The Ring of Text

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“The reading of any work of literature is, ofnecessity, an individual and unique occurrence involving the mind andemotions of a particular reader.”


For at least 20 years or so, I have waited to read suchan assertion, having always believed that standardized tests of readingcomprehension were, to put it bluntly, ridiculous. How could anindividual be assessed based upon his transformation of a piece ofliterature from a set of printed symbols to a situation with meaning?It always seemed that questions such as “What is the author’s mainpoint?” were rife with the possibility for the reader to impose his owntake on the main point. Or perhaps what it all comes down to is thatI’m the kind of reader who is apt to taking over a text and imposinghimself on it. Fowles, god love him, writes, “A sentences or paragraphin a novel will evoke a different image in each reader. This necessaryco-operation between writer and reader, the one to suggest, the otherto make concrete, is a privilege of verbal form” (in Rosenblatt, p.15). Thank you, Mr. Fowles.

I have always lived through reading, a process that -and as I’m sure so many will agree – allows the reader to evoke,create, and/or summon a world that hitherto had not so completelyexisted. This negotiation between the writer, the word, the reader, and(to go one-step further and bring in Dr. Jung) the collectiveunconscious and its archetypal imagery can be transformational(therapeutic, cathartic, catalytic…). I have long known this to betrue, yet it is only today, in sitting down with Dr. Rosenblatt that Ihave truly understood the ramifications and validity of this claim.What is a text? The text is the message. Where is it located? It iswithin the circle of all who take part in the communication of themessage.


Rosenblatt, L. (1994). The Reader, the Text, the Poem: The Transactional Theory of the Literary Work. USA: Southern Illinois University.






2 thoughts on “The Ring of Text

  1. Wow! Parts of this blog sound identical to my essay to place me in college. I believe this is probably one of the reasons I am in this class. It was quite controversial, telling people I do not like to have my intelligence measured by a piece of writing. So it may have been a bit off subject; but I love your view on this topic.

  2. I love this idea that the reader and the writer interact via the text. Remember when I said that a writer is manipulative? And remember our discussion of Jeremy’s essay in class? Jeremy as the author was able to take me on a journey through his text, but ultimately, I, the reader, am able to transform the text and interpret it through my own imagery and based upon my own experience. So the real question is “How does knowing this affect the way you write?”

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