader to occur, however, the readers approach to the text must be aesthetic
rather than efferent. When we read in the efferent
mode, we read to “take away” particular bits
of information.  Here, we are not interested in the rhythms of the
language or the style but we are more focused on obtaining a piece of
information such as names of places, names of characters and things. Some
of these examples include: manuals, journals, textbooks, newspaper articles and
other guides. Rosenblatt states, “the reader’s attention is primarily focused
on what will remain as a residue after the
reading — the information to be acquired, the logical solution to a problem,
the actions to be carried out.” In contrast, when we read in the aesthetic
mode, the reader explore the text and oneself. Here, readers are engaged with
the 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 is
living through during his or her relationship with that particular text.” (p.
25). Rosenblatt firmly believes that without the aesthetic approach, there
could be no transaction between readers and text to evaluate. Thus, according to Rosenblatt, reading — and
meaning-making? — happens only in the reader’s mind; it does not take place on
the page, on the screen, or in the text, but in the act of reading. 

      
According to Rosenblatt, different readers will come up with different
interpretations which are all acceptable because the text allows for a range of
acceptable meanings, that is meaning will only be accepted if the text can
support it. However, because there is a real text involved in this process to
which we must refer to justify or modify our responses, not all readings are
acceptable and some are more so than others. Even authors’ stated intentions in
writing their texts, as well as any interpretations they may offer afterward,
are but additional readings of the text, which must be submitted for evaluation
to the text-as-blueprint just as all other readings are. 

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