Using Reader Response Criticism to Understand a Text
There are several different schools of or approaches to literary criticism. For instance, historical criticism focuses on the
relationship between a text and a certain time period in history; biographical
criticism focuses on the relationship between a text and an author’s
biography. Reader response criticism is an approach that focuses on a
reader’s own responses to a text in order to interpret and better understand
various aspects of the text. As with all approaches to literary
criticism, the purpose of reader response criticism is 1/ to understand a
work of literature and 2/ to identify and discuss the various elements or parts
of a work of literature and the overall meaning(s) of the work. [Please
note: If you would like to read a bit more about different schools of
literary criticism, or about Reader Response criticism, please visit the
following site: http://bcs.bedfordstmartins.com/virtualit/fiction/critical.asp?e=5]
Two very common approaches to Reader Response Criticism are 1/ to have a
conversation about the text in which you explore your reactions, questions, and
ideas about it, and 2/ to use the text as a model and mimic some element of it
in telling a story of your own.
For this assignment, I’d like you to write a letter
to a friend in which you explain your thoughts
regarding Poe’s “The Oblong Box.” What follows is a template for how to start and
some things that you might want to address at some point in the letter:
I’ve recently read a story by Edgar Allan Poe entitled “The Oblong Box”
and I wanted to tell you a bit about it.
In the story...
The language in the story...
What is interesting about the story...
The story made me think about...
My overall reaction to the story was...
Some questions that I’d like to discuss with you after you have read the story
The reasons why I’d like to discuss these questions with you are...