Reading Critically as a Writer: Reader-Response Literary Criticism

  • READER-RESPONSE: After reading, you will complete the below exercise as a reader’s response. “At its most basic level, reader response criticism considers readers’ reactions to literature as vital to interpreting the meaning of the text. However, reader-response criticism can take a number of different approaches. A critic deploying reader-response theory can use a psychoanalytic lens, a feminists lens, or even a structuralist lens. What these different lenses have in common when using a reader response approach is they maintain “…that what a text is cannot be separated from what it does.” (Critical Theory Today: A User-Friendly Guide, 1999, by Lois Tyson)
  • WRITE: First, choose one of the above readings that most engages you. Next, rewrite the opening of your chosen reading and replace the protagonist with yourself as a third person character. Rewrite at least five pages. If the narrative takes its own turn, let it. Follow the narrative as long as it keeps your interest. It might give you a new and unique story to keep on your desk and revise over time. It might end up being a creative exercise for skill-building but something you don’t wish to pursue further. Either way, make a place for this exercise in your writing vault.

EXAMPLE: Rewrite the opening of “The Yellow Wallpaper” and replace the protagonist with yourself as a third person character. What would the room look like? Would it be a room at all? What feature within this space would give you the most trouble? What lurks behind the surface? How might this menacing entity be a reflection of self?